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2024 FLANDERS Preview: Who Will Be Victor in Vlaanderen?

'Flanders' Most Beautiful'

Ronde van Vlaanderen Race Preview:  The Tour of Flanders is biggest and best one-day race in the World, if you ask any Flemish cycling fan. It has everything that a Belgian race can offer for excitement and drama – cobbles and climbs – De Ronde never disappoints. Here’s our Flanders Preview of the race route and the favourites for Sunday’s Vlaanderens Mooiste (Flanders’ Most Beautiful).

*** Watch ‘Chris Horner’s Flanders Preview Chat With Pez’ HERE. ***

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De Ronde – Where legends are made

A little bit of De Ronde history:
This is the holy Flemish cycling week (really two weeks) and the 107th edition of the Tour of Flanders is on Sunday, following the Three Days of De Panne (now the Classic Brugge – De Panne), E3 Saxo Classic, Gent–Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen. The ‘Flemish World Championships’ are always hard fought for, whoever crosses that finish line first in Oudenaarde will be a star for the rest of his life.

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Flanders first winner – Paul Deman

The first Tour of Flanders was on May 23, 1913. There were only 37 riders in that first event, which was run over 324 kilometres. After twelve hours, Paul Deman was the first to cross the line in Mariakerke. Karel Van Wijnendaele was the man behind the race, he was a journalist and was looking for something new to publicise his newspaper De Sportwereld, so organising the Tour of Flanders was perfect. The early editions were all on the exceptionally bad Flemish cobbles, which the organisers have tried to keep in the race as much as possible. In those early years, De Ronde was occasionally held on the same day as Milano-Sanremo.

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Briek Schotte – The first Flandrien

Later the organisers wanted to make changes and moved towards the Flemish Ardennes for the climbs of the Kluisberg, Kwaremont and the Kruisberg. In 1950, after the dominance of Achiel Buysse, Briek Schotte and Fiorenzo Magni, the iconic Muur van Geraardsbergen added to the course. In the 1970s, the Oude Kwaremont and the Koppenberg were also added. These two climbs are still important. During that time Buysse and Magni both won the race three times and are joint record holders.


Johan Museeuw – Three time Flanders winner (and Roubaix) on the wheel of Andrei Tchmile in Flanders 2000

Obviously, Belgians have won the Tour of Flanders the most times, sixty-nine. Eric Leman, Johan Museeuw and Tom Boonen, just like Buysse and Magni, have won three times. Fabian Cancellara joined the record holders list in 2014 after his wins in 2010 and 2013. The first Dutch victory came in 1953, when Wim van Est was the winner. He was joined by other men from the Netherlands: Jo de Roo, Evert Dolman, Cees Bal, Jan Raas (twice), Hennie Kuiper, Johan Lammerts, Adrie van der Poel, Niki Terpstra and Mathieu van der Poel (twice). The winners over the last ten years have all been top names: Tadej Pogačar, Mathieu van der Poel, Kasper Asgreen, Alberto Bettiol, Niki Terpstra, Philippe Gilbert, Peter Sagan, Alexander Kristoff and Fabian Cancellara.

2022 Tour of Flanders

In the 2022 Tour of Flanders the race exploded on the Berendries. A counter-attack including Alberto Bettiol, Mads Pedersen and Ben Turner shook the race up. Then Tadej Pogačar came into action on the Berg Ten Houte, but it was on the Oude Kwaremont that Pogačar attacked for the first time. Kasper Asgreen was on his wheel, while Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock had to chase from further back. After the Oude Kwaremont, Dylan van Baarle escaped with Fred Wright, they were joined on the Koppenberg by Pogačar, Van der Poel and the Frenchman, Valentin Madouas. On the next climb of the Oude Kwaremont, Pogačar gave it another go. Van Baarle and Wright couldn’t hold on, Madouas followed not much later. On the Paterberg, Van der Poel had to grit his teeth to hold the Slovenian. The two raced on together to the finish in Oudenaarde, but Van der Poel and Pogačar started to play games in the last kilometre and Van Baarle and Madouas returned to the front from nowhere. Madouas and Van Baarle passed Pogačar in the sprint, behind second-time winner Van der Poel.

2023 Tour of Flanders

In 2023 Tadej Pogačar made up for the previous year. The Slovenian rode away from Mathieu van der Poel the last time up the Oude Kwaremont. He caught and passed Mads Pedersen and then soloed to his first victory in Flanders. A strong Van der Poel was second and Pedersen edged out Wout van Aert for third.

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Van der Poel again?

