Official map and profile, plus a Google Streetview run through.
The line up can be found here (PDF).
The weather will be proper classics stuff, a high chance of rain and a SW wind of 39kph. The temperature is around 11 degrees C but will feel colder with the lack of sun.
The 115km route has 5 short climbs listed at 51km, 55km, 69km, 77km and 81km, plus a small one at 99km. Cobbles turn up at 16.8km, 18.9km, 24.2km, 49km, 74.6km and 91.8km. The flat start to the race just outside Ypres heads towards Hoekse before turning into a headwind as it progresses to Vleteren. This should help keep the main contenders together as they hit the first sets of cobbles. The race then moves into Poperinge, a very technical set of turns that will further break up the front group. Then it is onto the meat of the race, five short but extremely steep climbs with cobbles halfway through. It goes Kemmelberg, Monteberg, Baneberg, cobbles, loop back round to Kemmelberg and Monteberg once more. The peloton will be in pieces at this point BUT all is not lost. The route then straightens out and hits the smooth tarmac back towards Ypres with a tailwind, and after the last feeding zone there’s one small climb before a smooth run up to the finish in Wevelgem.
It’ll be wet, cold, technical and bumpy. In other words Floortje country. Mackaij (Liv Plantur) is last years winner and has ridden consistently so far this, apart from a bit of a mare at Trofeo Binda last weekend. Liv Plantur are a different team this year, more cohesive rather than a loose collective. With Leah Kirchmann, Julia Soek, Sara Mustonen-Lichan, Kyara Stijns and Riejanne Markus to carry her to the Kemmelberg she has the skills, knowledge and mental confidence to carry it off again. Wiggle H5 are going for the machine gun approach with Jolien D’hoore, Chloe Hosking, Emma Johansson, Dani King, Elisa Longo Borghini and Amy Pieters. Almost every single rider can win this, and so long as they have one or more riders at the front by the last turn into Ypres they will in contention for the top spot. There’s no nice way of saying this, they have been leaving too much on the table so far this year, leaving Boels Dolmans to say “Thanks very much.” Lizzie Armitstead and Chantal Blaak are there to support Ellen van Dijk on her return to racing after injury, with Megan Guarnier, Christine Majerus and Romy Kasper to help secure the win. Like Wiggle they have plenty of back up options in case van Dijk isn’t quite 100%, with the flat end of the race ideal for Armitstead and Blaak should they need to step up. However the team are new to this race as before it always clashed with Trofeo Binda, so Wiggle and Liv have an advantage over them. RaboLiv’s Roxane Knetemann has finished in the top 10 for the last two years running, with Anouska Koster also placing well in 2014. Orica AIS are also new to this race but have been riding like gold so far this year. They have their Dutchie in Annemiek van Vleuten plus Gracie Elvin, Sarah Roy and Lizzie Williams to keep them in the middle of the action. Lotto Soudal Ladies have Susanna Zorzi, Lotte Kopecky, Sofie de Vuyst and Jessie Daams with Lieselot Decroix and Willeke Knol. Could they be the dark horses? A very strong line up. Hitec have been a little quiet lately, with Lauren Kitchen likely to be their protected rider. Servetto Footon must still be buzzing from almost pulling off the upset of the year at Trofeo Binda. Jolanda Neff knows this race, hopefully she is recovered and ready to cheer us up again. Ale Cipollini are another team new to this race due to previous clashes with Trofeo Binda, and have Marta Bastianelli, Malgorzta Jasinska and Marta Tagliaferro ready to cause havoc. Cervelo Bigla didn’t have a great Trofeo Binda, Carmen Small and Lotta Lepisto will be there along with Ashleigh Moolman Pasio. Parkhotel Valkenburg have last years runner up in Janneke Ensing, and with Natalie van Gogh and Jip van den Bos have a bloody good chance again this year. Canyon SRAM are going to feel the loss of Trixi Worrack who is recovering from emergency surgery following a crash. They are taking the Wiggle approach with Lisa Brennauer, Tiffany Cromwell, Alexis Ryan, Elena Cecchini and Alena Amialiusik. Cylance have also been having some bad luck, so Shelley Olds will be looking to bring things back on track with a top 10 finish. TSVL Etixx Guill D’or have been on fire lately, and with Kelly Druyts and Ann Sophie Duyck they have two experienced and in form contenders. Lares Waowdeals are gaining confidence steadily, and Monique van de Ree has a solid support team around her. Lensworld Zannata Etixx bring Maria Giulia Confalonieri. BePink (Lex Albrecht), Bizkaia Durango (Roos Hoogeboom), PC Futuroscope 86 (Roxane Fournier), Tibco-SVB (Lauren Stephens, Lauren Komanski), Twenty 16 (Alison Jackson), UHC (Iris Slappendale, Katie Hall), BTC City Ljubljana (Trans Slovenia Express) and Team Australia (Kimberly Wells) complete the line up.
Such a hard one since we haven’t seen a lot of the top riders in this race before. Mackaij and D’hoore probably. Van Dijk and Janneke Ensing maybe. Kelly Druyts possibly. I’ll go for the favourite and say Mackaij.