Running from Monday 12thto Sunday 18th August, the Eneco Tour returns for its ninth edition and promises plenty of fast and furious action over its seven stages.
What kind of race is it?
This is a race for the classics men and sprinters – it shares part of its parcours and several climbs with some of the spring classics – as well as providing a relatively gentle tune-up for some of the riders preparing for the Vuelta later this month. It is the only multi-stage WorldTour event run on Dutch and Belgian roads.
While there are several opportunities for the sprinters to shine, overall the race favours those who can combine classics-style climbing with time-trial proficiency. Despite the largely flat parcours, crosswinds and traffic furniture which are common features in this part of the world offer a constant threat to the unwary.
The most recent winners are:
2008: Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne)
2009: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Columbia-HTC)
2010: Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia)
2011: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
2012: Lars Boom (Rabobank)
What happened last year?
In a race which saw five different riders in the overall lead, Lars Boom‘s (Rabobank) second place on the final stage was enough to claim his first WorldTour overall win. Meanwhile Saxo-Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador finished fourth overall on his return from a doping ban, ahead of his victory in the Vuelta.
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) took the opening sprint stage before Orica-GreenEDGE edged the team time trial by a single second to put Jens Keukeleire into the overall lead. Sprinters claimed the following three stages in the form of Theo Bos (Rabobank), Kittel and Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Nissan).
Tuft then won the 17km individual time trial to move into pole position ahead of the concluding hilly stage, which borrowed heavily from the Tour of Flanders parcours, including three climbs of the Muur van Geraardsbergen. With Tuft dropped, Alessandro Ballan (BMC) attacked to win on the final ascent of the Muur. Boom followed him home in second to take overall victory.
The final top ten also included Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan), two of the stars of this year’s Tour de France, and Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), the first race leader at last year’s Vuelta.
1. Lars Boom (Rabobank) 24:51:13
2. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:26
3. Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:49
4. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:55
5. Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE) same time
6. Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar Team) +0:58
7. Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEDGE) +1:00
8. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +1:05
9. Sebastian Langeveld (Orica-GreenEDGE) +1:07
10. Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan) +1:13
Our 2012 race review can be found here.
This year’s race
The 2013 edition is hillier than last year’s, adding more familiar climbs from the spring classics before a final stage which again includes three ascents of the Muur van Geraardsbergen (Kapelmuur).
Crosswinds and crashes permitting, the first four stages are each likely to conclude in bunch sprints, although stage two has a nasty kick-up at the finish. However, the GC will only start to take shape on stage five, an individual time trial around the municipality of Sittard-Geleen which packs two small climbs and plenty of technical challenges into just 13.2km.
The last two stages will determine the final race order. Stage six commences just outside Amstel Gold’s start town of Masstricht before arrowing into Liege-Bastogne-Liege territory, with three ascents of La Redoute, the last being the finish. As last year, Sunday’s concluding stage again takes the peloton up the Muur three times to provide a grandstand finish to the race.
Who to watch
Last year’s top three – Lars Boom (Belkin), Sylvain Chavanel and Niki Terpstra (both OPQS) – all return to the race this week. All three are contenders in a field which also includes Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2012 Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) and Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE), who won the overall at the Tour de Pologne last week. Indeed there is no shortage of potential race winners, from time trial experts such as Wiggins and Taylor Phinney (BMC) to classics hard men such as Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Strade Bianche winner Moreno Moser (Cannondale).
The competition among the sprinters will be intense, with everyone keen to knock Tour de France sprint king Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) off his perch. His most likely competition will come from Andre Grepiel (Lotto-Belisol) and Theo Bos (Belkin), but watch out for any of a long list of rivals which includes RideLondon-Surrey Classic winner Arnaud Demare (FDJ), 2012 stage winner Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack), Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE), Elia Viviani (Cannondale), Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and the Sky pairing of Chris Sutton and Ben Swift. Intriguingly, this race also sees the return of 39-year-old Alessandro Petacchi from retirement – he’s now with OPQS.
Reigning world champion Gilbert will be particularly keen to win stage six – he originally hails from Remouchamps, a stone’s throw from La Redoute. Meanwhile BMC teammate Alessandro Ballan will fancy his chances of winning the concluding stage on the Muur again. Movistar’s Alex Dowsett will look for a repeat of his Giro time trial victory over Wiggins. And watch out for riders such as Bjorn Leukemans to put themselves in the shop window from a Vacansoleil-DCM team whose time as a WorldTour outfit looks numbered.
August 12th: Stage 1 – Koksijde to Ardooie, 175.3km
August 13th: Stage 2 – Ardooie to Vorst-Brussel, 176.9km
August 14th: Stage 3 – Oosterhout to Brouwersdam, 187.3km
August 15th: Stage 4 – Essen to Vlijmen, 169.6km
August 16th: Stage 5 – Sittard-Geleen, 13.2km individual time trial
August 17th: Stage 6 – Riemst to Aywaille, 150km
August 18th: Stage 7 – Tienen to Geraardsbergen, 208km
The Eneco Tour starts on Monday 12th August and concludes on Sunday 18th. Live action will be shown daily on Eurosport. For other channels check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website