After an exciting series of hard-fought cobbled-classics over the last several weeks, the 97th Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen race will once again close out the early spring classics season. Run over 200 kilometers of pancake flat terrain, the Scheldeprijs provides one final opportunity for the classics stars to flex their power, in particular the sprinters in the bunch.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Unlike last year, Columbia's fast finisher Mark Cavendish won't be on hand to contest the finish, but that doesn't mean there isn't a star-studded group of sprinters on hand ready to do battle. First among them is newly crowned Paris-Roubaix champion Tom Boonen. The big Belgian diesel has taken the Scheldeprijs twice in previous years, and he'll hope to wring one more win out of the first part of his season before regrouping for the Tour de France.
Other riders to watch include Cervelo's powerful youngster Heinrich Haussler, coming off yet another great performance, this time at Roubaix, and Katusha's sprinter Robbie McEwen, who will be keen to try to get a win before he too preps for the Tour. Rababank's Graeme Brown has a mean sprint and will hope to upstage Boonen, as will another Aussie, Colunmbia's Mark Renshaw. Milram's sprinter Gerald Ciolek, currently suffering through a horrible early season will try to redeem himself at at the Scheldeprijs. A top ten would be a huge morale boost for the German. Speaking of morale boosts, the Saxo Bank team, winless in the early season one day classics, will hope that their sprinter Juan Jose Haedo can deliver on the last cobbled-event of the spring.
Now that we are almost past the norther classics, attention will turn to the hilly trio of races over the coming weeks. We'll start to focus on the climbers of the sport, names like Cunego, Valverde, Basso, Schleck and many more. First the Amstel, then the Fleche, and finally Liege, now is the time for the big sprinters to take a back seat to those that go fast when the road tilts up.