This coming weekend a great battle awaits at Challenge Geraardsbergen. Dutch defending champion Diede Diederiks returns hoping to win again and in the men’s race Joe Skipper, Ruben Zepuntke and Menno Koolhaas are ready for a head-to-head.
Challenge Geraardsbergen is not only a beautiful, but also a very challenging race. Athletes will cycle twice over the world-famous Muur van Geraardsbergen, a short but steep climb that is featured in several cycling classics and is notorious for its cobblestones. It is not unfamiliar territory for favourite Joe Skipper, as the British athlete has previously competed in Geraardsbergen and knows the course well. Yet the course may seem even better suited to Ruben Zepuntke: the former cycling pro is known for his rock-solid cycling ability.
Dutchman Menno Koolhaas is also seen as a serious contender. The Dutchman recently made the switch to middle and long distance and has already won several major races since. Last weekend, he won another important race in his home country, setting him up well for Challenge Geraardsbergen, plus a late addition to the field is Baptiste Neveu following a mechanical at Challenge Salou which resulted in a DNF. There are also local favourites: Pamphiel Pareyn and Jonathan Wayaffe, who won Challenge Peguera-Mallorca last year. Wayaffe is recovering from a crash during Challenge Mogán-Gran Canaria, but will want to perform at his best again at Geraardsbergen.
Among the women, defending champion Diede Diederiks returns to Challenge Geraardsbergen. Last year, the Dutchwoman surprised herself with her victory, but more top performances followed, and she recently became World Champion Cross Duathlon at Ibiza. With Diederiks’ form in good shape, the battle for victory at Challenge Geraardsbergen will be interesting with Emma Bilham and Marta Bernardi seen as two of the biggest competitors for Diederiks, although local favorites Katrien Verstuyft and Alexandra Tondeur can also be expected to do well. The two Belgian women are in their element in Geraardsbergen for sure and can undoubtedly count on a little extra support from the thousands of Belgian spectators lining the course.