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GP Eco-Struct Race History
The GP Eco-Struct has a history at the national level in Belgium but was raised to UCI level in 2020. After a pair of victories from Lorena Wiebes, the race moves up to 1.1 and starts to feel like an established, secure race now.
Based around Wetteren and Schellebelle in East Flanders, the parcours is for all intents and purposes flat. There are a couple of technical elements, a tight hairpin leading onto a bridge for instance but generally nothing too taxing. Riders are taken on a few big laps before switching to a local lap for the finish. Team DSM have brought a strong squad and will be absolute favourites to make it a hat-trick.
Currently there is rain forecast for Saturday, that always increases the risk of something untoward happening. The wind shouldn’t cause any issues.
GP Eco-Struct 2022 Contenders
This has been Lorena Wiebes‘ race in recent times. It’s no surprise really, the best sprinter in the women’s peloton can pretty much pick off these sprinter races at will. So far, in the 2022 season, the only sprint Wiebes has lost was against Elisa Balsamo at Brugge-De Panne. So with that in mind, it’s pretty tough to not pick Wiebes as the favourite here again. It also helps that two recent high-finishers will be on her team. Charlotte Kool was 2nd here in 2020 but will be on lead-out duties or first back-up if anything does happen to Wiebes. Brit Pfeiffer Georgi was also 5th here last season but again, something will have to happen to Wiebes (or an almighty lead-out) for her to get involved this year.
The only major competition for Wiebes will be from Valcar’s Chiara Consonni. She’s had a great 2022 season if she’s only won once so far at Dwars door Vlaanderen. We’ve seen her second to Wiebes plenty and that’s where I expect her to finish again. The wildcard for Valcar is Silvia Persico. She’s had a huge spring which culminated with a win at GP della Liberazione and a superb 3rd Overall at Festival Elsy Jacobs.
Liv Racing Xstra’s Rachele Barbieri has come back strong to road racing this season. She won a stage at the Bloeizone Fryslan and since then has been 6th at Dwars door Vlaanderen and 3rd at Scheldeprijs. She was just behind Chiara Consonni at the latter race and she will be in the mix for the hypothetical 2nd behind Wiebes. Valerie Demey could be useful as well after being 6th here in 2020. You have to go back to Omloop van het Hageland on the opening weekend of the European season for her only top-10 of 2022 though.
When the Polish company CCC pulled out of sponsoring the Liv team at the end of 2022, it seemed a bit of a shame that no spot was kept open for Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka. She found a new team with ATOM Deweloper back in Poland in 2021 and is still there this year. She was good last year but she’s really been impressive this season. She won 3 stages and the Overall at Gracia Orlová and was 5th at GP della Liberazione too. Against the pure sprinters she may lack a bit but could make the top-5 again.
I’ve been impressed with Multum Accountants’ Mareille Meijering recently. The lecturer has been making front groups in the smaller races like this, finishing 6th at Omloop van Borsele and a creditable 13th at Leiedal Koerse which contained a whole host of tough climbs. Another top-10 could be on the cards here.
I’ve been struggling to work out which Le Col-Wahoo rider gets the nod in any given race. So with that in mind they’ve got a bit of a trident going on. Eluned King is the rider with the best previous result in this race with 6th last season, she also gets the team’s #1 bib. What counts against her though is there isn’t really a result to speak of in 2022. The Dutch pair Marjolein Van ‘t Geloof and Maaike van der Duin have divvied up the sprints between them for most of the season. Van ‘t Geloof was 5th at Nokere Koerse and 6th at Le Samyn des Dames but it’s her teammate who has had more opportunities. Van der Duin was 4th on Stage 2 of the Bloeizone Fryslan and 5th at Drentse Acht. I’m going to hedge my bets and say Van der Duin will get the highest placing here.
Roxsolt Liv SRAM will head straight from the Vuelta Ciclista Andalucia, which finishes on Thursday, back to Belgium. Nicole Frain looks in form, finishing just outside of the top-10 at Leiedal Koerse and both stages in Spain so far. Her best bet for a really high placing is to force a split and drop the pure sprinters.
Coop-Hitec Products’ Nora Tveit gets a mention after finishing 3rd at Omloop van Borsele. Comfortably her best result of the 2022 season, she outsprinted some of the non-WWT riders also racing here.
Parkhotel Valkenburg’s Femke Markus took an impressive win at Leiedal Koerse. Attacking from the peloton and joining her teammate at the front of the race, sheer numbers won through and Markus took the sprint. She was finishing just outside of the top-10 for most of the major spring classics but against this field, should comfortably finish in the top-10 this time. Marith Vanhove will get the sprint role for Parkhotel in this year’s GP Eco-Struct.
Isorex’s Marieke de Groot has been impressive at the national level this season. She’s taken a whole host of top-10 results, including a win at Ooike. She finished 11th at Leiedal Koerse and replicating that performance here should see her finish higher.
GP Eco-Struct 2022 Outsiders
Non-UCI team Proximus-Alphamotorhomes have a former top-10 finisher here in Susanne Meistrok. She’s had a solid 2022 with a best result of 3rd at the GP Willy Naessens, which came just 2 weeks ago. Always a long shot with limited team support, the fact Meistrok has done it before here works for her.
Finn Laura Vainionpää has a 2nd place here from way back in 2016. That day she lost out to Paola Andrea Muñoz Grandon with the race not carrying the prestige it does now. She’s been back in the top-10 since with 8th in 2019. Last weekend at Sinaai, Vainionpää sprinted to 3rd place.
Finally, Holly Breck is here for Torelli-Cayman Islands-Scimitar. The former Rally Cycling rider, has been solid in UK racing so far in 2022 and took 5th at the Tour Series in Guisborough this week. It’s a bit of a step up from the Tour Series to 1.1 racing but Breck is experienced enough to turn it on here.