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Dwars door de Westhoek Race History
Dwars Door de Westhoek takes place in the corner of Belgium, next to the French border, called Heuvelland. It’s the area most commonly associated with the Gent Wevelgem races. Starting and finishing in Boezinge, the riders are treated to 3 ascents of the Rodeberg before heading back into town. The Rodeberg is just under 1km long at an average of 5.2%, but that masks a peak gradient of around 19% to really test the legs of the riders. The Sulferberg is the easier second lump on the parcours. They’re spared the additional climb up to the summit of the Baneberg from the top of the Rodeberg. The riders will be thankful that they pass through the village of Kemmelberg without having to take on the mighty Kemmelberg.
Once the climbing laps are done and dusted, there’s a flat return to Boezinge. 3 different laps round a local route shouldn’t present any challenges and it’s no surprise that almost every edition of Dwars Door de Westhoek has finished in a sprint. So it’s no surprise to see Lorena Wiebes and Elisa Balsamo on the winners list here. Neither rider will race here in 2022. Famously, Vietnamese rider Thi That Nguyen won here ahead of both Wiebes and Balsamo in 2018.
Dwars door de Westhoek 2022 Contenders
The Dwars door Vlaanderen winner, Chiara Consonni is the big favourite on paper here. With the race likely to end up in a Gent Wevelgem-esque reduced sprint, Consonni has comfortably the fastest finish of those on the start list. She’s just had a consistent long weekend at RideLondon Classique, finishing 5th in GC but not able to make headway against a plethora of really top-drawer sprint talent. She was distanced on the Kemmelberg back at Gent Wevelgem but that shouldn’t be an issue here.
Parkhotel Valkenburg’s Femke Markus has been in strong form for the last month or so. After winning Leiedal Koerse at the very end of April, Markus has been consistently on the podium. 2nd on a Bretagne Ladies Tour stage, 3rd at La Classique Morbihan, plus a 2nd & 3rd at the Thüringen Ladies Tour too. Markus was in the front group at Gent Wevelgem so a parcours without the Kemmelberg shouldn’t pose any issue.
At the start of the season, Mylene de Zoete looked like she was going to be the new sprint star for AG Insurance-NXTG after finishing 9th at Vuelta CV Feminas and 12th at Drentse Acht. Recently though, teammate Ally Wollaston has rather taken on that mantle. Encouraging though, was 6th at ZLM Omloop der Kempen 2 weeks ago. De Zoete has got an opportunity here to show her stuff again.
Not strictly a sprint, Nicole Steigenga still has a turn of speed. That saw her finish behind Femke Markus at the end of Leiedal Koerse, after being worked over by no less than 3 Parkhotel Valkenburg riders. Her run of form came to an abrupt stop at RideLondon Classique where she DNF-ed due to stomach problems. Hopefully now recovered, this is a race crying out for the attacking racing we’ve seen from the Team Coop-Hitec Products rider.
Whilst sister Kathrin probably has taken the more memorable results this season, Plantur-Pura’s Christina Schweinberger was 3rd overall over at Gracia Orlová in May. That included a win in the time trial but Schweinberger was up there on the other stages, often just behind the Rissveds/Skalniak battle that was dictating the GC. The Austrian is well used to this sort of racing, having ridden for Doltcini for years and could be there in the final sprint.
There aren’t too many UCI results for Finnish rider Laura Vainionpää but a recent top-10 at the Ladies Tour of Estonia is encouraging. At the national level, Vainionpää has 7 top-10 results which puts here as a contender in these sorts of races. With no Women’s WorldTour teams here, we may see her get into the top-10 once more.
Loes Adegeest raced for the Dutch national team at the Thüringen Ladies Tour last week and had a good time finishing 14th Overall. As you’d expect, we saw her attack plenty and no doubt she’ll put in a stint here too.
Mieke Docx is having a good run at the moment, finishing in the main group with 19th and then making the top-10 on the 2nd stage of Thüringen Ladies Tour. Her teammate Katrijn de Clercq was sprinting well in the spring. 12th at Scheldeprijs was a good follow-up to finishing 5th on the last day of Bloeizone Fryslan. She was racing on the track during mid-May so this will be her first road race in almost a month.
Another rider (like Simone Boilard) who got strong results in Turkey at the start of the year and who has made an impact in the more traditional European races too. Yuliia Biriukova won a stage of the Thüringen Ladies Tour for her first professional victory. She’d already impressed at Itzulia Women, where on a tough climbing course she finished 21st in GC. She took her chance well when it came though. She was in a break for 95km and just held off the peloton to win by 4 seconds. Teammate Lucie Jounier is a threat when fully fit, this is her first race back after a car drove into her and knocked her unconscious. Maybe temper expectations here but don’t be surprised to see her doing well again soon.
It’s been a bit underreported but Mareille Meijering has been one of the unheralded riders who have done a great job so far in 2022. She took a UCI-level top-10 with 6th at Omloop van Borsele which came after 3 national podium results. Meijering is now a regular finisher just outside of the top-10.
Dwars door de Westhoek 2022 Outsiders
We’ve not seen Denise Betsema on the road since last June but it’s always fun to see such a well-known cyclocross star make an appearance on tarmac. She’s done ok in the past with 18th in last year’s GP Eco-Struct and with not too many major stars here, she could be an interesting wildcard.
Australian teams are now over in Europe in force. ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast have Danielle de Francesco who was impressive to watch in the Aussie part of the early season. She took plenty of top-10s there but appeared to be maybe a tier below someone like Nicole Frain who’s been doing well recently. It will be interesting to see how she does in the European peloton, with 6th at the national level Vermarc Cycling Project an encouraging start. We may see Maeve Plouffe sprinting instead. She won the Women’s Warrnambool Cycling Classic earlier in the year, a big deal to Australians and has been in great form since coming to Europe. 1st and 2nd in a pair of national level races in the last week. She’s a bit of a sneaky outsider bet here.
Another Aussie here is Matilda Raynolds who will be racing for the Dutch Restore Cycling Team team. It’s remarkable given how many top-10s she took in the Aussie part of the season that she didn’t win a race. With the likes of Ruby Roseman-Gannon hoarding victories, Raynolds was often a close 2nd. This will be her second UCI race of the season, Raynolds was 15th at Veenendaal-Veenendaal and I can see her making the top-10 here. Confidence will be high after winning the non-UCI Kermisronde van Westerhoven this week.