With UAE Team Emirates’ riders testing their legs in recent European Tour races, the intensity is about to shift up a gear as the team gets set for the official start of the Spring Classics.
The pulsating 10 days of cycling will kick off with the traditional curtain-raiser, the E3 BinckBank Classic, on March 29, for which UAE Team Emirates has announced a stellar line-up.
Leading the team’s charge for one-day glory will be Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff. He will be supported by Belgian youngster Jasper Philipsen, who makes his debut in this race and will be eager to impress in front of a home crowd.
The race also has added sentiment for Philipsen; he won the 2016 junior edition in what was just his second ever road race victory as a junior.
He will be joined by Tom Bohli, Marco Marcato, Oliviero Troia, Sven Erik Bystrom and Norwegian national road race champion, Vegard Stake Laengen.
Commenting ahead of the race, Kristoff said: “With the E3, my northern campaign starts. I’m arriving there with my condition and health better than last year, so I hope to be able to be more competitive. The team is reinforced for these races, so the signs are looking good.”
The 203.9km route will be no easy ride. The hilly parcours are supplemented by cobbled roads, synonymous with the Spring Classics races. With 15 sharp climbs scattered throughout the route, riders will have to show their grit and determination to get to the finish.
The first climb comes after 27km and will give riders just a brief taste of what’s to come. It’s reasonably plain sailing for the proceeding 40km, before the peloton starts to hit the more serious climbs. It will be the second half of the race where the action really starts to hot up.
The route provides a relentless number of hills, and in the past – despite being far from the finish line – riders have used this section as an opportunity to attack.
With just over 50km of the race to go, the peloton will enter the most difficult section of the race featuring the Kapelberg, a 750m climb with an average gradient of 7.1 per cent; the Paterberg, a 400m climb that averages 12.9 and the Oude Kwaremont, a 2.2km haul averaging inclines of 4.4.
All have the added difficulty of being played out along the cobbles. The final climb of the day will see riders tackle the Tiegemberg, 1km of climbing at 5.6 per cent, before a slightly downhill 2km sprint to the finish.
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