Etixx – Quick-Step to Nokere Koerse and Handzame Classic
The peloton returns to Belgium this week for two one-day races which will serve as appetizer for the big Spring Classics.
First of these two events is Nokere Koerse, which will take place on Wednesday, March 16th. Created in 1944 and first called Grand Prix Jules Lowie, in honour of the 1938 Paris-Nice winner who hailed from Nokere – a small town located in East Flanders – the race has a 199.5-km long course, which will see the peloton climb Nokereberg ten times. Located in the Flemish Ardennes, the 350-m long hill is completely cobbled, averages 5% and will be decisive in the outcome of the 70th edition.
Etixx – Quick-Step is going to be one of the seven World Tour teams at the start, where it will come with an outfit consisting of the following riders: Laurens De Plus, Iljo Keisse, Davide Martinelli, Gianni Meersman, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Martin Velits and Lukasz Wisniowski. They will be led from the team car by sport director Rik van Slycke, himself a former winner of the one-day race, back in 1989.
Just two days later, the team will line up for the 14th Handzame Classic (Bredene – Handzame, 199 kilometers), a young race which provides a nice mix of cobbles and hills, with barely a meter of flat, which will give a chance to both attackers and riders with a fast finish. Victorious at the previous edition, Gianni Meersman returns at the start and is keen to have another strong showing on home turf, in a race in which he'll be joined by Iljo Keisse, Nikolas Maes, Davide Martinelli, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Martin Velits and Lukasz Wisniowski.
Both Nokere Koerse and Handzame Classic will serve as preparation for the Belgian cobbled races of next week: Dwars door Vlaanderen (March 23rd), E3 Harelbeke (March 25th) and Gent-Wevelgem (March 27th).
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele