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Who'll win the prologue at the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen?

Photo: Katusha / Tim de Waele

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03.03.2016 @ 22:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

In addition to several one-day races and Paris-Nice in the weekend, this week offers two stage races, the Tour de Langkawi and the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen. Every day we will offer you short previews of the stages at both the Malaysian and Belgian race.

 

Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, prologue:

The course:

Friday will be the day of the 7km prologue in Middelkerke that has been unchanged since it was introduced in 2011. It consists of a completely flat out-and-back run along the coast and only has a few corners at the turning point and at the start, meaning that it is one for the really powerful specialists.

 

The weather:

Rain is forecasted in the morning but by the time the first rider will roll down the ramp, the sun will have come out. There will be a moderate wind from a westerly direction which will decrease as the day goes on, favouring the later starters.

 

The favourites:

This prologue has now been unchanged for several years and many riders are familiar with it. It’s flat, non-technical nature means that it is tailor-made for the big specialists and this is reflected in the outcome of the past editions.

 

Some of the first riders may have wet conditions for their ride and the wind should also favour the later starters. However, all the big favourites will start late so it is unlikely to have much of an impact.

 

Already in his first year as a professional, Anton Vorobyev showed that his U23 world championships win was no fluke. However, while he occasionally did very well in the time trials, he seemed to be very inconsistent and he had a very hard time in the road races. Towards the end of 2014, he seemed to have become a lot stronger and he seemed to cope better with the climbing. He proved his strength when he finished 8th at the World Championships which was definitely not held on a flat course.

 

In 2015, he had to deal with several health issues but got back on track towards the end of the year. This year he has started very well. He did a solid time trial in Valencia until he crashed and he was up there relatively late in the race in the epic Le Samyn on Wednesday. This indicates that his form is pretty good and there is little doubt that this race is his first big goal of the year.

 

The short power route in Middelkerke suits him down to the ground and it was no surprise that he won the TT last year. On paper he is the best time triallist and this makes him our winner pick.

 

For many years, Marcin Bialoblocki had a relatively anonymous life on the British domesic scene but that changed in 2015 when he came out of nowhere to win the Tour de Pologne time trial, beating a certain Vasil Kiryienka into second. He confirmed his potential by finishing in the top 10 at the World Championships and so he is definitely one of the best time triallists in the world. He should find the flat course in Middelkerke to his liking and he showed good form by winning the sprints jersey in the Dubai Tour. However, the course may be a bit too short for him and he has never proved that he can be up there with the best over this distance.

 

Ryan Mullen is one of the greatest time trial talents in the world. At a very young age, he was already able to match the best in a similar time trial at the 2014 Tour of Britain and that year he was agonizingly close to claiming the win at the U23 World Championships. He has turned professional at a very young age but he has already proved that he can match the best in this kind of test. His form is a bit uncertain as he has only done races that don’t really suit him.

 

Vorobyev is not the only Katusha card as the team can also go for victory with an in-form Nils Politt. The German has had an outstanding start to his professional career as he was one of the very strongest in the epic Le Samyn. He is a great rouleur as he proved with his good TTs at last year’s Bayern Rundfahrt and the Tour de l’Eurometropole and this year’s Tour of Qatar. Unlike many of the best time triallists, he won’t get into trouble in the road stages and may even be the one to attack.

 

Etixx-QuickStep have a three-pronged attack with Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Davide Martinelli and Lukasz Wisniowski. They are both solid time triallists and showed decent condition in Le Samyn. The Belgian is no real TT specialist but as he proved in De Panne last year, he can do well when the form is good. Unfortunately, he is clearly not at his best level yet. Martinelli has had a great pro debut but has been pretty inconsistent in his time trials in the past. Wisniowski did some good time trials in his first year and is clearly a lot stronger now. Both have the advantage of being part of a very strong team for the road stages where they can try to turn things around.

 

BMC have young Tom Bohli who is another talented time triallist. He crashed out in Qatar but returned to racing almost immediately. However, it will be hard for him to win and he can be put under pressure in the road stages. Loic Vliegen is in great form and offers the team a second option.

 

We will point to LottoNL-Jumbo’s Martijn Keizer who is no real specialist but if he can do a TT like he did at last year’s Tour de l’Eurometropole, he is a strong outsider. Steven Lammertink is the current European champion and has done some great time trials at the U23 level. On paper, the Ag2r pair of Patrick Gretsch and Damien Gaudin are some of the best time triallists here but none of them are in great condition at the moment as it is usually the case for this time of the year.

 

Finally, Olivier Pardini deserves a mention. The Wallonie rider is in great form as he was on the podium in Sud-Ardeche and rode strongly in Le Samyn. He has done some very good prologues in the past and this race is a big goal for him.

 

Other good time triallists include Sean De Bie, Arnaud Gerard, Frederik Frison, Joey Rosskopf and Tom Skujins.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Anton Vorobyev

Other winner candidates: Marcin Bialoblocki, Ryan Mullen

Outsiders: Nils Politt, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Davide Martinelli, Steven Lammertink, Martijn Keizer

Jokers: Lukasz Wisniowski, Tom Bohli, Loic Vliegen, Olivier Pardini, Patrick Gretsch, Damien Gaudin

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