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The 2020 spring classics get underway on Saturday February 29th at the 75th running of Belgium's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
The 2019 classics treated us to historic moments such as Mathieu van der Poel's ride at the Amstel Gold Race. The 2020 season is shaping up to be an even more exciting affair. Read on to discover the story lines you will want to follow throughout the spring racing action.
Can Anyone Stop Deceuninck-Quick Step?
Deceuninck-Quick Step has been a near unstoppable force in the classics. In the last two years, the Wolfpack has won all four springtime monuments in addition to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3, Strade Bianche, the list goes on.
At the end of 2018, the team faced budgetary issues which resulted in star riders such as Niki Terpstra leaving. Many doubted the team’s ability to find similar success in 2019. Instead, the fresh roster simply provided an opportunity for riders such as Julian Alaphilippe, Kasper Asgreen and Remco Evenepoel to step up and carry the team to yet another year of brilliance in the classics.
In 2020 Deceuninck-Quick Step has once again lost a principal player in its Classics lineup. Philippe Gilbert, winner of Paris Roubaix in 2019 has joined Lotto Soudal in 2020, raising similar questions about Deceuninck’s prospects this spring. That being said, history suggests that the Wolfpack will get on just fine without him.
Gilbert’s Final Monument
Philippe Gilbert, the 2012 world champion experienced a rejuvenation of his career throughout the past three seasons at Deceuninck-Quick Step. At 37 years old, the veteran Belgian now returns to Lotto Soudal, the team he rode for 11 years ago.
Gilbert has been termed a collector of races. At this stage in his career, he has added nearly every race to his palmares that he could hope to win, with one glaring exception; Milano - San Remo. Milano San Remo is the only monument that Gilbert has not won.
While Gilbert’s winning days are numbered, he proved over the last three years that they are certainly not over. All eyes will be on Gilbert during the first monument of 2020.
Wout vs MVDP
Great rivalries are not a regular occurrence in cycling, but when they happen to develop, they can define a generation and become the stuff of legend in sporting history. Cycling’s greatest rivalries include the likes of Coppi and Bartali, Armstrong and Ulrich, and Boonen and Cancellara. In 2020 we may be witnessing the next legendary rivalry of our sport.
The rivalry between Mathieu van der Poel and Wout Van Aert is by no means a new one. It is one that was born on Belgium’s cyclocross courses nearly a decade ago. The two junior phenoms were so talented that they spent only one year in the U23 ranks of the sport before entering the elites, earning world championship titles and more or less leaving the former stars of the sport in their dust.
Having more or less accomplished cyclocross, the duo have turned their sights to the WorldTour. With one season of road racing under their belts, van Aert already has a stage victory at the Tour de France to his name, while van der Poel won the Amstel Gold Race in what was one of the best bike races of the century.
The two riders have already asserted themselves as stars on the road, but the 2019 Gent-Wevelgem gave fans a glimpse of what is to come, as van der Poel and van Aert marked and attacked each other over the Kemmelberg.
Will the young cyclocross world champions eclipse the established classics stars in 2020 like they did to the elite ranks of cyclocross in 2014?
The newly formed CCC team did not have a strong inaugural showing in 2019. Greg Van Avermaet, the team’s marquee rider produced respectable rides throughout the spring classics, however he fell flat during the major races such as Flanders and Roubaix.
The team often cited its young and inexperienced roster as a reason they could not go toe to toe with the likes of Deceuninck-Quick Step and Bora-hansgrohe. In 2020, CCC has welcomed Matteo Trentin into its ranks. The silver medalist at the 2019 Yorkshire World Championships will bring grit, determination and depth to the young team.
Pay attention to how the dynamic between the two CCC principals develops throughout the spring. Can the duo work together and assert CCC as a powerhouse team this classics season?