For many riders, the two races will serve as tune-up for the upcoming National Championships.
On Sunday, 21 teams and 147 riders will find themselves in Bruges, not to visit the alcoves in the Koningin Astridpark, but to line out for a new edition of the Elfstedenronde, a 194.9km-long race which despite being flat will have several challenges, 19 more precisely, in the form of cobblestone sectors, peppered on the course between kilometer 81 and kilometer 191.
On paper, the winner should emerge from a bunch gallop, but things might not be that simple, as the attackers will most certainly use the pavé in order to blow the race apart and distance the sprinters before the finish on the Buiten Kruisvest.
Three of Quick-Step Floors' neo-pros will be on the seven-man roster for Sunday's race: Kasper Asgreen, Alvaro Hodeg and Fabio Jakobsen. They will be joined by Dries Devenyns – who on Friday made his return to racing following a lengthy lay-off caused by an injury – Davide Martinelli, Fabio Sabatini and Pieter Serry, who played an important part in Elia Viviani's runner-up spot at the grueling Dwars door het Hageland.
Two days later, powerhouse Tim Declercq, Iljo Keisse and Florian Sénéchal will join the team, replacing Asgreen, Hodeg and Martinelli for Halle-Ingooigem, a race won by our team three times with two different riders in the past decade.
Created in 1945, Halle-Ingooigem is run over 197.7 kilometers and features 13 hills, including Kanarieberg (1000 meters, 8%), Knokteberg (1000 meters, 7.5%) and Tiegemberg (1000 meters, 4.1%), which will be tackled on six occasions, last time with 11 kilometers to go, when some teams are likely to drop the hammer and up the tempo before arriving in Ingooigem, the small town located in the municipality of Anzegem.
"Elfstedenronde and Halle-Ingooigem are different than Dwars doot het Hageland, meaning that despite some cobbles and hills sprinkled over the course, there's a high probability both will come down to a bunch sprint. If that happens, we have Alvaro and Fabio, who have already proved their qualities this season, but we are prepared also for other scenarios", said sports director Geert Van Bondt. "These races will be a good rehearsal for the National Championships and we are ready to take on them with the same motivation and desire that have become defining traits of Quick-Step Floors over the years."
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