Preview by Jeff Jones in Gent, Belgium
This year's Tour of Belgium, the fourth edition since it was relaunched in 2002, should suit the sprinters and time trialists, with a fairly flat parcours that covers six stages in five days. Starting on Wednesday, May 25, the race will spend two days near the western coast of Flanders with stage starts and finishes in Oostende and Knokke-Heist. On Friday, the first part of stage 3 heads from Knokke-Heist into the centre of Belgium, finishing about 30 km from Brussels in Buggenhout for a total of 108 km. That will be followed in the afternoon with a 15 km individual time trial between Buggenhout and Londerzeel.
Saturday's fourth stage is the longest at 232 km, and takes the riders from Londerzeel to Visé in the eastern part of Belgium. This will be the stage where the power climbers can shine, with some hills towards the end. Sunday's 175 km finale from Visé to Putte should present any problems to whoever is leading the GC by then.
15 teams will start the race, including three ProTour teams: Quick.Step-Innergetic (Boonen, Knaven), Davitamon-Lotto (Van Petegem, Mattan, Roesems, Steegmans), Rabobank (Wauters, Hayman), Chocolade Jacques-T Interim (Caethoven, Eeckhout), RAGT Sémences (Auger), MrBookmaker-Sportstech (Gardeyn, Omloop), Acqua&Sapone-Adria Mobil (Sosenka), Landbouwkrediet-Colnago (De Waele, Monfort), Agritubel (Brard), Shimano-Memory Corp (Kemna), Team LPR (Khalilov, Napolitano), Bodysol-Win For Life-Jong Vlaanderen (Cornu), Jartazi-Revor (Gadret), Axa Pro Cycling Team (van Schalen), Profel Cycling Team (De Champs).
Stage 1 - May 25: Oostende - Oostende, 155km
Stage 2 - May 26: Oostende - Knokke-Heist, 165km
Stage 3a - May 27: Knokke-Heist - Buggenhout, 108km
Stage 3b - May 27: Buggenhout - Londerzeel ITT, 15km
Stage 4 - May 28: Londerzeel - Visé, 232km
Stage 5 - May 29: Visé - Putte, 175km