The second edition of the World Ports Classic on 30 and 31 August can become a true sprinter spectacle. Some of the fastest men in the pro peloton will be at the start of the "race of the wind" this friday in Antwerp. The 18 participating teams will especially sent riders with a strong finish to the race, which was introduced last year by Amaury Sport Organisation.
With Niki Terpstra, Gert Steegmans, Matteo Trentin (won the Tour de France stage in Lyon) and Alessandro Petacchi Omega Pharma-Quick Step will, as expected, at the start with a strong team. For returned veteran Petacchi Rotterdam certainly is not unknown territory. The Italian ten years ago on the Boompjes won the opening stage of the Tour of the Netherlands.
The team Lotto-Belisol for the World Ports Classic seems mainly built around Andre Greipel. The German national champion receives support from Kenny Dehaes, Marcel Sieberg, Jens Debusschere and Lars Bak. Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise comes with Michael Staeyen as their fast man, Crelan-Euphony with Frederic Amorison a rider with good form within the ranks and Accent Jobs-Wanty counts on the speed of Danilo Napolitano.
From the Dutch WorldTour teams Belkin Pro Cycling includes Mark Renshaw, Maarten Tjallingi, Bram Tankink, Maarten Wynants and talented intern Ivar Slik.
Vacansoleil-DCM counts on the fast legs of Kenny van Hummel and Kris Boeckmans. That duo will be up against the strong 'train' of Argos-Shimano. The four-time Tour stage winner Marcel Kittel hopes to give an already successful season some extra shine with the help of Tom Veelers and Roy Curvers.
The registration of Gerald Ciolek confirmes once again that the World Ports Classic could pass for the unofficial World Championship for sprinters. The German winner of the last Milan-San Remo knows in Bryan Coquard an opponent who belongs to the very fastest in the peloton. The young talent from Europcar recorded seven victories this season, including last weekend in the Classic de l'Indre. Further may be coming from Raymond Kreder (Garmin-Sharp), who lives near Rotterdam.
The first leg of the World Ports Classic is Friday about 165 kilometers from Antwerp (start at the Museum aan de Stroom) through the province of North Brabant to Rotterdam (finish at the Boompjes). On Saturday the second stage leaves from the Rotterdam Maritime Quarter. The finish is after 191 kilometers over the South Holland and Zeeland islands on the Italiëlei in the European capital of Sport.
The magical trio of pure sprinters of the Tour de France will come together for the second edition of the World Ports Classic, which follows the reverse route this year: Antwerp-Rotterdam (165 kilometres) for the first stage on Friday 30th August, followed by the return from Rotterdam to Antwerp (191 km) on Saturday 31st August. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Marcel Kittel (Team Argos-Shimano) and André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) will be the headliners of the event, won last year by Tom Boonen, an expert on the flat roads highly exposed to the winds off the North Sea. Three cobbled sectors await them in the first stage, while the second follows the dykes of Zeeland and runs past beaches frequented by lovers of kite-surf.
Eighteen teams have been signed up by Amaury Sport Organisation for the World Ports Classic 2013, half of them from the host countries, Belgium and the Netherlands: Lotto-Belisol, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Accent Jobs-Wanty, Crelan-Euphony, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Color Code-Biowanze (Belgium), Bretagne-Séché Environnement, Cofidis-Solutions Crédit, Team Europcar (France), Team Saxo-Tinkoff (Denmark), Champion System Pro Cycling Team (China), Katusha (Russia), Team NetApp-Endura (Germany), Garmin-Sharp (USA), MTN-Qhubeka (South Africa), Belkin Pro Cycling, Team Argos-Shimano, Vacansoleil-DCM (Holland).
Eight Pro Teams make up the platform that will bring together – just over a month after the Tour de France – almost all the best sprinters in the world. Apart from Cavendish, Kittel and Greipel, used to battling it out at close quarters on the Champs-Elysées, other fast riders such as Mark Renshaw (Belkin Pro Cycling) and the rising star Bryan Coquard (Team Europcar) have signed up. Among the specialists over the cobbles, Niki Tersptra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), third in the Paris-Roubaix this year, will try and give the others a run for their money within the framework of a race strategy that offers alternatives to massive sprint finishes.
For its second edition, the World Ports Classic will welcome the best riders in the world for a sprint festival on August 30th and 31st this year. This time, the return stage between the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam will be done in the reverse direction.
Start in Antwerp
Historically, Antwerp and Rotterdam are well-known for their commercial activity. More recently, the two cities have become crossroads for sportsmen and women of all disciplines. This year the Flemish city joins its Dutch neighbour in the list of European capitals of sport. In addition to the world gymnastics championships and the European Field Hockey Championship this year, organisers of the World Ports Classic have decided to reverse last year’s route, while maintaining the characteristics that have created its reputation.
After the cobbles, the beach
The specialists of the spring classics in Flanders are natural contenders for the World Ports Classic. The weather is a bit warmer after the spring, and the strong riders have already been out competing in other stage races in Europe. There is a classic atmosphere about this race, which takes place over two days this time. The outward route will be very familiar, with three cobbled sections that are not particularly long but deserve to be treated with respect. The next day, after leaving Rotterdam the peloton will set off on a 200-kilomtetre-plus route across the dykes of Zeeland. The riders will also have the privilege of racing past the beach and waving to the kite surfers there, although they need to keep their nerve along these decisive sectors, the most exposed to the wind in the country.