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Sprinters, fans return in force for 2022 Scheldeprijs

Sam Bennett, Jasper Philipsen and Mark Cavendish on the podium at Scheldeprijs 2021
Sam Bennett, Jasper Philipsen and Mark Cavendish on the podium at Scheldeprijs 2021 (Image credit: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Sprinters and fans will be in their true element in the 2022 Scheldeprijs on Wednesday as the Paris-Roubaix delay will increase sprinters' already high chances of success in the mid-week Classic, and after a two-year gap, fans will be back on the roadsides of Scheldeprijs as well.

In 2020 and 2021, COVID-19 induced restrictions meant fans were not allowed to watch the race from the roadside. But in 2022, there will be no such measures in place.

The finale of the Belgian Classic, now in its 110th edition, is not likely to change considerably, though, with the sprinters out in force in a year, once again, for one of the flattest one-day races on the calendar.

Seemingly doomed to end in a sprint, the exposed roads, cobbled stretches, some technical sections and spells alongside stretches of the Belgian coastline, not to mention the perennial threat of very poor weather, do mean the front group can be shrunk to as little as two or three dozen riders. Last year, over half the field abandoned. Indeed, the last truly mass dash for the line  for Scheldeprijs victory was way back in 2013, for record holder Marcel Kittel.

As a double Scheldeprijs champion this April, Fabio Jakobsen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) has a great opportunity to take a step closer to Kittel’s total of five wins, and draw equal with his teammate Mark Cavendish and Belgian Petrus Oellibrandt, on three apiece.

However, Alpecin-Fenix look set to provide some severe sprinting opposition, as both Tim Merlier and defending champion and teammate Jasper Philipsen are both due to take part. Danny Van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe), Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates), Nacer Bouhanni and Dan McLay (Arkéa-Samsic) and Dylan Groenewegen (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) will all have options as well.

With Israel-Premier Tech sagely deciding not to participate in the event because of two recent COVID-19 cases, the number of WorldTour squads drops to 10. 

Under normal circumstances, Scheldeprijs would be used as a warm-up event for Paris-Roubaix by some Classics stars. But this time round the Scheldeprijs lineup will be tilted more towards specialist sprinters, although former winner Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), seemingly as home in a bunch gallop as he is on the pavé, is taking part. Former Roubaix runner-up Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) is also on the starting grid at Terneuzen in Holland.

With more than half the race held in Holland’s coastal Zeeland region, then a spell  alongside the Scheldt river, the Scheldeprijs is just four kilometres longer than the  194km of the 2021 edition. It once again has its finish line in the town of Shoten, and a recent agreement established that the race will continue to end in the Antwerp suburb until 2025. And the peloton’s sprinters will certainly not be unhappy about that.

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.