Preview: Classic Brugge-De Panne 2024

A midweek one-day Classic in Belgium surely signals we are in the thick of spring in Northern Europe, and following on from a series of other one-day races in the Women’s World Tour, the seventh edition of the Classic Brugge-De Panne sees the fastest women on two wheels go head-to-head for glory.

With an almost pan-flat profile, the race has been described by some as the sprinter’s World Championships. Yet last year went against the grain, with Team dsm’s Pfeiffer Georgi taking a late flyer to power to a solo victory on a day of horrendous conditions along the northern coast of Belgium. It was the second time in the race’s history (including Grace Brown in 2021) that a late breakaway has won the day. This year, teams arrive once again stacked with sprint talent, hoping to bring everyone to the line for a battle royale.

The race takes place on Thursday 21 March, and it will be the 8th round of the Women’s World Tour in 2024.

 

The Route (Brugge-De Panne, 153.8km)

Beginning in Brugge (Bruges) the picturesque capital of West Flanders, the race route heads west across the Belgian moors (De Moeren) towards the coast at De Panne. There’s just 277m of altitude gain along the route and the lion’s share of these come in the very early stages. The expanse of fields are ripe for crosswinds, however, and teams will need to be alert for the possibility of echelons as they head west, with any gaps likely to cause issues for those left behind trying to fight their way back on.

Once across De Moeren the women will complete two laps of a 47.9km circuit along the coast and inland again, heading towards the finish line in De Panne which they will reach after 153.8km of racing.

Conditions at this time of year are traditionally unreliable, with rain and wind highly likely to blight the race and impact upon performance, with only the hardiest souls able to compete for the top prize.

 

Riders to Watch

With a pan-flat course likely to lead to a true bunch sprint, the cream of the crop of the peloton’s fast women will come into the race hoping for a shot at the win. The breaking news that Team SD Worx-ProTime will not be at the race will add further fuel to the fire, as with no Lorena Wiebes, a top level victory is there for the taking.

Foremost in terms of favourites will be Elisa Balsamo. The Italian has been in excellent form so far this season, with three wins to her name, most recently in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda. She will fancy her chances against the other sprinters, with a strong lead-out coming from her track teammate Clara Copponi.

Another team relying on a strong lead-out will be Team dsm-firmenich Post NL. Charlotte Kool was unable to challenge in Drenthe, and will be primed and ready to take on the bunch sprint in De Panne. With last year’s winner Pfeiffer Georgi absent from the side, Italian fast woman Rachele Barbieri will be on primary lead-out duty; expect to see the team well drilled heading into the finale.

Beyond the three likely favourites to win the race, there are plenty more fast legs within the start list.

Chiara Consonni of UAE Team ADQ has four podiums so far this season, showing consistent form, and she will be one to watch. For Movistar, Emma Norsgaard will lead the charge, hoping to make an impression as leader of the Spanish side. Uno-X Mobility’s Finnish champion Anniina Ahtosahlo and her compatriot Lotte Henttala (EF Education-EasyPost) are both capable of winning a fast finish, as is Ahtosahlo’s teammate Susanne Andersen; so too Ceratizit-WNT’s Ariana Fidanza, likely to be the chosen one for the team in the absence of her sister Martina who is out injured, though the team also have Mylene de Zoete who is fast at the finish. Polish sprinter Daria Pikulik returns for Human Powered Health, and Roland’s Tamara Dronova is another outside chance for a sprint win.

Outside of the pure sprinters, there are a number of other strong teams with riders to look out for, including Chloe Dygert who rides her first race of 2024 for Canyon//SRAM. Dygert had a strong 2023 season and will be looking to launch with a positive ride in Belgium. EF Education-Cannondale have 2023 Paris-Roubaix champion Alison Jackson among their number, and FDJ-SUEZ have shown plenty of aggression so far this season and bring Victoria Guazzini for the potential sprint, and the likes of Jade Wiel and Gladys Verhulst-Wild for breakaway opportunities. Fenix-Deceuninck are another side who aren’t afraid to lead from the front and they will rely on Christina Schweinberger and Marthe Truyen to take the initiative and escape from the pack.

 

Riders to watch

5-stars Elisa Balsamo

4-stars Charlotte Kool, Chiara Consonni, Emma Norsgaard

3-stars Chloe Dygert, Tamara Dronova

2-stars Alison Jackson, Daria Pikulik, Lotte Henttala

1-star Victoria Guazzini, Christina Schweinberger, Georgia Baker

 

Summary

When – Thursday 21 March 2024

Where – Belgium

What – One-day race

TV Coverage: Discovery+, Eurosport

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