Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne 2023 Race Preview

Grace Brown Brugge-De Panne 2021

Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne History

A women’s Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne has only been in existence since 2018, the same year the men’s race stopped being 3 stages long. Instead, the new women’s Brugge-De Panne helped create a festival of cycling style approach lasting for 3 days. The flat parcours means it’s a sprint heavy classic. So far in 5 editions, 4 of them have been won in bunch sprints. The one exception was a great ride from Grace Brown in 2021. The Australian stole a march in the heavy winds by ghosting off the front late on and being strong enough to hold on to take the win.

Despite the strength of Lorena WIebes, it’s a race she has only won once so far. Even with that win she initially finished 2nd but was promoted to 1st after an irregular sprint from Jolien d’Hoore saw her relegated to 17th. Wiebes had been beaten by Kristen Wild in what was a fun sprint battle in 2019. Wiebes also didn’t win last year with Elisa Balsamo taking the victory instead. There was a good reason though, a late crash had seen Wiebes break a spoke in the process and the slightly out-of-shape wheel was rubbing on the frame, therefore hindering the pure speed of the bike.

Wind is the biggest obstacle at Brugge-De Panne and 2023 is going to be no exception. The current forecast is for 20+mph winds on Wednesday, which will blow in the direction of the coastline. That means the flat, exposed areas of De Moeren are going to be almost pure crosswinds. That’s always something to get excited about as fans!

Previous Winners

2022
Elisa Balsamo
2021
Grace Brown
2020
Lorena Wiebes

Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne 2023 Profile

TV Coverage

Thursday 23rd March 2023

Live Eurosport/GCN
13:45-16:45 GMT

Twitter: #ExteriooClassic

Startlist: FirstCycling

Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne 2023 Contenders

The expected showdown between Elisa Balsamo, Lorena Wiebes and Charlotte Kool at Ronde van Drenthe ended up not taking place due to Kool’s withdrawal from that race. Instead, hopefully now recovered the young Dutch rider should be able to match up to her rivals here. Whilst we saw Charlotte Kool beat Wiebes in the UAE Tour Women, I’d be surprised to see a repeat in the Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne. The recent sickness (which seems to be code for Covid currently) might mean she’s at less than 100%. Whereas Lorena Wiebes is looking imperious again with wins at Omloop van het Hageland, Ronde van Drenthe and a bunch win at Nokere Koerse behind teammate Kopecky. And whilst Elisa Balsamo has been good, she was surprisingly 4th at Ronde van Drenthe and 4th at Nokere Koerse was partly down to a crash. She came back though with 2nd at Trofeo Alfredo Binda this weekend. This trio are all a tier above the other fast finishers, however.

UAE Team ADQ has the decision to make in-race about whether to go with Marta Bastianelli or Chiara Consonni. It’s Bastianelli in better form after winning podiums at all of Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Omloop van het Hageland, Le Samyn des Dames and Nokere Koerse. Whilst SD Worx has cleaned up many of these races, Bastianelli has been claiming the ‘best of the rest’ crown repeatedly. Whereas Chiara Consonni has struggled in comparison since coming back from the UAE Tour Women. There she looked good though, with a 2nd, 3rd and 5th across 4 stages. Bastiannelli was 3rd in last year’s Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne after being on the right side of the crash split and I think she’ll get the nod.

Human Powered Health’s Daria Pikulik has struggled to recapture the form that saw her win the first stage of the Tour Down Under in the spring classics races. DNFs at Le Samyn des Dames and Ronde van Drenthe, both races that offer opportunities for sprinters aren’t a good sign coming into the Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne. The saving grace is that compared to those races there are no VAMberg or cobbled sections to contest on the north Belgian coast.

Georgia Baker has been racing on the track, so the last time we saw her on the road was back at the UAE Tour Women. There she took a pair of 7th places to go with her 3rd on the opening day of the Tour Down Under. I often find it hard to predict when Baker will do well as Team Jayco-AlUla also contains many other sprint options. It’s no different here as Letizia Paternoster is also here and has been going well. The Italian has returned to the front of races and taken recent top-10s at Nokere Koerse and Ronde van Drenthe as she looks closer and closer to the form that saw her take 3rd in Gent Wevelgem in 2019.

