At lunchtime today, 18 teams will set off on the Grand Prix de Wallonie, a one-day race through the Wallonia region of Belgium. The race, categorised as part of the UCI Europe Tour, was first run at professional level in 1935, and has seen a total of 36 Belgian wins from 56 editions, the most recent winner being Jens Debusschere of Lotto-Soudal. So who has the wheels to race for the 2016 win?
Fresh from claiming victory in the 2015 edition of the GP, Lotto-Soudal return to Wallonia with a team brimming with Belgian talent. Of the 8 riders participating for last years’ winning team, 6 are Belgian racers, with New Zealand’s Greg Hendersen and France’s Tony Gallopin adding some international flair. Lotto-Soudal are one of five WorldTour teams in the race, the others being Etixx-Quickstep, FDJ, Ag2r La Mondiale and IAM Cycling.
The parcours is undulating throughout, beginning at Beaufays near Liège, and ending at Namur and the famed climb up to the Citadelle. The gradient on the final climb averages 6% and tops 8% over some sections, and is sure to separate the men from the boys coming after 200k of hard racing, and featuring some technical cobbles.
Julien Vermote, wearing number 22 for Etixx-Quickstep, will be looking to capitalise on his success at last weeks’ Tour of Britain, where he wore the leader’s jersey for 4 days. The team fielded by Etixx-Quickstep is a young one, including Vermote and the talented Petr Vakoc, who performed well in Canada recently before unfortunately crashing in the finishing straight of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal. This young squad is our pick for the 57th Wallonian GP, coming off the back of a successful season for these stars of the future.
Look out for the Freewheeling race round-up later on!