The WorldTour returns to Belgium for the Classic Brugge-De Panne. The former Three Days of De Panne takes place as a lead up before the big three – Gent-Wevelgem, Tour de Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix Femmes. A glance at the flat profile dismisses the danger of the winds along the plains of De Moeren that have been known to split the race. Splits have occurred in the past, though the field has managed to unite in time to fight for a field sprint to victory in recent editions.
The men will race on Wednesday, before the pro women take the stage on Thursday, March 23 just before 13:00 hours local time in Brugge.
The longest race of the Women’s WorldTour at 163.1km, the Classic Brugge – De Panne will take is traditional start in Brugge in Northern Flanders before heading out through the plains of De Moeren passing through Leeuw, Koekelare and Schoorbakke. The profile is pancake flat but there will be plenty of factors from the winds to the roads that is likely to split the field in the first 60km.
The riders will then enter their first of two circuits in De Panne before what is expected to be a bunch sprint for the finish.
Riders to Watch
Last year a huge crash had delayed the peloton within the final 20km, disrupting many team plans heading into the sprint finish. They were able to recover in time before the finale. Within the last few kilometers, Lorena Wiebes final sprint lead out rider crashed, though she managed to finish second. It would be the 2022 World Champion Elisa Balsamo who outsprinted the field, winning in the rainbow stripes.
The Italian National Champ will be on the starting line alongside her Trek Segafredo teammates, hoping to keep her rivals at bay to defend her title for a second year. She will have stiff competition from SD Worx, despite missing Lotte Kopecky this time around. Lorena Wiebes will arrive in Brugge on form after two wins and two-second place finishes in the last four races, including last week’s finish behind Kopecky at Danilith Nokere Koerse. She will be the heavy favorite alongside Balsamo, hungry to best her finish in De Penne last year.
Another familiar face to look out for is not necessarily a favorite for victory, but her participation on Thursday is a victory in itself. Included on the start list is the long awaited return of Chloe Dygert of Canyon // SRAM. The American powerhouse is returning after a year –long recovery from mononucleosis and returning from her leg injury suffered in Italy at the World Championship Time Trial in 2020.
She had planned to return last season but fell ill with Epstein-Barr virus after racing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. She later suffered further set backs in her injury recovery in the summer forcing her to call it quits for 2022. While she finds her racing legs and settles back into the pro peloton, racing fans around the world will be sure to be cheering her on.
Other riders to watch for include UAE Team ADQ Marta Bastianelli and Trek-Segafredo’s Lucinda Brand making her 2023 season debut on the road. Missing from the field will be the yellow and black kits of Jumbo Visma
‘Watch the Femmes’ TV Coverage: Eurosport 2
When: Thursday, 23 March
Where: Brugge to De Panne, Belgium
What: 1-day Spring Classic
Riders to Watch:
Elisa Balsamo ****
Lorena Wiebes *****
Marta Bastianelli ***
Chloe Dygert **
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By Rebecca Reza