Just ten days from the Tour of Flanders, the cobbled classics campaign began in earnest on Wednesday with Dwars Door Vlaanderen. The 200km race from Roeselare to Waregem features no fewer than 13 hellingen and is often offers a solid form guide ahead of De Ronde.
Twelve months ago, it was Nick Nuyens who triumphed, and his clever win in Waregem presaged a similar triumph at the Tour of Flanders. The Belgian is absent through injury this time around, but there was no shortage of classics contenders on the startline in Roeselare on Wednesday morning.
Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda), Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) should all be in the hunt for major wins in the weeks to come, and they all be looking to draw first blood on the road to Waregem.
Given that 2012 sees the route of the Tour of Flanders become ever more difficult, however, the sprinters know that opportunities are at a premium in Belgium this spring, and they will be hoping that the balance of Dwars Door Vlaanderen’s varied route tips in their favour this year.
The summit of the final climb, the Nokereberg, comes with just under 8km to go, but the flat, fast run-in to Waregem will give the sprinters a chance to get back into the fray. After missing out in Milan-San Remo, Oscar Freire (Katusha), Mark Renshaw (Rabobank), Matt Goss (GreenEdge), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) and Mark Cavendish (Sky) should not be lacking in motivation here.