What's Cool In Road Cycling

Erik Baška to lead Tinkoff’s sprint hopes at Scheldeprijs

The Classics continue with the oldest race in the Flanders calendar. The 104th edition of the Scheldeprijs takes place in Belgium on Wednesday and is set to be one of the fastest races of the year. A favourite for the sprinters – the race usually ends in a bunch sprint – teams will be aiming to carry their leader over the seven cobblestone sections to contest the finish.

As the fifth of the six Flanders Classics, the Scheldeprijs is the race where the all-rounders take more of a back seat and let the sprinters take centre stage. With a flat course, there are no significant climbs to trouble the riders, so the emphasis is on outright speed. Leading the team will be Erik Baška. The 22-year-old Slovak rider is a strong sprinter, having won last year’s U23 European Road Race Championships, and will be supported in the race by fellow Slovak, UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan.

Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, talked about the team’s plans for Wednesday’s race. “Scheldeprijs is one of the oldest races in Belgium, now in its 104th edition, often ending in a bunch sprint with cobbles on the finishing circuit. It’s a good chance for Peter to test out his Paris-Roubaix set up on his Specialized before Sunday, but for our focus on the day it will be for Peter to get round safely and to ride for Erik Baška in a bunch sprint. For Erik, it will be a good opportunity for him to have the responsibility of team leader in a race like this.”

Erik will be leading a team of eight riders at the start line in Antwerp. Joining he and Peter will be Pavel Brutt, Nikolay Trusov, Juraj Sagan, Michael Kolar, Michael Gogl and Adam Blythe – all of whom have been instrumental in the team’s successes in the season so far.

Looking at having the team’s support tomorrow, Erik Baška said: “I’m excited to be leading such a strong team at Scheldeprijs. It’s not every day that you have the UCI World Champion, leader of the individual rankings and winner of the Tour of Flanders, working for you. It’s crazy! I’m really looking forward to the race. It’s a flat parcours and it’s the only Belgian classic really suited for sprinters, so I’m happy I will be given this opportunity tomorrow. We will have strong opponents but I will give my best as I feel in very good form. We will go there with the goal of achieving a very good result but at the same time we will have to ensure that Peter Sagan stays safe and protected for Paris-Roubaix.”

At 208km, the Scheldeprijs is one of the shorter Classics and, taking place over a flat course, is bound to be one of the fastest. In the past five years, the race’s average speed has been around 44km/h, but this may well change depending on the day’s weather. Currently, the forecast is that the race will stay dry, but cloudy, although there is a chance of rain, which will make racing hazardous, especially over the cobbled sectors. Tristan was prepared for any eventuality. “Of course there’s the chance of crosswinds in the earlier stages of the race, and we will be ready to react for this but we aim to stay out of trouble. Over the past few years we’ve seen that the final few kilometres are quite dangerous, and there have been a few crashes so that’s why we are focusing on keeping Peter out of trouble. He’s happy to get the race kilometres in and we’re happy to have him in the line-up too.”

After a crash in training before last week’s Ronde van Vlaanderen race, Maciej Bodnar is recovering well. Peter dedicated his win to the Polish rider, and the team hopes to see him at the finish line in Schoten on Wednesday.

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