Scheldeprijs 2014 preview
Guide to the Belgian sprinters' Classic
Last Updated: 08/04/14 6:08pm
Despite being sandwiched between the legendary and attritional Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, the lower-profile Scheldeprijs offers a different kind of racing, with raw speed prioritised over brute power.
The race is a cobbled Classic, but the route only has a small amount of pave, as the cobbles are known, and therefore should not derail the sprint trains.
Mark Cavendish is a three-time winner of the race but has withdrawn through illness, but two-time winner Marcel Kittel will be on the start line.
Highlights of the race will be screened on Sky Sports 3 from 11.30pm BST.
The parcours retains a familiar look to recent additions, with a slightly modified route out of Antwerp greeting the riders ahead of 201km of racing.
From there, the route gradually works its way north towards the Dutch border at Meerle, before arching back around and down into Hoogstraten (51.8km).
The riders continue in a southerly direction, deviating slightly to take in Vimmeren (81km), Lille (83.5km) and Lichtaart (98km), before heading back west towards the destination town of Schoten.
The race concludes with three laps of a slightly trimmed 16.4km clockwise finishing circuit around Schoten, where the usual battle between sprint trains and escapees should reach an exciting crescendo.
Each lap features a passage over the Broekstraat cobbled section and positioning will be key in the seemingly inevitable final sprint.
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) has won the race in each of the past two years and with neither Mark Cavendish or Andre Greipel present, he is the clear favourite to make it three in a row. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) had already won Milan-San Remo this year and has continued his fine form so will be a threat, while Arnaud Demare (FDJ) appears to get stronger with every race and should be in the mix.
2013: Marcel Kittel (Ger)
2012: Marcel Kittel (Ger)
2011: Mark Cavendish (GB)
2010: Tyler Farrar (USA)
2009: Alessandro Petacchi (Ita)
2008: Mark Cavendish (GB)
2007: Mark Cavendish (GB)
2006: Tom Boonen (Bel)
2005: Thorwald Veneberg (Ned)
2004: Tom Boonen (Bel)
Andrew Fenn (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
Luke Rowe (Team Sky)
Scott Thwaites (NetApp-Endura)
Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)