Omega Pharma-Quick Step banking on a sprint in altered Handzame Classic
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Omega Pharma-Quick Step banking on a sprint in altered Handzame Classic

by Ben Atkins at 3:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics
 
More snow forces route change as Belgian team defends Francesco Chicchi’s 2012 victory

andy fennOmega Pharma-Quick Step is banking on a sprint finish at tomorrow’s Handzame Classic, after snow in Belgium has forced the race organiser to make massive alterations to the 1.1-ranked race’s course. The Belgian team won the race through Francesco Chicchi in 2012, just day’s after the Italian had also taken the Nokere Koerse, but Chicchi has since moved on to Vini Fantini-Selle Italia and so Omega Pharma-Quick Step will be working for a different rider this time.

The unusually late snow in Belgium, which saw Wednesday’s race in Nokere called off, has meant that much of the Handzame course - particularly its hilly parts - is unusable. The new course will head out of the start town of Bredene, take in a small loop to the coast via Oostende, before completing ten laps of a local circuit in the Handzame area, which includes the small climb of Steenstraat.

"In Belgium it is not currently the best weather because of snow and cold," said Omega Pharma-Quick Step directeur sportif Rik Van Slycke. "The race organisers decided they will maintain the total distance of 185km, but change the first part of the race. We will start in a different city, ride 35km, then enter a 10 lap circuit of 15km for a total of 185km.

“There are no longer the climbs this year, as they are no longer possible due to the weather,” Van Slyke explained. “So, very likely this will end in a sprint, but you never know with these weather conditions. We will do our best to get a good result with the changes that have been made."

With Chicchi now gone - and preparing for Milano-Sanremo with his new team - Omega Pharma-Quick Step will be led by 22-year-old British sprinter Andy Fenn, who will hope to build on a string of top five finishes in the recent Tour de Langkawi, alongside Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen winner Kristoff Vandewalle.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step team for the Handzame Classic (1.1)
Andrew Fenn, Bert Grabsch, Iljo Keisse, Serge Pauwels, Frantisek Rabon, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Kristof Vandewalle, Julien Vermote

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