Preview. On the 22nd of March the peloton tackles one of it's most prestigious spring classics. The Classic Brugge-De Panne is one for the sprinters and quite frequently lures in some of the best sprinter fields of the entire season.
The 212.5-kilometer race takes a traditional route into the Atlantic sea. It's now a fully sprinter-guided classic and the profile shows it. There are only around 250 meters of climbing throughout the whole day, not a single climb, no cobblestones, nothing but pan-flat roads that will set up for a bunch sprint in De Panne.
Start Time: 12:00CET.
Finish Time: 17:00CET.
It is a day with very little to detail. After the start in Brugge the riders head towards the southwest until reaching De Panne. Then, the riders take on three laps of a long circuit in the town around the towns of Koksijde and Veurne.
Pan-flat and wide roads. Perfect leadout territory, all sprinter teams will need to study the final kilometers in full detail. The riders will also have the chance to practice throughout the day. The finale is not technical but not easy, they will leave the main road with just 800 meters to go and go into an urban fast road. It will be a relatively narrow finale with a slight right-hander with 300 meters to go.
Classic De Panne weather. There may be some rain on the day, but it's the wind that will mark the race. Echelons are imminent, and almost certain. There will be strong southwestern wind, and the whole route will be exposed, mostly on pan-flat and open rural fields. It will likely come down to a sprint, a late attack could succeed as cross and tailwinds will be present in the end, and the final sprint will also have a tailwind.
Final startlist Classic Brugge-De Panne with Philipsen, Groenewegen, Ewan, Cavendish, Jakobsen, Gaviria, Kooij and Bennett
Fabio Jakobsen - A stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico gave back some confidence. It hasn't been an easy year for Jakobsen, who absolutely needs to keep proving his worth if he wants to lead Quick-Step at the Tour de France. He's not the most complete sprinter, but the Belgian team are experts at riding the crosswinds.
Dylan Groenewegen - Groenewegen has also shown speed at Tirreno-Adriatico. A pure sprinter, he'd benefit from a calm day before the finish. I think the crosswinds won't be good for him and the Australian team, but simultaneously sometimes it comes down to luck, and if he's in the right split he could take his second World Tour win of the year.
Jasper Philipsen - Milano-Sanremo was a strong performance, but it's in the sprints that Philipsen has proven himself. He's won two stages at Tirreno-Adriatico and is brilliant at positioning. Alpecin on the downside have a very modest team in relation to rivals here, so he will likely need to do a lot of work on his own.
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Fernando Gaviria - Gaviria has looked sharp this year. Motivated and with an aero bike now at long last, the Colombian has been showing a lot of speed since January where he won at the Vuelta a San Juan. He was very close to winning Milano-Torino, the most recent sprinter's race, and will be a big candidate here.
Sam Bennett & Jordi Meeus - BORA have a difficult situation. A brilliant leadout, on a normal day they'd have the chance of having Danny van Poppel leadout Bennett, whilst Meeus would have freedom. The winds may decide for them what to do, however in my eye all three will have freedom. However when crosswinds are likely the German team may have issues deciding on what to do.
Olav Kooij - Kooij has taken a win at Paris-Nice, and he has proven to be great at positioning. Echelons may be a different challenge however for such a young rider, however despite a modest team, Jumbo-Visma is full of experienced riders and could help him succeed.
Juan Sebastián Molano - Molano has shown great speed with a win at the UAE Tour, but recently has also performed immensely well at the GP de Denain where he won a cobbled race. At Bredene he led out Pascal Ackermann, but most certainly that won't be happening here after the team missed the win. Molano can be a true surprise.
Phil Bauhaus - The German has won a stage at the Tour Down Under, but has also performed well in recent races. A mixed team of youth and raw power, I wouldn't say he's the most likely sprinter to survive crosswinds, but he's an outsider.
Caleb Ewan - Ewan will likely struggle in the wind. He has in the past performed well, but a skinny rider in the middle of a peloton of powerhouse heavyweights will be complicated. Positioning is frequently a problem for the Pocket Rocket as well, both echelons and a sprint could be tricky for Lotto Dstny.
Sam Welsford & Alberto Dainese - Welsford has been showing incredible speed this season. He could be a prime favourite to win here, but I fear Team DSM may have too much work for such a young and inexperienced team. Alberto Dainese and Marius Mayrhofer will likely try to survive too which gives less supporting riders, but on the upside it gives them more sprinters who could infiltrate a front group.
Gerben Thijssen - Winner of the GP Jean-Pierre Monseré and the Bredene Koksijde Classic, Thijssen is in great form in the Belgian sprints. He's got the speed and Intermarché have their leadout very well dialed. In crosswinds however that isn't proven.
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Arnaud Démare - Démare has been far from his best this year. Aiming for 10 wins but the first is yet to come, and in fact he's not yet cracked a Top10 at all in 2023. Here he could, his past leadout men now serve rival sprinters but he will have his new 2023 leadout all assembled here, it could be a turning point.
Mark Cavendish - In reality wouldn't be a contender to me, but at the UAE Tour he did survive the echelons very well on the opening day. That gives him some possibilities. Unlikely, Astana probably eyes Cees Bol for the day, but Cavendish has done very well in the past on such races and could try to surprise.
If all of the names above weren't enough, the field is even bigger. Virtually no fast men have travelled to the Volta a Catalunya and the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, and in the very center of the spring all of them should be in good form - or at least try. Crosswinds could also throw some of these riders into the fight for the victory itself. Some of them, such as Matteo Malucelli, Marijn van den Berg and Simone Consonni have already won this year, it wouldn't be a debut.
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Edward Theuns will lead Trek - Segafredo, Dan McLay will lead Arkéa Samsic. Alongside Consonni Cofidis will also have German powerhouse Max Walscheid as an option. Uno-X will have Soren Waerenskjold whilst Israel - Premier Tech will support Itamar Einhorn.
Prediction Classic Brugge-De Panne:
*** Jasper Philipsen, Fabio Jakobsen, Olav Kooij
** Dylan Groenewegen, Fernando Gaviria, Sam Bennett, Sam Welsford, Juan Sebastián Molano
* Jordi Meeus, Gerben Thijssen, Phil Bauhaus, Caleb Ewan, Arnaud Démare, Marijn van den Berg, Edward Theuns, Max Walscheid
Pick: Jasper Philipsen