Scheldeprijs 2017 preview

Marcel Kittel hunting fifth career victory in sprinter-friendly race

Scheldeprijs is a midweek semi-Classic that provides an appetizing parcours for the sprinters during the week between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

The event changed start locations this year from central Antwerp to the town of Mol, which happens to be the birthplace of Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors). The character of the race, however, seems unlikely to change. It remains a mostly flat trek through the suburbs of Antwerp, with a few cobblestones thrown in for good measure. As ever, the fast finishers figure to feature in the finale, with plenty of big names in attendance this year for the likely sprint at the end of the day.

The Route

The 2017 edition of Scheldeprijs runs 200.5km from Mol to Schoten, just east of Antwerp, and the race is taking every opportunity this year to honor two-time winner Boonen, set to retire in a matter of days.

The race passes his birthplace and his home in its looping early goings before heading more directly west. The riders will cross the finish line for the first time after a little over 150 kilometres and then take on three laps of a finishing circuit. Other than the lumpy surfaces of a smattering of cobbled sections, the road is more or less flat from start to finish.

Sprinters have ruled Scheldeprijs for more than a decade for good reason, but nothing is guaranteed, of course. For one thing, Scheldeprijs has delivered its fair share of messy crashes over the years. Tricky corners on the finishing circuit and sometimes-dodgy weather make for a risky combination. Fortunately, there is little chance of rain on the forecast this year, which will hopefully reduce the risk of crashes — though the peloton is in for some serious wind, which can always make things interesting.

The Contenders

Quick-Step's Marcel Kittel and Lotto Soudal's Andre Greipel headline the list of pure speedsters set to attend Scheldeprijs on Wednesday. Kittel, the defending champion, has won the race a whopping a four times, and he'll toe the start line in seemingly strong form after a stage win and a nice time trial performance to boot in De Panne. The question mark for Kittel will be weather Quick-Step is fully behind him for the sprint, or whether former champ Boonen will get a shot at mixing things up for old time's sake.

Greipel, meanwhile, has never won Scheldeprijs, but recent years have seen him improving as a Classics rider while retaining his impressive top-end speed.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is set to start the race and can never be counted out in a one-day with a likely sprint finish, though he may have his sights more squarely set on Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.

Cofidis' Nacer Bouhanni is surely one to watch despite not having a history in this race, considering his love of messy finales. Fellow Frenchman Arnaud Démare (FDJ) is another to watch, given his one-day sprinting prowess.

Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Elia Viviani (Team Sky), Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNl-Jumbo), Baptiste Planckaert (Katusha-Alpecin), Wouter Wippert (Cannondale-Drapac) and Dan McLay (Fortuneo - Vital Concept) are other speedsters who could contest the victory. Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale), Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), meanwhile, are on the list of Classics specialists who might have a shot at beating the odds and denying the sprinters.

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