The third edition of the Belgo-Dutch Eneco Tour takes place this week with a strong field set to battle out a prologue, six stages and a time trial.
An impressive start list includes Kim Kirchen who finished seventh in the Tour de France along with multiple Tour stage winner Robbie McEwen and Yaroslav Popovych, eighth in this year's Grand Boucle. Other familiar names taking part are Crédit Agricole's Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd and Saunier Duval - Prodir's David Millar who competes along with fellow Brits Mark Cavendish and Roger Hammond from T-Mobile.
In addition to Kirchen from neighbouring Luxembourg, the twin host nations should be strongly represented at the sharp end of the field, not least thanks to Rabobank's Michael Boogerd and Thomas Dekker. Boogerd will be hoping to give fans in his native Holland - as well as those in Belgium where he lives - something to cheer about during his last season in the professional ranks. Dekker together with Millar and Predictor-Lotto's Leif Hoste will be among the favourites for both the 5.1 km prologue in the Belgian town of Hasselt and a week later for the 29.6 km time trial from Sittard to Geleen in Holland. Dekker's Rabobank team will look to Australian sprinter Graeme Brown to challenge compatriot McEwen during any bunch finishes. In the absence of Tom Boonen - currently in mid-preparation for the Vuelta - other sprinters who will fancy their chances should the opportunity present itself will include Wouter Weylandt, Gert Steegmans and Steven De Jongh.
McEwen meanwhile will be counting on the support of Predictor-Lotto team mates including the experienced Tom Steels and the impressive rookie Greg Van Avermaet, both of them Low Country natives. Other young Dutch and Belgian talent on display includes Gianni Meersman, Rick Flens, Tom Stamsnijder, and Niki Terpstra. The 25 year-old Belgian Philippe Gilbert who won the final stage of last year's Eneco Tour will be hoping to shine again, along with other young riders like Nick Nuyens, Peter Van Petegem, and Maarten Tjallingii.
The event begins on August 22 and concludes August 29.