Brussels Cycling Classic 2018 Preview – Tips, Contenders, Profile

Brussels Cycling Classic Logo

The Brussels Cycling Classic is a well-established late-season race that often ends up in a sprint finish. Previous winners include the likes of Andre Greipel, Belgian legend Tom Boonen, Arnaud Demare, Dylan Groenewegen and Robbie McEwen (who won this race 5 times) – basically a who’s who of sprinting. The entries this year are again very sprint heavy so expect more of the same in 2018.

Brussels Cycling Classic Profile

Brussels Cycling Classic 2018 Profile

Brussels Cycling Classic Contenders

Frenchman Arnaud Demare is last year’s winner, therefore he’s got a good chance again. This week he’s completely torn up the Poitou-Charentes Tour, winning all 5 stages (including a time trial) to take the overall. He also finished 2nd at the Worldtour level EuroEyes Cyclassics race in Hamburg the week before. Demare in this sort of form is a clear favourite.

Fellow WorldTour sprinters, John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff will be hoping to show off their power. Degenkolb has returned to his previous form in 2018, winning a stage of the Tour de France whilst recording plenty of other strong results. Recently he’s finished 4th in the Hamburg Cyclassics last week and 13th in the Bretagne Classic this week. Now no longer in his European Champion kit, Kristoff will be harder to spot. He won on the Champs Elysees this year to claim some sprinting kudos points. He’ll be looking to keep finishing ahead of Degenkolb as he’s managed 3rd and 11th in the same races recently.

Alexander Kristoff, Kemmelberg, Gent Wevelgem 2018
Former-European Champion Alexander Kristoff gritting his teeth

Pascal Ackermann is in the middle of a career year. He’s won two stages of the Worldtour Tour of Poland, the RideLondon Surrey Classic, his National Championships, a stage of the Dauphine and Romandie. Strong podium finishes in Belgian races in the Spring – Scheldeprijs, Driedaagse de Panne and Handzame Classic – mean he should get a good result here. In a similar vein Quickstep’s Fabio Jakobsen is having his breakout year. Jackobsen’s only 21, but already has plenty of wins to his name – he won Nokere Koerse and Scheldeprijs in the Spring, as well as a stage of the Tour des Fjords, but he’s now also opened his Worldtour account with a win at the BinckBank Tour. He will continue to impress at this race and others.

Cofidis’ Christophe Laporte has performed most strongly in the French races this season, winning himself a piglet at Tro-Bro Leon for example. His best results are arguably his 4th place at Gent-Wevelgem and 2nd place sprinting into Pau on the Tour de France. His August has largely been a write-off so he may not carry the strongest form coming into the Brussels Cycling Classic.
Astana’s Magnus Cort Nielsen is coming off a stage win in this year’s Tour de France, as well as a stage win in the BinckBank Tour recently. Not quite in the same league as the really top-drawer sprinters, he’ll be more than capable of a top-10 result against this field.

Demare Dauphine Win
Arnaud Demare winning at the 2017 Dauphine

Somehow yet to win a race in 2018 is Sondre Holst Enger. He’s managed to finish in 2nd place 5 times so far this season. He also managed a 3rd place in the Veenendaal-Veenendaal Classic last week. Despite me picking him to do well in the Great War Remembrance Race this week, Verandas Willems’ Sean de Bie ended up DNF-ing that race. He’s only two weeks away from a sprint to 3rd at Worldtour level so still has some of the form that has carried him through a very strong season.

Brussels Cycling Classic Outsiders

The running joke is that Jakub Mareczko only wins in Asia/Africa and his palmares largely backs this up with over 38 victories away from Europe. He’s not raced since the end of June so will be using this race to begin the run into the end-of-season trips to Asia. When at his best though he can mix it with the best sprinters, a 2nd place on the first real stage of this year’s Giro proving it – this stage predictably didn’t take place in Europe.

Bryan Coquard has regained some of his previous form throughout 2018 but hasn’t regained some of the quality he once had. He’s only won twice in the Belgium Tour and 4 Jours des Dunkerque but has managed plenty of top 10s too. Against out-and-out sprinters a top 10 is again likely rather than the win. Australian Brenton Jones was consistent in the 13 stages of the Tour of Qinghai Lake recently, finishing 2nd in the points competition with a stage win and 8 top 10 finishes. 4th in the Rund um Koln, beating Marcel Kittel in the process shows he could get a similar result here.

Bryan Coquard Oman 2018
Bryan Coquard winning in Oman at the start of 2018

The Belgian pair of Kenny Dehaes and Amaury Capiot will be looking to impress a home crowd. Capiot had impressive results in the Spring, finishing 2nd in Nokere Koerse to Fabio Jackobsen above. He’s getting back into racing after 3 months off between the end of May and August so definitely counts as an outsider. Kenny Dehaes has been doing more racing – he finished 4th in Schaal Sels this week so had good form too. His biggest result this season has been winning the GP Denain and he’s generally done well in the Belgian one-day races at 1.1 level such as Handzame too.

Runner-up in the British National Championships this year Adam Blythe has done well in Belgian one-day races. He won the Elfstedenronde, finished 5th in the Handzame Classic, 7th in Ronde van Limburg and 9th in Driedaagse de Panne. Against this quality of sprinting opposition, he’ll struggle to win, but is more than capable of a top 10. Romanian National Champion Eduard Michael Grosu won 3 stages of the Tour of Qinghai Lake recently. He can be inconsistent, not always managing to make the sprint finale he’s built for but a 10th place in Driedaagse de Panne shows he can perform in Belgium though.

Former Worldtour rider Wouter Wippert is in great form, winning Omloop Mandel-Leie-Schelde this week as well as finishing 2nd in Veenendaal-Veenendaal too. Wippert had his best race at the 4 Jours de Dunkerque, finishing in the top-4 four times. He also managed 2nd in Market Heistse Pijl too this season. Finally, Frenchman Thomas Boudat has done well this month at Tour Poitou-Charentes with 3 top-10 finishes. He managed to sporadically do well in the Tour de France, the highest sprint finish of 6th showed what he’s capable of.

Brussels Cycling Classic Prediction

1 – Arnaud Demare

2 – Alexander Kristoff

3 – Pascal Ackermann