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Belgian Championships - CN
Knokke-Heist, Belgium, June 1,29 and August 15-19 2008
By Bjorn Haake
The 2008 Belgian National Championships will take place in Knokke-Heist, over a real classics distance of 254.6 kilometres. About a quarter of the course is located next to the ocean, meaning the biggest challenge will come from the ocean winds blowing across the course. This will especially make a difference considering the race's long distance.
The circuit is 13 kilometres long and runs in a counter-clock wise direction. The riders will have to race over rail road tracks twice per loop, and the bumpy crossings will add up after 19 laps.
There are long straights in the parcours and a strong team controlling things is likely to provide the victor.
Can Lotto Silence Quick Step?
The two big teams in Belgium are Quick Step and Silence-Lotto. Quick Step will try to defend the title, which it won via Stijn Devolder last year. Devolder may look for a bit of a confidence booster following his disastrous mountain time trial in the Tour de Suisse.
Quick Step's Tom Boonen and Gert Steegmans are the other big guns in the team. Kevin Seeldraeyers, Jurgen Vandewalle, Wouter Weylandt, Maarten Wijnants and Kevin Van Impe may also get a chance, depending on the race situation.
But the race is really Silence-Lotto's, with the local squad sending a whopping 20 riders to the start. The protected riders will be Leif Hoste and Greg Van Avermaet, with Jurgen Van Den Broeck not expected at full strength yet.
Silence-Lotto also has Mario Aerts, Pieter Jacobs and Jürgen Roelandts, who could get the nod if they end up in the right breakaway. Wim Vanhuffel, Wim Vansevenant and Johan Vansummeren are typically in the breaks in the middle of the race and the team's youngsters will be expected to race their hearts out early on.
Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner does well in the Belgian races and has Bert De Waele to do some damage. New signing Sven Nys is not used to the distance, but his cyclo-cross skills may come in handy at some of the patchy Belgian roads and rail road crossings.
Topsport Vlaanderen will look to veteran Niko Eeckhout and Preben Van Hecke for its chances at grabbing the title. Kenny Dehaes, a recent stage winner at the Tour of Belgium, would likely have been the team's biggest hope but won't take part in the weekend's race.
Cofidis will also field a strong squad, but being a French-squad it will lack the numbers against Belgium's big two. With that said, you can never count out riders like Maxime Monfort, Nick Nuyens or Staf Scheirlinckx.
Curiously enough, Frank Vandenbroucke is working on a comeback (again), but look for his Mitsubishi - Jartazi team-mate Geert Omloop to deliver the top result.
La Française Des Jeux will only have Philippe Gilbert, Gianni Meersman and Tom Stubbe, after Jelle Vanendert had to cancel his start due to injury.
Some of the cyclo-cross teams like Fidea and Sunweb will try to take advantage of the wobbly roads, while some ProTour teams like CSC, Liquigas or Agritubel are only able to send a single rider up the road.