Dutch champion Niki Terpstra returns to the 1.HC race which he's won two times in the past four years.
The 200-km long Dwars door Vlaanderen signals the start of the Flemish Cycling Week, a ten-day time span in which dreams are nurtured and glory is chased by the riders who worked hard during the whole winter to reach this time of the year in the best possible condition. Created in 1945, the now 1.HC race has a long list of illustrious winners, among who are also three riders of Etixx – Quick-Step, who managed to take the victory on four occasions.
After 92 pretty smooth kilometers, the real race will begin once the peloton will hit Nieuwe Kwaremont, the first hill of the day. This will be followed by Kattenberg, Leberg, Berendries, Valkenberg, Eikenberg, Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Vossenhol, Holstraat and Nokereberg, and as if all this wasn't enough, the parcours will be sprinkled with three cobbled sectors – Holleweg, Haaghoek and Varentstraat; this mix of climbs and cobbles can very well turn the event into a race of attrition, with its primary focus point being the combination Oude Kwaremont – Paterberg, which comes with less than 40 kilometers left until the finish in Waregem.
Etixx – Quick-Step will tackle the 71st edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen with a team which includes two-time winner Niki Terpstra, triple ITT world champion Tony Martin and Fernando Gaviria, the 21-year-old neo-pro who'll get to taste the cobbles for the first time in his career.
"We have a very strong and experienced team. Most of the guys have already done a classic this season. For Fernando it will be a whole new experience, but we saw that he can adapt quickly to different circumstances, so we are confident in him. All of our riders are in good condition and we'll line up at the start with the goal of getting an important result. Depending on the weather, it can be an open race. It could very well end up in a bunch sprint or with a solo win. What pleases me is that we have different riders for all kind of scenarios", said sport director Tom Steels, himself a winner of the race, back in 1998.
Etixx – Quick-Step to Dwars door Vlaanderen: Fernando Gaviria, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert, Nikolas Maes, Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Lukasz Wisniowski.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele