Brugge – De Panne is one of the most least known WorldTour classics as it takes place mid-week and usually finishes with a peloton sprint. This year the crosswinds might return and with rainy conditions we might have an exciting battle like in 2020.
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The pancake flat classic is perfectly suited for sprinters. There is a high chance of rain throughout the race and strong winds could split the peloton into echelons.
There is no Alexander Kristoff or Mads Pedersen on the start-line who both excel in rainy conditions and are great in crosswinds. The main favourite is Jasper Philipsen, followed by Fabio Jakobsen and Olav Kooij. Team strength will be important in covering moves and if the conditions are selective enough, a non-sprinter can win such as in 2020 when Yves Lampaert finished solo across the line solo with Tim Declerq second.
Soudal – Quick Step is a Belgian team and this race is a big opportunity to win one of their home WorldTour classics without the likes of Van der Poel or Van Aert on the start-list. Steimle, Lampaert, Declercq, Ballerini, Van Lerberghe and Vernon will be supporting Jakobsen, who showed in Kuurne last year he can compete in hard one-day classics as long as they are relatively flat.
Other big contenders include Jasper Philipsen, arguably the best sprinter and the world, and recent Paris-Nice stage winner Olav Kooij. Jumbo-Visma have not sent their A-team classics squad to this race, but the support of the Van Dijke brothers, Van Emden, Van der Sande, Hofstede and Roosen is still an above average team.
Sam Welsford is high in the betting markets as he won two Vuelta a San Juan sprint stages and started the classics season with multiple podiums and GP Criquelion victory. He was extremely competitive in the cold crosswinds in Scheldeprijs last year in his neo-pro season, as well as crosswinds in the Saudi Tour, so the tough conditions should not present a problem for him.
The contenders’ list is long and the other sprinters attending this race will be Dylan Groenewegen, Sam Bennett, Caleb Ewan, Fernando Gaviria, Juan Sebastian Molano, Gerben Thijssen, Jordi Meeus, Pascal Ackermann, Phil Bauhaus, Arnaud Demare, Mark Cavendish, Søren Wærenskjold, Edward Theuns, David Dekker and Max Walscheid.
Sam Welsford has proven to be a very strong rider in flatter races even if they are held in adverse conditions. His 3rd in the windy Scheldeprijs last year and performance in the miserable Ronde van Drenthe the other weekend, bodes well for his chances.