The 2021 men's edition of Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne is set to take place on 24th March.
Brugge-De Panne is one of the newest WorldTour races on the men's calendar after being promoted to WorldTour status in 2019. Since then, Dylan Groenewegen and Yves Lampaert have taken victory. This displays the unpredictability of the race well — Groenewegen won in a mass-sprint ahead of a tightly packed group in 2019, yet it was a solo win for Yves Lampaert in 2020 where only ten riders finished within a minute of the winner.
It was a race which displayed everything we know about the Flanders Classics. Crosswinds caused echelons from the get-go making it a race of attrition. Deceuninck found themselves with numerous riders up the road, meaning Lampaert could solo to victory in the final 7km — Flanders Classics are so predictable...
The route remains very similar to 2020. Starting in Brugge, the riders head west towards the coast. Here, the riders will embark on a finishing circuit around De Panne. The final kilometres of the race head along the seafront before sweeping back into the centre of De Panne.
The location of the race almost always means that crosswinds (and therefore echelons) will play a major factor. Over 200km in length with echelons causing havoc throughout, this really is a leg-sapping race where strong positioning is key from the start.
Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne 2021 Profile (Image credit: La Flamme Rouge)
Sam Bennett (Image credit: ASO/GOMEZSPORT)
So, a battle between the sprinters and the rest? Well, almost all the teams look set to ride for a mass-sprint.
Looking at the strongest sprinters lining up, we shouldn’t look further than Sam Bennett. The Irishman has already won four WorldTour stages this year, two at the UAE Tour and two at Paris-Nice. Deceuninck look to be set on a sprint here too which can be seen with the presence of Michael Mørkøv and Álvaro Hodeg, whereas last year’s winner Yves Lampaert is not planning to race. Their main attacker is likely to be Florian Sénéchal, though he is an improved sprinter and could equally play a role in Sam Bennett’s leadout.
David Dekker is less of a household name and is currently in his first WorldTour season with Jumbo-Visma. We have only seen Dekker at the UAE Tour this year, yet he impressed with two second place finishes. His father Erik Dekker finished second at this race in 2001, although it was a three-day event at the time.
Arnaud Demare entered the 2021 season as perhaps the hottest sprinter in the peloton after winning four stages at the Giro d’Italia, yet he hasn’t won in 2020. Groupama-FDJ’s squad is built around Demare and perhaps Jake Stewart, who proved he can sprint at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad earlier this year. Groupama-FDJ will hope Demare can find his 2020 form here.
Image credit: Zac Williams/SWpix
Leading Alepcin-Fenix is Jasper Philipsen. The team’s season has been centered around Mathieu van der Poel who has won four races already, and Tim Merlier who has already won on three occasions in Belgium this season. Philipsen is a new recruit for the team and may be slightly disappointed with his form so far this year.
He won a stage at the Binckbank Tour and Vuelta Espana last season, though, and at 23-years-old he has bags of potential. He’s stated before that he wants to become more of a classics specialist and this is a great chance for him to show what he’s capable of.
Now for some underdogs… Timothy Dupont. The 33-year-old Belgian has never ridden for a WorldTour outfit, yet has a track record of performing well in Belgium. Until his victory earlier this season at Étoile de Bessèges, all of his wins had taken place on Belgian soil. He’s not a leading favourite, but Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles will be desperate to do well and no better way to do that than with Dupont. They are on good form too, Ludovic Robeet won from the breakaway last week at Danilith Nokere Koerse.
Elsewhere, Pascal Ackermann, Giacomo Nizzolo, Kristoffer Halvorsen and Cees Bol are strong sprinters to look out for.
Favourites: Sam Bennett, Arnaud Demare, Florian Senechal
Outsiders: Timothy Dupont, Kristoffer Halvorsen