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SSSRSSP - Three Dogs (aka Driedaagse Brugge - De Panne)

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2018 Tour Down Under - Stage 3 Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

In 1967, Danny Hutton, Cory Wells, and Chuck Negron formed the band Three Dog Night. The name was based on an Australian outback saying that if it was really cold, you needed to embrace three dogs to keep warm while sleeping, hence a cold night was a “three dog night.” Decades later, the members of the band learned the harsh truth. One dog to cuddle with was more than sufficient even on the coldest nights. Three dogs were just stinky, slobbery overkill.

It has taken the organizers of Three Dogs (aka Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, aka Driedaagse Brugge - De Panne) 41 years to come to this simple truth, as this year there will be only One Dog. Here’s the thing, though. If you’re picking a single dog to cuddle with to keep warm, you’d think you’d want a Malamute, a Husky, an Akita, or maybe even a St. Bernard. Quality is as important as quantity. Well, apparently the organizers have decided to choose a small, shivery Chihuahua. Perhaps deciding that they wanted to compete with Scheldeprijs for least memorable Belgian one day race, this race looks to be a flat, bunch-sprinty affair.

I mean, look at this profile:

The least they could have done was turn that profile around and make Bruges the finish, as anything that is interesting happens in the first 100km. This is how a once non-shit small race becomes a shit small race.

Shit Small History

Not surprisingly, Three Dogs owes its existence to the organizers of Four Days of Dunkirk, who patented the idea of flat out false advertising in race names. Four Days of Dunkirk currently has 6 days, after dappling with 5 days previously. I’d like to think that the Dunkirk organizers were like the Gillette razor executive in one of my favorite Onion articles and said “Fuck everything, We’re doing 6 days.”

Take note “Volta”. No need for any quotation marks around this “3”.

And not only did Three Dogs change to a single, flat one day race, it also moved up the calendar, scrubbing its identity as a Tour of Flanders warm up. Three Dogs was typically held in the week leading up to Flanders. This year, it precedes E3. Recently, Three Dogs had been a bellwether for Flanders. Philippe Gilbert won Three Dogs last year and soloed away for 50 kilometers in Flanders. In 2015, when Kristoff won Flanders, he also took the overall in Three Dogs. In 2016, Lieuwe Westra won and then...uhh...retired a few months later. Previously, there have been many Flanders winners that have also won Three Dogs besides Kristoff and Gilbert, but just not in the same year-- Alessandro Ballan, Leif Hoste, Stijn Devolder, Peter Van Petegem, and Johan Museeuw. The race, with its new identity, seems unlikely to continue to have much overlap with Flanders’ winners.

Shit Small Course

Did I mention this is almost assuredly a sprint finish? The only thing to prevent that would be some wind along the coast, but the forecast does not look promising.

Those bergs in the middle of the race are probably best known from Gent-Wevelgem-- the Monteberg, the Kemmelberg, the Rodeberg, the Vidaigneberg, and the Sulferberg. We could talk about them, but since they come with over to 100km to go, let’s talk about flatulent pigs instead.

Shit Small Sponsor

Meli, a Belgian honey company, has long been a sponsor of Three Dogs, which partially explains this anthropomorphic bee that likely terrorizes Gilbert’s children.

Meli is also the owner of the delightfully-named Plopsaland theme park, where the race started last year. Some of the attractions at the theme park include the eponymous Kabouter Plop, Wizzy & Woppy, Het Huis Anubis (which would make a great sounding new name for the Omloop), and my favorite Big & Betsy, which according to wikipedia is a children’s program that follows the exploits of “a flatulent pig who is able to speak and delivers his catchphrases “Fopje flauw mopje” and “Sorry de snorry Betsy” throughout the show. He is not very polite and is prone to breaking wind several times per episode. He likes to eat, especially pie, and suffers from obesity.” Tro Bro Leon has been doing the prize of a piglet for some time. The Three Dogs organizers should really think of the marketing possibilities in one-upping Tro Bro and say, “Fuck everything, we’re giving out farty hogs.”

Shit Small Favorite

Quickstep have been killing SSR racing this year. For this race, they are overkilling SSR cycling as they are taking Elia Viviani, who will have the A-team train of Fabio Jakobsen (the recent winner of Nokere Koerse), Remi Cavagna (the winner of DdWV), Max Richeze, Davide Martinelli, Fabio Sabatini, and Florian Senechal at his disposal.

Here’s a list of sprinters that may be able to come in second place, a veritable who’s who of the SSR scene: Jens Debusschere, Luka Mezgec, Baptiste Planckaert, Pascal Ackermann, Adam Blythe, Hugo Hofstetter (sorry MOUA), Adrien Petit, Sondre Holst Enger, Imerio Cima, Coen Vermeltfoort, Amaury Capiot, Bryan Coquard, Timothy Dupont, Kenny Dehaes, and Roy Jans. Let’s say that Petit, who deserves a win for his efforts in Denain, and Hofstetter round out the podium.