The route of Scheldeprijs is to undergo a major change in 2018, with the race set to start in the Dutch town of Terneuzen and follow a potentially wind-blasted route through the province of Zeeland before crossing into Belgium for the traditional finale on the finishing circuit in Schoten.
Race organiser Flanders Classics announced on Wednesday that it has signed a two-year deal with Terneuzen to host the start of Scheldeprijs, which takes place on the Wednesday between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. This year’s 106th edition of the race is fixed for April 4.
The decision to move the start across the border into the Netherlands marks a radical change for Scheldeprijs, which has traditionally started and finished in the province of Antwerp. From 1996 until 2016, the race started in the city of Antwerp itself, while last year’s race began in Tom Boonen’s hometown of Mol to honour his final season as a professional rider. Antwerp is currently the start town of the Tour of Flanders, having replaced Bruges in 2017.
The 2018 edition of Scheldeprijs will thus see the peloton spend some 135 of the race's 200 kilometres in the Netherlands before crossing southwards into Belgium at Putte. The race will again conclude with three laps of the 15.8km finishing circuit around Schoten, with the traditional finish on the Avenue Churchill.
The race sets out from the town hall in Terneuzen and the neutralised zone will take in the 6.4km Western Scheldt Tunnel before the official start across the Scheldt estuary in Borssele. The flat roads of Zeeland are exposed to the North Sea winds – as the Tour de France peloton discovered in 2015 – but it would be a surprise if the race were to result in anything other than a sprint in Schoten by the end of the afternoon.
"That wind can provide a fascinating race from the first kilometres," said Flanders Classics head Wouter Vandenhaute, according to Sporza. "The possibility of echelons means that a small group could take a big lead and go all the way to Schoten. You cannot predict a race scenario, and I already believe in this new concept.
"With the move to Terneuzen, the Scheldeprijs is now really a ‘Scheldt’ prize. Never before have I heard so much talk about the River Scheldt during a press presentation."
Eleven WorldTour teams will line out in the race. The Katusha-Alpecin team of defending champion and five-time winner Marcel Kittel will be joined by Quick-Step Floors, Lotto-Soudal, Dimension Data, Bora-Hansgrohe, FDJ, Astana, Sunweb, EF Education First-Drapac, LottoNL-Jumbo, and Team Sky.
Pro Continental teams Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Veranda's Willems-Crelan, Wanty-Groupe Gobert, WB Aquaproject-Veranclassic, Cofidis, Fortuneo-Samsic, Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij, Vital Concept, Aqua Blue Sport and Israel Cycling Academy have also been invited, with one wildcard still to be assigned.
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