On the heels of Flanders Classics’ decision to equalize prize money between its men’s and women’s events at Tour of Flanders, organisers of Classic Brugge-De Panne have done the same. The Belgian race is offering the women’s field a total prize purse of €40,000 – a step forward for the March 24 event that marks the fourth round of the 2022 Women’s WorldTour.
It reflects an increase of €32,300 from what the UCI mandates, with the required prize money for one-day events that are part of the top-tier series set at €7,700. Title sponsor Exterioo Tuinmeubelen, the City of Brugge, the municipality of De Panne and co-organisers Golazo and KVC Panne Sportief contributed the additional funding to raise the prize money for the women's race.
Belgian Champion Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx), who will line up as one of the contenders for victory, welcomed the decision.
“That is fantastic news. On behalf of all the women in the women's peloton, a big thank you to the organisers and partners for making this happen.”
The event marks the fourth round of the top-tier series held on Thursday between Brugge and De Panne in Belgium. It is also traditionally one of the longest races, with this year’s route reaching 162km and while it may be a race of attrition, it will also be one for the sprinters.
This year’s event will welcome spectators back to the start area in Brugge, along the road sides and at the finish line in De Panne, bringing fans and the atmosphere they bring with them back after two years where health restrictions due to COVID-19 prevented crowds gathering.
Join Cyclingnews for live coverage of the 2022 Spring Classics, with the next stop at Brugge-De Panne, and check in after the event for our full report, results, gallery, and news.
Flat, fast, exposed
Brugge-De Panne begins at the Markt in Brugges and travels westward along the North Sea toward De Panne.
The route passes through Zedelgem, Aartrijke, Eernegem, Koekelare, Moere, Zevekote-Gistel, St-Pieters-Kapelle, Mannenekensvere, Ramskapelle, Veurne, Oostduinkerke, and Koksijde before reaching De Panne, where riders will continue on to complete two laps of the finishing circuit. The first 100km of the race will be completely exposed to crosswinds and potential rain, bringing with it the threat of echelons and splits in the peloton along the coast of the North Sea.
The peloton will tackle two 45.1km circuits in De Panne, offering a few flash-points for attackers but also the perfect backdrop for a bunch sprint.
Clash of the sprinters
Brugge-De Panne is set to embark on it’s fifth edition and while Grace Brown thwarted a bunch sprint last year with a late-race attack, every other edition has ended in a mad dash to the line. The race was won by Jolien D’hoore in 2018, Kirsten Wild in 2019 and Lorena Wiebes in 2020.
For that reason, the sprinters take centre stage as the top favourites for the one-day race, and it will be Belgium’s own Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) who is the star of the show. Not a pure sprinter, Kopecky has shown her punchy racing strengths on many occasions, including when she beat Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) to win the opening round of the Women’s WorldTour at Strade Bianche. However, she used her speed to finish third at Ronde van Drenthe and second at Nokere Koerse recently, and will be looking to capitalise on her early-season form all the way through to Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in April. With a powerful SD Worx team at her disposal, a fast sprint, and ample motivation, it could be Kopecky’s race to lose.
There will be several other stand-out sprinters aiming to challenge Kopecky in De Panne. Team DSM bring recent Ronde van Drenthe winner and former De Panne champion Lorena Wiebes, who they will rely on for the bunch sprint. However, they also deliver a roster that is prepared to handle the unpredictable nature of potential crosswinds and adverse weather conditions off the North Sea.
"With its flat parcours, the way the race will unfold really depends on the weather and if the wind is strong enough to split the peloton," said Team DSM head coach Albert Timmer. "If so, then we could see a smaller group come to the line together, but if not then it will be a large bunch sprint."
"For both outcomes, we bring a capable squad to the start and with Lorena we have a card to play when it comes down to a bunch finish. If there are echelons, then we will rely on our strong team with multiple options. We are confident after our recent performances and are all motivated to continue that at De Panne.”
Trek-Segafredo will bring two potential winners in World Champion Elisa Balsamo and Chloe Hosking. Balsamo is fresh off of an exhilarating victory at Trofeo Alfredo Binda on Sunday. The Italian lines up as the leader of the Women's WorldTour series, and it is no surprise that Kopecky sits in second place while Wiebes is third on the rankings – all three will be vying for the glory in De Panne.
Emma Norsgaard (Movistar), who has said she will target this part of the Classics season, stands a good chance for success after placing sixth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, second at Omloop van Het Hageland and winning Le Samyn des Dames before taking a short break to prepare for the cobbled Classics.
UAE Team ADQ's former world champion Marta Bastianelli has surprisingly never placed on the podium in De Panne but she has already secured three wins this season and is in prime form for another this week.
Canadian Champion Alison Jackson (Liv Racing Xstra), Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling), Chiara Consonni (Valcar-Travel & Service), and Clara Copponi (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) are also riders to watch during a bunch sprint in De Panne.
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