This year’s race featured a one-off starting place: the start signal was given in Mol in the Kempen region in honour of Tom Boonen, who cycled the Scheldeprijs as his last race on Belgian soil as a professional cyclist. Together with the Schotense Wielerclub, Flanders Classics went in search of a new starting point for the 106th edition of this sprint classic. This means that one of the world’s oldest races, which was organised for the first time in 1907, will be crossing the Belgian border for the very first time with the Dutch city of Terneuzen as its new start.
The 2018 Scheldeprijs: a classic race across borders
The route from Terneuzen to Schoten does the Scheldeprijs’ name justice: Terneuzen harbours the third-largest port in the Netherlands on the Western Scheldt, an estuary of the Scheldt river. This is the access port on the Scheldt river for maritime traffic on its way to Antwerp.
“The unique cycling backdrop of Terneuzen and the province of Zeeland comprise a perfect run-up towards Antwerp and Schoten,” says Piet de Smet, chairman of Schoten’s cycling association Schotense Wielerclub. “We will be one of the only races on the international cycling calendar to cross borders and we are making the Scheldeprijs as attractive as possible for an international audience of cycle racing fans.”
The response across the border is equally enthusiastic. “Just as in Belgium, cycling races are very popular in the Netherlands,” explains Terneuzen’s mayor, Jan Lonink. “We are therefore very proud that a cycling classic as famous as the Scheldeprijs will be starting in our city from now on. We will be happy to invite all cycling fans to come to Terneuzen on 4 April to discover everything the city has to offer. The unique situation on the Western Scheldt will certainly surprise many visitors. The Scheldeboulevard offers unique views of the ‘giants of the sea’ sailing to and from Antwerp. Apart from this, the public space has been adapted to accommodate sports activities like bicycle touring, which is very popular here.”
“Zeeland and cycling races belong together inextricably, like Zeeland mussels and fries,” adds Zeeland’s Provincial Representative Jo-Annes de Bat. “On the intersection of land and water, Zeeland forms a splendid backdrop, which attracts many Flemings. Terneuzen is renowned for its salt-water culinary delights like oysters and mussels. Additionally, Zeeland offers athletes a genuine challenge: the pack may have to battle a strong Zeeland wind!
Who will succeed Marcel Kittel?
Marcel Kittel claimed his fifth victory this season in the “official world championship sprint”. As a result, the German cyclist remains firmly in the lead with regard to number of victories. Mark Cavendish and Petrus Oellibrandt are both three-time champions.
“The Scheldeprijs is a symbol of a rich tradition in cycling races, with great names on the podium year after year. Next year will be no different”, says Piet de Smet. “Traditionally, the cream of the crop with regard to sprinters proceeds on to the province of Antwerp. The Scheldeprijs has grown tremendously in terms of professionalism thanks to its cooperation with Flanders Classics. We are making another big stride forwards by relocating the start to Terneuzen.”
Wind can play a key role
Details about the definitive route of the renewed Scheldeprijs will follow at a later stage. “With Terneuzen as the starting point and the province of Zeeland, we have chosen a region with some very interesting attractions,” says Piet de Smet. “The passage of the Tour de France in 2015 proved that the wind can be a key aspect in determining the outcome of a race, for example. The arrival in Schoten and the local laps are elements that will in any case remain inextricably linked to the Scheldeprijs.”