While most fans and riders are still recovering from the maelstrom which was Paris-Roubaix, this week’s stopgap ahead of the major Ardennes Classics is filled by the lumpy Branbantse Pijl, serving up an insight as to 2016’s favourites for Amstel Gold, Fléche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Orica-GreenEDGE will fancy their chances of adding another victory to their recent Paris-Roubaix triumphant through the ever-improving Michael Matthews. The young Australian rider’s ability in a sprint has been impressive for some time now, but it is his growing talent on the climbs which have moulded him into the deadly rider we see now. Twice a runner-up in this race, Matthews clearly performs well on this type of course and used this as a stepping stone to the bigger Ardennes Classics last year; almost delivering him his first win there. His biggest concern in pursuit of victory will be controlling the breakaway and covering attacks via his Orica teammates on a rolling course which benefits aggressive riders.
Those mostly likely to rival Matthews in a potential sprint finish are Bryan Coquard (who can contribute to the chase with his Europcar team) and Sonny Colbrelli (limited chasing resources). Tony Gallopin has an encouraging record here and certainly has the skills to convert this into a victory; often the fastest in an elite group and strong enough to go solo. Other riders who are bound to catch the eye are Dries Devenyns, Tim Wellens and Silvan Dillier.
1st Michael Matthews 2nd Bryan Coquard 3rd Tony Gallopin