by Fabio Valente (twitter: @cyclingideas_)
If you look for a pure belgian, one-day race, Nokere Koerse must be the one which rapidly comes to your mind. Held in Belgium, in the region of Flanders, this race had its first edition in 1944 and it has been one of the most loved semi-classics since then. The event was born as the Grand Prix Jules Lowie, honouring the memory of former Paris-Nice winner Jules Lowie, from Nokere, later changing its name in the moder one. Nokere Koerse, after some years as a 1.1 UCI event, has stepped up to a 1.HC status since 2016, attracting the interest of WT teams and first level riders. Last year edition was won by Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) after a dominant sprint ahead of Blythe, Stallaert, Bauhaus and Van Lerberghe. Bouhanni became one of the only seven riders not from Belgium nor Netherlands to conquer Nokere Koerse in 71 edition of this true belgian race.
Starting from Deinze, the race will be a 191.1km long one with a traditional finish in Nokere. After the first 70km with just Vossenhol and Nokereberg to be climbed, the race will start to heat as the riders will enter a 14km circuit to be raced four times, which has its focal point in the Nokereberg (400 metres on pavè at 6%). After this circuit, a last circuit of 29km (two laps) will mark the end of the race. The final circuit will be characterized by five pavè sectors: De Lange Ast, Huisedorp, Huisepontweg, Wannegemdorp and Kouterstraat. All these little obstacles will make this edition a little harder than usual for the sprinters.
Some rain drops falling today in Deinze, where the start will be given tomorrow in the morning. No rain expected during the race, but mud on the road could be a threat for the riders. Not the coldest day, with temperatures around 6-10 °C. Some wind will blow on the race but it will not be a menace for the riders, as it will hardly reach 12-15 km/h.
Team strenghth and contenders
A numerous peloton will be seen covering the narrow streets of the region of Flanders tomorrow. Lined up for the Nokere Koerse will be 23 teams: 7 WT teams (Bora Hansgrohe, Lotto Soudal, BMC, Quick Step Floors, SKY, Katusha-Alpecin and Sunweb), 13 Professional ones and 2 Continental equipes. As in many of the latest editions, the race should end in a sprint between the fastest and strongest sprinters of the peloton: if a group consisting of about 50-60 riders (as it happened last year) stays together until entering the final circuit, a sprint is the most likely outcome for the race.
Talking about sprinters, odds’ favourite is Vital Concept’s french sprinter Bryan Coquard: after a win in Tour of Oman and already lots of podiums this year, he aims to put under the belt a classic win. Nokere Koerse looks to be a great chance for a fast sprinter like him. The team will try to keep him safely in the bunch while looking for a sprint finish. Second placed last year, Adam Blythe, for Aqua Blue Sport, will be looking for revenge: the brit showed an uncertain form so far in 2018 but I expect to see him challenging again for the win tomorrow.
I expect a lot from Team Sunweb: even if without Phil Bauhaus, the dutch team comes to Deinze with Max Walscheid as their first choice and also Ed Theuns to look for personal glory. They have a strong tream for a sprint, with strong motors like Hofstede, Storer and Tusveld. I would not be surprised to see a black-white Sunweb jersey cheering for a win tomorrow. Some pressure will be on Team SKY too as they start the race with one of the most promising future sprinters in their line up, Kristoffer Halvorsen. The young norwegian has already showed he has speed to compete with the best sprinters in the peloton and tomorrow, given the weak opposition he will find, he looks for his first WT level win.
Even if not with its most competitive line up, Quick Step Floors start this Nokere Koerse with lots of cards to try in the end of the race: Fabio Jakobsen and Alvaro Hodeg are both excellent and very young sprinters, while Jhonatan Narvaez, Remi Cavagna and Florian Senechal could all try to destroy the race on some pavè sectors or with a late attack. It will be interesting to see what Quick Step has thought about the race tactic. Another strong sprinter to fear tomorrow will be Pascal Ackermann, for Bora-Hansgrohe: with already 3 top 5 placements in 2018 competing with the fastest sprinters of the peloton, the german has a solid chance to win the race, even more with the help of Selig, Kolar and Pelucchi.
Team Lotto Soudal will be hoping in Moreno Hofland, even if the dutch sprinter has spent some days ill and had to miss a few races in the first part of the year. With just a 5th place in a stage in Andalucia, his form is far from the best one. Team Katusha has Baptiste Planckaert for the sprint, but the same talk made for Hofland can be made for the belgian: he likes this kind of one-day races but his start of 2018 has been all but a good one, let’s see what happens tomorrow. Last but not least of the WT teams, it’s BMC Team: Nathan Van Hooydonck will be their best chances for a top 5 result, but I find hard to see him challenging for the win. Loic Vliegen and Tom Bohli could both be a card for a late attack, if BMC will rate their sprint chance low.
Eyes on the other ProConti teams: Team Cofidis comes back to Nokere Koerse without reigning champ Nacer Bouhanni. I don’t rate the chances of the french team pretty high, as they may have a very little chance with Hugo Hofstetter and Dimitri Claeys, the first one for a sprint, the latter for a late powerful attack. I can see good chances for a top result for Team Direct Energie too: the french equipe can rely on the fast and on form Adrien Petit, who won Paris-Troyes two days ago and finished 4th in Le Samyn. Also Team Roompot can play their cards tomorrow, with Coen Vermeltfoort, Pim Lightart and Floris Gerts all aiming for a top 10 result. Team Wanty Gobert fields a strong lineup with good chances for a top10 placement: riders to keep an eye on will be Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Timothy Dupont and Pieter Vanspeybrouck. CCC Sprandi will go for on form Frantisek Sisr, fresh winner of Ronde Van Drenthe, while Team Verandas’ little hopes will be on Sean De Bie and Wout Van Aert’s shoulders.
I think we will see a bunch sprint to decide the winner of Nokere Koerse. After the detailed anlysis, it’s not easy to pick just a few names to bet on, but I will try, looking also at values and prices. I will go with Pascal Ackermann EW (at 8/1 or more), Adrien Petit EW (at 12/1 or more) and Max Walscheid EW (at 11/1 or more). Interesting prices for Moreno Hofland EW (28/1 or more) and Remi Cavagna EW (33/1 or more). For a crazy longshot, I would choose Tom Bohli EW at 100/1 or more.
|Nokere Koerse||Wallscheid 1-3||1,5||7||Unibet||12:45|
|Nokere Koerse||Ackermann 1-3||3||4,25||Unibet||12:45|
|Nokere Koerse||Blythe 1-3||2||5,5||Unibet||12:45|
|Nokere Koerse||Blythe to win||0,75||21||Unibet||12:45|
|Nokere Koerse||Ackermann to win||1,25||15||Unibet||12:45|
Thank you for reading!