Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) will aim for a record fourth victory in the Belgian semi-Classic, Schelderprijs, today.
The former world road race champion will lead a strong team that includes Gert Steegmans, the key lieutenant of the team’s Classics leader, Tom Boonen, who will miss the remainder of the spring Classics after a crash at the Ronde Van Vlaanderen.
Young British rider, Andy Fenn, a former junior Paris-Roubaix winner, and a graduate of British Cycling’s vaunted Academy, will also ride in support of the Manx Missile.
Wilfried Peeters, directeur sportif for the Belgian super team, which has already won 20 races this season, backed Cavendish to break the 50-year record of Belgian rider, Piet Oellibrandt, who completed his hat-trick in 1963.
“We have an experienced team for these kind of races and a few fresh riders for the lead out of Mark,” he said.
Cavendish, who last week won the second stage of the Three Days of De Panne in impressive style, will face serious competition today.
Lotto Belisol’s German sprint king, Andre Greipel, who looked strong in last Sunday’s Ronde Van Vlaanderen, will seek a first victory in a one-day race on Belgian soil. He has twice won the Tour of Belgium.
Gerald Ciolek (MTN Qhubeka), winner at Milan-San Remo, is another fast finisher, and Arnaud Demare, second on stage one of last week’s Three Days of De Panne, and briefly the race leader, is in good form.
German powerhouse, Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), may also pose a threat.
“It will not be so easy with the competitors at the race,” Pieters added, “but Mark has shown he is in good condition and can win with many different sprint situations in the final.”
The riders will roll out from Antwerp onto a flat, 204km parcourse, at 12.30pm.