The weather will be a cold 6°C to begin with, and winds in a southern direction of 21-22km/h. Gusts of around 3okm/h are expected. The temperature will rise slightly to around 10°C with the wind changing to a SW direction and increasing to around 25km/h.
The route is, as far as I can see, unchanged from last year so here is the Google Streetview video made at the time. A meander from the neutral start takes the riders onto a flat stretch of road smack into a strong head/side wind. The run up to the first climb at 24km takes a right turn that’ll challenge any breakaway lone riders. It’s then just pain all the way. 8 catagorised climbs with several smaller leg killers in between, with the first cobbles kicking in at just past the halfway mark. You can see for yourself how the middle section will separate out the more experienced riders from the rest. When the route hits the 85km mark there’s probably a good chance for an attack. However it would have to be someone capable of riding away as the riders come back together for the flatter last section with plenty of tailwind for most of it.
And we start with Boels Dolman, the most professional team hands down. They ride like pros, prepare like pros, hide their rider bans like pros, absolute top drawer. They are an extension of their DS Danny Stam, and he wants at least a podium place. Chantal Blaak and Amy Pieters have had good results, with Pieters winning 3 years ago. Megan Guarnier, Christine Majerus, Karol-Ann Canuel and Amalie Dideriksen ehhh not so much, although Majerus has had consitant top tens and this will be her birthday too. Wiggle H5 are with Jolien D’Hoore, who looks like she is gunning for this. She along with Elisa Longo Borghini will be supported by Andrey Cordon-Ragot, Julie Leth, Claudia Lichtenberg Hausler and Lucy Garner. Canyon SRAM have Tiffany Cromwell, 3rd last year and surely one of the favourites. Alexis Ryan has had a great start to the year in the Australian races. Lisa Brennauer, Elena Cecchini and Trixi Worrack make up one of the most savvy teams here. Orica Scott have Sarah Roy and Annemiek van Vleuten, with Gracie Elvin, Amanda Spratt, Jessica Allen and Jenelle Crooks in support. Ale Cipollini will likely ride for Marta Bastianelli, with Chloe Hosking, Anna Trevisi, Romy Kasper, Janneke Ensing and Daiva Tuslaite.
Leah Kirchmann and Lucinda Brand of Team Sunweb both finished top 10 last year. Floortje Mackaij, Rozanne Slik, Julia Soek and Ellen van Dijk (with her insider knowledge of Boels) complete the line up. WM3 are with Lauren Kitchen and Katarzyna Niewiadoma, with Jeanne Korevaar, Anouska Koster, Riejanne Markus and Moniek Tenniglo. Team VeloCONCEPT are a known unknown. Bjarne Riis is in charge, and do you really think he’s going to waste his time having a team that does nothing? In their line up Carmen Small seems to be their main rider. Camilla Mollebro, Christina Siggaard, Pernille Mathiesen, Sara Penton and Sara Mustonen Lichan make up a very experienced team. It’s probably too much to expect anything on their first race as a team, but it’ll be interesting to see how they go. Cylance bring Dani King, Joelle Numainville and Kirsten Wild. Lotto Soudal Ladies are with Jessie Daams and perhaps Lotte Kopecky. SPVL Guill D’or bring Kelly Druyts and her many sisters. Lensworld Kuota have new signing Tetyana Riabchenko. Lares Waowdeals bring Sofie de Vuyst. Astana are with Arianna Fidanza. BePink have Olga Zabelinskaya and Alison Jackson. Drops have Susanna Zorzi and Alice Barnes. FDJ NAF are with Roxane Knetemann and Cervelo Bigla might be riding more for Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig than their star Lotta Lepisto. Bizkaia Durango have a new Chilean signing Paola Munoz and also Spela Kern previously of the lively BTC City Lubljana. The line up is completed by Colavita Bianchi, Hitec with Nina Kessler, Lointek, Team Germany, Keukens Redant, De Sprinters Malderen, Isorex (with Megan Chard of the UK in her second European road race), and Autoglass Wetteren Group Solar.
Yeah yeah, I know, it’s hard when this is the first race with all the main teams. I think Jolien D’hoore and Tiffany Cromwell are really targeting this, but Blaak may edge them out.