I was questioning whether there would even be any prices compiled for this race since the Books were all waiting to see who would be the first to blink. This however, was somewhat of a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to price-up the main riders involved in the Traverse over 200kms, which included Sagan in error since he will not be starting. But that didn't change things overly much as the Books are notoriously greedy on their overround.
DDV has been given WT status for the first time, and there's a lot of superfluous material around this subject worth reading on the relevant pages, so I won't go over it as it doesn't assist in uncovering the winner. The short of it is that most of the big names are not starting in favour of jumping into the deep end, with E3 on Friday leading into the most important three weeks of racing on the cobbles and hellingen of Flanders.
What is important is the insertion of the 800m section of cobbles on the Herlegemstraat some 6.5kms from the finish. This is an obvious move by the RO to give the race a selective/reduced bunch sprint.
No surprise perhaps to see that Paddy worked hard on this market and were first out, and whilst they have gone short on some riders there is some value to be had. Unfortunately though, QST are going to throw the kitchen sink at this race and whilst their results here show them as being the most successful team, their tactics leave a lot to be desired and it is simply impossible to select just one QST rider. Nevertheless, this race has a PCT level-feel to it, and QST will certainly dominate so having two riders from the team is not an entirely undesirable move. In fact, QST have the opportunity to finally show that they can make it work like a song for them.
I do think QST are going to go with Terpstra and Gilbert as their protected riders. The former for his strong attitude and good strike-rate in this race, and the latter for an attack on a late helligen if it's still together by that stage. Gilbert looked good on a stage of Paris-Nice when the crosswinds were about and he went solo for a fair way close to the finish, but he'd need that and then some here, and with the likelihood of a reduced bunch sprint I have selected more versatile riders, instead.
In any case, this is not a big betting race, but it does provide the opportunity to try some things ahead of the upcoming three weeks of racing and it will give us some valuable data in places.
* (52.) Bling Matthews Slow but steady start to the season with his new team SUN, so will be looking to make an impression from the basis of the team's expectations. Finished with the main second group in MSR last start for 12th. Prior to that, he showed some building form in Paris-Nice, particularly when he bridged across to Bertie-and-Co on the final Nice stage, whereupon he hung tough for a good deal whilst climbing on not insignificant gradients, albeit failing to beat Alafpolak and Colbrelli for 4th once dropping off and finding himself in the second chasing group.
On debut here, but has the top-end speed to tack-on to a race-winning move or outsprint an outright sprinter in a bunch sprint. Moreover, his climbing ability appears to be an area he has worked on in the off season, which is no small thing given his impressive display in his 2014 win on Montecassino in the Giro over 257kms.
Opened at 25/1 and considered as very good E/W value given his versatile ability. Coming into this at the right time. Treat warily.
1/2* (56.) Zdenek Stybar On debut here, so maybe he will be riding for Terpstra or Gilbert, however he may find himself in the race-winning break because of this team duty, and he has had a series of very good results in the three classics he has started so far this season, going 14th in OHN, 9th in KBK, and then 4th in SB.
Opened at 25/1 and poor value given the potential of his domestique duty. Should be 33/1 and ideally 40/1.
Race fit after finishing Tirreno-Adriatico, and he is a hard rider who can impose himself on a race to good effect. Requires luck in-running. Do not discount lightly.
1/4* (61.) Niki Terpstra No form to speak of whatsoever, however he does require an approach where he puts the kms into his legs, and he is approaching that after riding-out Tirreno-Adriatico, last start. This might be just a strong hit-out for him, however given his character and credentials, even a test of his condition would be good enough for the win.
Opened up at 12/1 and will find support, however I had him at 18/1 given his slow approach to these upcoming races and would want that price on an E/W basis.
Crack rider with a very good strike-rate on this way-of-going with seven starts since 2010 for two wins and a 3rd, however he does need suitable conditions and race run to suit. Complicated story. Worthy of some consideration.
Will be interesting to see how Vanmarcke goes today ahead of the big upcoming races, given he is still recovering from a crash at Strade Bianche that resulted in a rib injury, which impedes his breathing with some pain. I won't be surprised if he retires soon after the race negotiates the flat, first half part. Some rain forecast in the afternoon which might miss the race, but the wind necessarily won't, there's a bit of it around from early reports. Looks like it might be a hard race. Should be good fun.
Will be interesting to see how Vanmarcke goes today ahead of the big upcoming races, given he is still recovering from a crash at Strade Bianche that resulted in a rib injury, which impedes his breathing with some pain. I won't be surprised if he ret
Sadly nothing to show for it, but ultimately this race was quite complicated from the start, with it being raised to WT status but really attracting a PCT field, and QST going in hard. Even with the wind about it went against the bunch sprint, since the cohesion was never there from the peloton and then the main chasing group, to keep the breakaway in check. I think that was very good from QST and good work by Lampaert for having a crack when Gilbert wasted his, after doing the majority of the work in the breakaway for the Belgian Champion. I thought Terpstra looked good to go past the chase group after he bridged across with team-mate Stybar, but clearly he was held-up for the hit-out and gets a pass mark for that. Vanmarcke knocked-up, but is reporting that his ribs were okay. Actually had Turbo on the short list, but question marks over not finishing Tirreno-Adriatico caused me to resist him, in the end it would've been a tough pill to swallow if he had won. And he wasn't far from it, but some inexperience and impatience perhaps cost him. I think Bling was mentioned only once, disappointing effort from him.
Got one for E3 which looks exciting, from this race.
Sadly nothing to show for it, but ultimately this race was quite complicated from the start, with it being raised to WT status but really attracting a PCT field, and QST going in hard. Even with the wind about it went against the bunch sprint, since