Was Scheldeprijs the best cobbled classic of 2022?

Alexander Kristoff produced a great escape from an elite group of sprinters and escape specialists to win this rainy classic.

There was a lot of pressure on Quickstep ahead of this one so it was surprising that they managed to miss the big crosswind split (it went near that tunnel you drive through on the way to Amsterdam!).

There was a bit of a chase but with some considerable distance to race there were some commitment issues in the group behind meaning Fabio Jakobsen was stranded and the mini Quickstep classics drought was set to go on.

Sam Bennett of Bora now looked a nailed on for the win but started to drift off the back as the cold and wet started to set in. His team mates tried to rally him but as with last years Gent-Wevelgem, when Bennett was tired, he was dropped.

The onus moved on to Alpecin who had managed to get both of their days sprinters, Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier in the move but with an attacking run in (maybe due to the riders wanting to get in from the cold!) it was Kristoff who made his acceleration stick.

There was a pursuit of sorts but the breakaway starting to fold in on their self and the Norwegian was away.

It was a brilliantly executed moment and his celebratory ride down the finishing straight was the Kristoff of old. It was brilliant.

So with all the new guard winning left, right and centre, this was a moment for us oldies.

Chapeau Alexander!

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 KRISTOFF AlexanderIntermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux2001254:06:02
2 VAN POPPEL DannyBORA – hansgrohe150850:24
3 WELSFORD SamTeam DSM12560,,
4 VAN UDEN CasperTeam DSM100500:26
5 THEUNS EdwardTrek – Segafredo8545,,
6 VANBILSEN KennethCofidis70400:28
7 MCLAY DanielTeam Arkéa Samsic6035,,
8 PHILIPSEN JasperAlpecin-Fenix5030,,
9 MERLIER TimAlpecin-Fenix4026,,
10 MULLEN RyanBORA – hansgrohe3522,,

Build up to the Northern Classics wins me over

Le Samyn – Matteo Trentin

Nokere Koerse – Tim Merlier

GP Denain – Max Walscheid

Koksijde Classic – Pascal Ackermann

We will cover Milan San Remo when the dust about seat post droppers subsides a little, but as we head into the Flemish classic season proper the above preparation races have been superb this spring.

Every year I watch Le Samyn and as they pass that village green before the worst set of cobbles (underwater again this year) I promise myself I will make it to that beautiful old looking bar for a Bornem or similar one year.

Dour is the name of the finishing town and the weather generally reflects that. But the race is always excellent. Trentin was a worthy winner.

The Nokereberg is a set piece finish with those heavy cobbles offset with lovely restaurant frontage and ornate street lighting.

This one didn’t quite hit the heights of previous years but Tim Merlier, a growing force in Flanders racing, got to throw his hands in the air.

Although its in France, Denain had a spectacular finish. The field was strong as a result of the cobbles used being used in the Tour de France this July.

We saw Primoz Roglic and the Ineos team really take the race on and they were only caught in the last 3km after an epic chase. The Cofidis revival, as alluded to on this website (!) continued with Walscheid winning the sprint.

Koksijde finished this batch of racing at the end of last week with a sprint finish after an attacking run in.

You truly know the spring races have arrived when watching the peloton heading to the coast past the sand dunes with a right turn taking them alongside the tram route.

It generates emotion that the weather will be on the turn soon (hopefully!) and that the season proper is here. I associate this with fewer layers when going training and daffodils in the garden. Its engrained in the calendar.

2022 is shaping up to be a superb season of racing. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Under the radar and not over the top…

It’s not often I open an article with the headline coming from a lyric created by 1990’s hardcore techno act Scooter, but these are different times.

Cycling is back however with racing over the weekend in Italy with Strade Bianche and today in Lombardy.

Being a fan of Belgian riders, especially those with a cyclo cross slant, you could be forgiven for not getting too far past the performance of Wout Van Aert at the weekend.

He proved once and for all that there is more to converts from the mud and dirt than Mathieu Van der Poel and Zednek Stybar.

His dominant performance in dispatching a group of known grand tour and classics stars was a win for all ages. It was all the better for us having had such a wait to see it.

But down the results list and in the breakaway today is the name of a rider who is going under the radar but is impressing.

The next cab of the rank was likely to be Tim Merlier who was starting his transition to the road and was present in the opening weekend of Flemish classics back in February. But for me Quinten Hermans could be the better bet.

He was up there without being super impressive on the rough stuff in the winter, but has settled in with Wanty/Circus since the restart. He is clearly able to get in a move and hang in until the latter stages of big races.

I will be keeping an eye on him as I think a breakthrough win could be coming soon.