Ghent-Wevelgem is known as the sprinter's Classic, and if the weather plays ball in 2016 the fast men will be the ones to contest the win in Flanders
Fernando Gaviria is so young, but so talented. He was on course to win Milan-San Remo before touching wheels and crashing to the ground and crossing the finish line in tears.
In his first race over cobbles this week, the 21-year-old Colombian finished 10th in Dwars door Vlaanderen, but if anything the finish of Ghent-Wevelgem isn’t as hard as that one.
Once the riders have crested the Kemmelberg for the final time, there’s 35km of pretty flat and innocuous roads to the finish in Wevelgem, so expect Gaviria to play a prominent role in the sprint.
The former Belgian champion really made a name for himself in the cobbled Classics last year, finishing eighth in Dwars door, fifth in a horrendously tough Ghent-Wevelgem and then ninth at Paris-Roubaix.
The win on Wednesday will give him confidence he can do it on the bigger stage and set himself up for the rest of the Classics.
Alexander Kristoff was another rider who managed to stay upright and impress at Ghent-Wevelgem last year, finishing ninth.
Friday’s E3 Harelbeke may be his preferred win of the weekend, but if the opportunity arises to sprint for victory on Sunday he will surely be among the favourites.
The hills pose no problem for the 2015 Tour of Flanders winner, but will he have the finishing speed to beat the pure sprinters on the line?
Trek-Segafredo have quite a few options for this race, but the most intriguing is Giacomo Nizzolo, who sprinted to sixth place in Dwars door Vlaanderen.
He was beaten in the standings by his new teammate Edward Theuns, but Nizzolo seems to have the edge in races where it comes down to muscle and could rival Kristoff if it comes down to that type of battle.
In a straight sprint the 27-year-old Italian probably doesn’t have the speed to beat the likes of Gaviria but if the pack is diminished before the end look out for Nizzolo’s pinstripes at the end.
Arnaud Démare is surprisingly competent over cobbles and challenging road surfaces, finishing second at Ghent-Wevelgem in 2014 and claiming a couple of top-15 finishes in Paris-Roubaix.
Every time we put Démare in one of these lists he doesn’t do well, and when we leave him out (like for Milan-San Remo) he goes and wins it. So maybe this inclusion is the kiss of death for the Frenchman.
Ian Stannard will wear the leader’s number for Team Sky, but it’s unlikely that he’ll challenge for the win. Instead Sky have Elia Viviani to have a crack.
Viviani’s a regular part of Sky’s Classics lineup, but mostly for his ability to work hard for other people. At Ghent-Wevelgem, though, he’s more than capable of challenging in the sprint finish.
Sky also have Danny Van Poppel in the lineup if they need another sprinting option, but Viviani should be their man to watch.
Bryan Coquard paid the price for celebrating too early at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, getting pipped on the line by Debusschere in a photo finish.
The little Frenchman is incredibly fast in a sprint, though, and could bring victory for his Direct Energie team on Sunday.
He’s finished in the top 20 twice in this race, but he’s only 23 and looks to be improving with age. He beat off a number of strong riders in Dwars door, so expect to see him do that again at Ghent-Wevelgem.
This guy again…Peter Sagan could very much win this race and will almost certainly be challenging whatever the weather.