Clear blue skies and pleasant sunshine greeted the peloton as it gathered in Antwerp for the start of Scheldeprijs. With no hills on the course and little wind to disturb the riders as they headed east towards the Dutch border, the odds were on a bunch sprint back in Schoten this afternoon.
As expected, there was no shortage of fast men on the start line. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) was in typically determined mood as he rode to sign on, but the Manxman will face stiff opposition as he bids to take his second win of the season. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) is the defending champion, and he will be marshalled by Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler in the finale.
Other sprinters who should be in the mix include the experienced Robbie McEwen (RadioShack), Juan José Haedo (Saxo Bank-SunGard), Theo Bos (Rabobank) and the promising Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha), who was an impressive stage winner in De Panne last week.
Edvald Boasson Hagen heads up a strong Sky line-up that can also rely on Chris Sutton and Juan Antonio Flecha for firepower. Tom Boonen is one of four potential sprint winners in the Quick Step roster, and he may well be on the hunt for a morale-boosting win after his 4th place finish in the Tour of Flanders.
For some riders, however, Scheldeprijs is primarily about keeping their form ticking over ahead of Paris-Roubaix, and to that end Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) was also at the start in Antwerp. The Swiss rider is in confident mood ahead of the weekend, and he will enjoy his final tune-up on the flat 200km course to Schoten.