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97th Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen - 1.HC

Belgium, April 15, 2009

New winner at Scheldeprijs

By Bjorn Haake

The right hand for three wins in Roubaix and the left hand for three at the Scheldeprijs?
Photo ©: AFP
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When the Scheldeprijs is fought out on Wednesday, April 15, over 200 kilometres the expected sprint finish will not contain the winner of the two previous editions, Mark Cavendish. The duel between him and Tom Boonen is tied, both having won the Scheldeprijs twice, but Cavendish takes a well deserved break from racing after a busy and successful spring.

Boonen can thus go up 3:2 on the Briton, provided he has recovered from his Paris-Roubaix win and is up for the task. The Scheldeprijs is a typical sprint affair, so expect Jürgen Roelandts and Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto) up there as well as Graeme Brown (Rabobank).

Robbie McEwen, winner in 2002, will also hope for a bunch sprint. The Katusha rider has a good year so far, finishing a close second to Cavendish on both De Panne sprint stages. In Gent-Wevelgem he impressively bridged up to the front group solo. The Russian air seems to do him good and it won't before long that he'll add to his two season wins so far.

German Gerald Ciolek (Milram) has recovered from sickness that kept him out of the mix since Tirreno-Adriatico and he'll be itching to really get his season started.

No sprint would be complete without Alessandro Petacchi (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) in the mix. The Italian has returned strongly, with six wins thus far, three of them obtained recently in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali.

Breaks to liven up race on flat landscape

McEwen (r) came close in De Panne and with Cavendish staying home the Australian is one of the hot favourites
Photo ©: Tim Van Wichelen
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The continental teams, especially the Belgians ones, are always there to liven things up early. Last year it was Koen Barbé (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) who went into a long break with Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano). The latter won't be racing, but expect Barbé up there with riders like Dieter Cappelle or Geert Omloop (Palmans - Cras), Björn Thurau (Elk Haus), Klaas Lodewyck (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator), Bobbie Traksel or Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil).

The BMC team will use its Paris-Roubaix experience to grow even stronger in the European races.

There isn't much to say about the course other than pancake. Don't expect any major rises in this flat area between Antwerp and the Dutch border. The neutral roll-out goes from Antwerp to Schoten. Schoten is the town the peloton will return to 150 km later for three local laps of 16.5 kilometres each.

The first entrance into the circuit is also the second feed zone of the day, the last chance for riders to top up for the final.

The major difficulties of the day are a few cobble sections, the last one being the Broekstraat, 1700m long and located inside the local laps, so the riders will have to tackle it three times.