Both Fernando Gaviria and Philippe Gilbert will be in action at the end of the week.
This weekend brings not just the start of the World Championships in Innsbruck, but also two hard one-day races, Tour de l'Eurometropole (206 kilometers) and Grand Prix d'Isbergues (199.1 kilometers), held in Belgium and France, respectively.
Taking the riders from La Louvière to Tournai (which played host to the start of the very first Flèche Wallonne, back in 1936), Tour de l'Eurometropole has a tougher route than in the past, with no less than 13 hills peppering the course after the first 60 kilometers. With the last of these climbs featuring with only 5.5 kilometers to go, it's pretty sure the attackers will want to have a say in the finale, just like last year, when the winner emerged from a severely reduced group.
One day later, Grand Prix d'Isbergues – which this season runs its 72nd edition – will be more to the sprinters' liking, despite the presence of seven hills in the first part of the race. After this frantic start, the race should calm down once the peloton will enter on the 12km circuit around the small town located in the Pas-de-Calais department, which they will cover nine times.
Tim Declercq, Fernando Gaviria, stagiaire Mikkel Honoré, Iljo Keisse, Davide Martinelli, Maximiliano Richeze and Florian Sénéchal, victorious recently in Textielprijs Vichte, will be at the start of Saturday's race, with Philippe Gilbert – who is returning to action after recovering from the injury sustained two months ago at the Tour de France – set to replace Keisse on Sunday.
Sports director Rik van Slycke talked of the two races and the team's ambitions: "Eurométropole is a tough race with a very challenging parcours, and if we'll have the same crosswinds like in Vichte on Tuesday, it could turn into a savage one. Regardless of what will happen, the plan is to be in the thick of the action, and the same goes also for Isbergues, where at least on paper it should be a bit easier. The morale is high after the string of results we had in the past week, we are happy also to welcome Phil back into the team, so you can be sure we'll try to shape the race and get some more good results."
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