KORTRIJK, Belgium (VN) — With Paris-Roubaix looming Sunday in northern France, most of the big classics names and quite a few Americans will be racing midweek in Belgium at the Scheldeprijs Wednesday and the Grand Prix Pino Cerami Thursday.
Garmin-Cervélo’s classic squad will be on the line in Antwerp for Scheldeprijs to support defending champion Tyler Farrar (see video below from after Farrar’s 2010 win). Virtually all the major teams will be sending some version of their Flanders/Roubaix squads to Scheldeprijs.
“So far I’ve had a pretty good classics run and I think my form is good,” Farrar told VeloNews on Tuesday. “I’m feeling good and I’m motivated to have another good year here.”
There will be some new faces at the midweek races, too. U.S. national champion Ben King will be starting Scheldeprijs and GP Pino Cerami with his RadioShack teammates, including former Scheldeprijs winner Robbie McEwen.
The American UnitedHealthcare squad, in its first year as a Pro Continental operation, will also be racing GP Pino Cerami in Hainaut, Belgium. UnitedHealthcare recently arrived in Europe, with Three Days of De Panne last week serving as its first Belgian race.
Scheldeprijs is the fifth of the six-race Flanders Classics series that also includes Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Dwars Door Vlaanderen, Ghent Wevelgem, De Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl.
First held in 1907, Scheldeprijs is definitely one for the sprinters. Past winners include Mark Cavendish (twice), Tom Boonen (twice) and Alessandro Petacchi. The race starts in Antwerp out onto a 150km circuit to the Northeast and finishes with three 16km circuits just outside of Antwerp in Schoten.
Although many of the favorites for Paris-Roubaix will be present — Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, Thor Hushovd, Juan Antonio Flecha and George Hincapie — the ProTeams are also mixing in some sprinters. Quick Step is bringing Francesco Chicchi and Gerald Ciolek, Rabobank has Graeme Brown and Theo Bos, Sky has Greg Henderson and Saxo Bank has Baden Cooke and JJ Haedo.
UnitedHealthcare’s squad for GP Pino Cerami is Hilton Clarke, Jonny Clarke, Robert Forster, Adrian Hegevary, Jake Keough, Karl Menzies, Andrew Pinfold and Boy Van Poppel.
Other Americans at the GP Pino Cerami are Steven Cozza (Team NetApp) and Bjorn Selander (RadioShack).
Stay tuned this week for VeloNews coverage on both events.