With four stages in the Netherlands and three in Belgium, the race will cover much of the lowlands area over its week long duration, taking in a variety of terrain on the way.
There’s plenty of reasons to follow the race; despite being a relatively young race it holds world tour status, and this year there’s an abundance of British interest. Sky has selected Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe, recently crowned Commonwealth Time Trial champion Alex Dowsett rides for Movistar, while Garmin-Sharp’s David Millar continues his countdown towards retirement.
But perhaps most intriguingly of all is the presence of Bradley Wiggins (Sky), who takes to the road again after missing the Tour de France and winning the Team Pursuit silver on the track at the Commonwealth Games.
When away in Glasgow, Wiggins stated that ‘the road will have to take a back seat’, and that his new priority leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics ‘will be the track’.
Prior to the games, however, Wiggins also talked about his desire to build upon his impressive showing at this year’s Paris-Roubaix, which makes his participation in the Eneco Tour particularly interesting.
Although the race does not cover the same roads as ‘The Hell of the North’, the Belgian and Dutch terrain – particularly in stage five – closely resembles that of the spring classics. How Wiggins does next week could be an early indication as to how he will fare next spring.
But it must also be remembered that Wiggins has not been training specifically for this race, and therefore Sky are likely to be riding in support of other riders. Edvald Boasson Hagen, for instance, is a two-time winner here, while Geraint Thomas has great form following his Commonwealth Games gold medal.
The eclectic nature of the parcours could also suit strong all-rounder Thomas. After a couple of flat Dutch stages, which all look likely to end in relatively formulaic bunch sprinters, the peloton is presented with a variety of challenges.
Stage three tests the riders ability against the clock in a 9.4km Individual Time Trial, while stage four – although generally flat – takes in some of the famous Flemish roads that become centre stage of the cycling world every year for the spring classics.
This, however, is just a taster for what is to come. Stage six features some of the region’s best Bergs, including a finish at and two earlier ascents of the popular Muur van Geraardsbergen, which has been greatly missed since being omitted from the Tour of Flanders. Stage six sees the race head into the Ardennes to tackle a total of sixteen cols, three of which will be La Redoute, one of the famous climbs from Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
There are even more climbs the day after for the final stage of the race, as the race heads back to the Netherlands to take on 22 short, sharp climbs that characterise the Amstel Gold. Such a difficult stage will ensure that whoever is leading prior to it will not be sure of victory going into the stage, and that whoever is ultimately triumphant will have excelled in an impressive array of disciplines.
Eneco Tour 2014 stages:
Stage one: Monday August 11. Terneuzen – Terneuzen 183.1km
Stage two: Tuesday August 12. Waalwijk – Heusden 175.8km
Stage three: Wednesday August 13. Breda 96.km ITT
Stage four: Thursday August 14. Koksijde – Ardooie 179.1km
Stage five: Friday August 15. Geraardsbergen – Geraardsbergen 162.5km
Stage six: Saturday August 16. Heerlen – La Redoute 173.9km
Stage seven: Sunday August 17. Riemst – Sittard-Geleen 183.4km
Eneco Tour 2014 teams:
Ag2r La Mondiale
Trek Factory Racing
Wanty – Groupe Gobert
Eneco Tour: Recent winners
2013 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
2012 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank
2011 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
2010 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Columbia
2009 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) HTC-Columbia
2008 Ivan Gutiérrez (Esp) Caisse d’Epargne
2007 Ivan Gutiérrez (Esp) Caisse d’Epargne
2006 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner
2005 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC
Eneco Tour: Last year’s top ten
1. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick 25-14-05
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned)Argos-Shimano +0-26
3. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana +0-50
4. Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack-Leopard +0-55
5. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge +0-55
6. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step +1-20
7. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin +1-32
8. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge +1-34
9. Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana +2-07
10. Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Leopard +2-14