My instinct is to always favour Shari Bossuyt in a flat race like this. It’s been tough going so far in 2023 where a crash on the opening stage of Setmana Ciclista Valenciana prevented her from getting results there. 15th at Omloop het Nieuwsblad was decently solid but the DNF at Ronde van Drenthe is another miss. Filling that gap there though was Maike van der Duin who took her first podium for Canyon SRAM with 3rd place. She had a strong year last season for Le Col Wahoo and looks set to chip in with more of the same this year for a Women’s WorldTour team.
However, I wrote most of this paragraph before Bossuyt’s maiden pro win at the Tour de Normandie Féminin this weekend!

Clara Copponi
Clara Copponi

The Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne is the first time we’ll have seen Clara Copponi on the road since Australia. She’s been busy on the track, including wins in the Madison and Team Pursuit in Cairo recently. She was 2nd on the opening day of the Tour Down Under but the rest of the stages were a little too climby at the time. In theory, in good form, it’ll be interesting to see how those track legs convert back to the road.

We’re still waiting for a result of note this season from Rachele Barbieri, as Liv Racing TeqFind finds itself getting sucked into the WWT relegation fight. She was in the right place at Ronde van Drenthe but a late crash took her out of the running. She was also caught up in the late crash at this Brugge-De Panne last year but if she can stay out of trouble she’s a top-5 candidate in the sprint.

It was a bit of a disappointing Nokere Koerse maybe for Arianna Fidanza who was distanced on one of the cobbled sections. This race should see her get back to the similar form that saw her take 4th in Omloop van het Hageland though.

Lotta Henttala continues to impress in her comeback, taking recent finishes of 6th at both Nokere Koerse and Ronde van Drenthe last week. I’m expecting the Finn to continue her streak here in De Panne, with another top-10 certainly on the cards and the potential for something higher as well.

It’s going to be a similar story for Fenix-Deceuninck’s Julie de Wilde too. Just behind Henttala at Nokere Koerse in 7th place, it matched the result from Omloop van het Hageland. In between, there was a 13th at Ronde van Drenthe and it remains to be seen exactly what sort of fast finisher De Wilde is. I’m starting to lean towards a one-day hard race finisher than a purer sprinter, so she may be nearer the bottom reaches of the top-10 than the top.

Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne 2023 Outsiders

Anniina Ahtosalo
Anniina Ahtosalo

Uno-X’s Finn Anniina Ahtosalo will probably be elevated to the top option at the 2023 Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne. A raft of injuries to the likes of Susanne Andersen and Anouska Koster means that it’s between Ahtosalo and Amalie Dideriksen who will get the nod in De Panne. She’s just won the national level GP Betesco and we’ve seen her go for early flyers at the UAE Tour Women. Only 19 years old, Ahtosalo is one to watch.

It’s a home race for Mieke Docx whose 9th place in Le Samyn des Dames promised some more good results this season. There is a caveat however and that’s been the recent Tour de Normandie Féminin where the Belgian struggled with her back, complaining that the pain meant she had nothing in the legs when an effort was required. At her best, she can challenge but this injury won’t help her.

Another rider I identified for this list before this weekend’s racing in northern France was Lieke Nooijen. The young Dutch rider suffered injuries from a crash on Stage 1 and may now even be in doubt to race in Brugge-De Panne. If she does race, Nooijen is another who performed well at Le Samyn des Dames with 5th place.

Docx’s teammate Kristyna Burlova made the most of her opportunities at the Tour de Normandie Féminin this weekend. The Czech rider finished 5th, 8th and 13th and was the highest finished for the Lotto Dstny Ladies team. She should be ready to step up again if Docx isn’t able to ride 100%. 

Top 3 Prediction

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