The Women's WorldTour will roll into Belgium for the mid-week Brugge-De Panne on March 25. The women's field will race 158.8 kilometres along a flat route where there is expected to be a sprint finish on the local circuits in De Panne.
The event is embarking on its fourth edition where top names in the sport - Jolien D'hoore (SD Worx), Kirsten Wild (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling) and Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) - have won the previous three editions. The trio is expected to return to the starting line in Brugge to try and win the race for a second time.
The Women's WorldTour has showcased two exciting opening rounds so far, at Strade Bianche won by Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx), and at Trofeo Alfredo Binda won by Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo).
Longo Borghini is now leading the series with 720 points. Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) sits in second place, tied with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) at 440 points.
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How the race unfolded in 2020
Who to watch in 2021
There are so many riders to watch this year with the likes Marta Bastianelli (Alé BTC Ljubljana Cipollini), Sarah Roy (Team BikeExchange), Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling), Amalie Dideriksen (Trek-Segafredo) and Ciclismo Mundial riders Ceylin Alvarado and Sanne Cant.
Cyclingnews has selected just a handful of high-profile sprinters two watch for a potential bunch sprint.
Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) - Wiebes will line up as the defending champion after winning last year's edition held in October, as part of the revised calendar that was truncated in the autumn due to COVID-19. The victory didn't come without controversy, however, as it was D'hoore who crossed the line first but was then relegated for deviating from her line during the sprint and officials awarded the win to Wiebes.
Jolien D'hoore (SD Worx) - D'hoore was the inaugural winner of Brugge-De Panne in 2018. She will certainly be looking to redeem herself after last year's error of deviating from her line in the final sprint, which ended up costing her the victory. One of the fastest sprinters in the peloton and a favourite to win on Belgian soil, D'hoore gives SD Worx a potential winner for Thursday's race, but the team also field Amy Pieters, who recently won Nokere Koerse, and Christine Majerus, who won Omloop van de Westhoek.
Kirsten Wild (Ceratizit-WNT) - The 2019 champion, Wild usually arrives at the Spring Classics in top track form, but ready to sprint on the road. This year, she began her road season at Healthy Ageing Tour and will continue at Brugge-De Panne, a race well-suited to her pure sprint power. She has a strong team to support her that includes Lisa Brennauer and Maria Giulia Confalonieri.
Lotte Kopecky (Liv Racing) - The double Belgian champion is having a great start to the season and is a favourite to win in De Panne. She's a powerful sprinter has also shown her strengths on punchy climbs this early season. She won Le Samyn and placed fourth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Nokere Koerse. Look out for her to take a Women's WorldTour victory in De Panne.
Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) - Another outstanding up-and-coming sprinter, Norsgaard is proving to be one of the fastest in the peloton this year. She's had a string of podium finishes at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Le Samyn, and the Healthy Ageing Tour. She's knocking on victory's door and stands a good chance of crossing the line first in De Panne.
Marta Bastianelli (Ale BTC Ljubljana) - She is a former world champion and one-day race specialist, who has won Gent-Wevelgem, Ronde van Drenthe, and Tour of Flanders. She was on a one-day race winning roll in 2018 and 2019, but that momentum seemed to have stopped temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic and the truncated season last year where she suffered an injury and was also stuck in quarantine with her team during the October Classics. This year, she has had two top 10s at Omloop and Nokere Koerse.
Chloe Hosking (Trek-Segafredo) - Hosking will want to continue Trek-Segafredo's early-season success with a win in De Panne, especially after her teammate Longo Borghini won in Cittiglio last weekend. It's the perfect course for the Australian sprinter, who joined the team this year after spending last year with Rally Cycling. She's had a good start to the season with a podium at Le Samyn and a strong team to support her in De Panne with Lauretta Hanson and Amalie Dideriksen.
The women's field will race 158.8 kilometres, which pushes toward the limit of the UCI's maximum distance of 160km for Women's WorldTour one-day races.
The race begins in Brugge and follows a route along an opening 51 kilometres toward the local circuits in De Panne. The field will enter the local circuits in Veurne and then race for another 17km before they pass through the finish line for the first time, signifying a full two laps to go.
The local circuit is about 45km long and routed through De Moeren, Houtem, Bulskamp and Veurne. Veurne, located past the midway point of the circuit, is also the location of one intermediate sprint held only on the first of the two laps.
The route is flat and caters to the best sprinters in the world.
What to expect
We can anticipate a bunch sprint because the route is flat and the final technical circuits around De Panne cater to a field sprint. There is also the fact that the previous three editions were won by field sprints, and while there is always the chance of a breakaway, there are teams with strong sprinters such as SD Worx, Team DSM, Ale BTC Ljubljana, Liv Racing, and Movistar that will likely want to make sure the field stays together for a bunch sprint.
We can also expect a challenging race due its length because at 158.8km it is one of the longest one-day events in the top-tier series. While it is flat, it will also be a race of attrition and might come down to who will be the freshest at the end of a long race. Teams that have the strength to protect their powerful sprinters from start to finish will do well.
We can also anticipate high winds off the coast of the North Sea, which have the potential to create gaps in the field and a sense of unpredictability ahead of the race. Where there are strong winds, especially crosswinds, there are also opportunities for winning and losing gaps to form. If the winds are high, teams will need to be vigilant by making sure their best riders are on the right side of the splits in the field, while also have the strength to close down unwanted gaps in needed.
- SD Worx
- Liv Racing
- Team BikeExchange
- Alé BTC Ljubljana Cipollini
- Team DSM
- Trek-Segafredo Women
- Canyon SRAM Racing
- FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
- Movistar Team
- A.R. Monex Women's Pro Cycling Team
- Parkhotel Valkenburg
- Doltcini - Van Eyck Sport
- Cogeas - Mettler Pro Cycling Team
- Drops - Le Col s/b TEMPUR.
- Team Coop - Hitec Products
- Team Rupelcleaning
- Top Girls Fassa Bortolo
- Lotto Soudal Ladies
- NXTG Racing
- Bingoal Casino - Chevalmeire Cycling Team
- Multum Accountants Ladies Cycling Team
- Valcar - Travel & Service
- Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling
- Ciclismo Mundial
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