On the Oude Kwaremont, Pogačar decided to put in his last attack. The Slovenian set a hellish pace, which was too much for Van der Poel, who lost ground to an impressively strong Pogačar. The UAE rider had 10 seconds after the Oude Kwaremont, but a tough Van der Poel didn’t give up easily and remained at 15 seconds for a long time. At the top of the Paterberg, the difference had shrunk to 12 seconds, but Pogačar was in time trial mode and wasn’t going to be caught. There was now only two riders who could win the race, the chasers could only have 3rd place. Van der Poel tried everything to get to Pogačar, but couldn’t get any closer to the Slovenian. In fact, Pogačar was getting further ahead of Van der Poel. In the last kilometres it was hard work for Pogačar, but the win was certain. Pogačar was the third rider to have won the Tour of Flanders and the Tour de France along with Louison Bobet and Eddy Merckx. Van der Poel had to settle for second place, his fourth podium place in five participations. The sprint for third place was won by Pedersen, just ahead of Van Aert and Powless.

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No Pogačar in 2024 – So who will win?

2023 Tour of Flanders Result:
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates in 6:12:07
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Deceuninck at 0:16
3. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo at 1:12
4. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
5. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost
6. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ
7. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Soudal Quick-Step
8. Fred Wright (GB) Bahrain Victorious
9. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar at 1:19
10. Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 2:49.

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No mistakes for Pogačar in 2023

Parcours
The start of the Tour of Flanders is in Antwerp this year. After staging the start in Bruggge in 2023, the organisers have chosen to return to the port city. Obviously that makes changes the first 100 kilometres of the route. “These are choices based on safety. We are looking even more on the main roads so that the peloton has room to gain speed,” said race director Scott Sunderland on the race website. Also the Kortekeer and the Kanarieberg are not included in the route this year, but the Kapelleberg is.

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The 2024 start is in Antwerp

After the start in Antwerp, the first 100 kilometres of the 270.8 kilometres race, the peloton passes through Sint-Niklaas, Hamme, Haaltert, Herzele and Zottegem to reach the Flemish Ardennes, where the race will really start. The Lippenhovestraat and the Paddestraat are the first difficulties of the day after 104 kilometres of racing.

Flander 2024

The riders will then race over the usual finale of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. After 136 kilometres they take on the first passage of the Oude Kwaremont. From then on the climbs and cobbles come one after the other in quick succession. The Kapelleberg, the cobbles of the Holleweg, the Wolvenberg, the cobbles of the Kerkgate and the Jagerij, the climb of the Molenberg, the Marlboroughstraat, the Berendries and finally the Valkenberg all within 30 kilometres.

Any race in Belgium is a fight to get to the front before every cobbled climb. The Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde is the best practice for Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. See the 'PEZ Flanders Preview' HERE. Pic:CorVos/PezCyclingNews.
The Berendries

The top of the Valkenberg is just under 90 kilometres from the finish. At that point the riders have completed 180 kilometres. After the Valkenberg, if you are still there, there is time to attack. This is possible on the Berg Ten Houte or the Hotond. After the Hotond it’s the Oude Kwaremont for the second time and then to the Paterberg. The first passage of the Paterberg always causes action as the Koppenberg is next on the horizon. “We have made the run-up to the Koppenberg more straight forward and we have eliminated the descent and sharp bend just before the ascent,” the organisers explained. The tough Koppenberg is the place where the favourites will make their mark. The Mariaborrestraat, Steenbeekdries and Traaiberg are another opportunity for attacks. Traaiberg is followed by the Hotond, then there are 10 kilometres to the Oude Kwaremont for the last time.

Flanders 2024

The Oude Kwaremont is 16.7 kilometres from the finish. The cream should have already come to the top of the milk by this point and now is the time for them to make life hard for each other before their final chance, 13.2 kilometres from the finish on the Paterberg. The Paterberg is short at less than 400 metres and ideal for the more explosive riders. From the summit there are 13 flat kilometres to Oudenaarde. The wind can be strong on the run-in to the finish, tough for a solo rider, but if there is a group, then tactics will come into play for a sprint on the wide Minderbroedersstraat in Oudenaarde.

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Pogačar and Van der Poel on the Paterberg Flanders’22

The Climbs:
1. Oude Kwaremont (2.200 metres at 4%)
2. Kapelleberg (1.100 metres at 5,9%)
3. Wolvenberg (645 metres at 7,9%)
4. Molenberg (463 metres at 7%)
5. Marlboroughstraat (2.000 metres at 3%)
6. Berendries (940 metres at 7%)
7. Valkenberg (540 metres at 8,1%)
8. Berg Ten Houte (1.100 metres at 6%)
9. Hotond/Nieuwe Kruisberg (2500 metres at 5%)
10. Oude Kwaremont (2.200 metres at 4%)
11. Paterberg (360 metres at 12,9%)
12. Koppenberg (600 metres at 11,6%)
13. Steenbeekdries (700 metres at 5,3%)
14. Taaienberg (530 metres at 6,6%)
15. Hotond/Nieuwe Kruisberg (2.500 metres at 5%)
16. Oude Kwaremont (2.200 metres at 4%)
17. Paterberg (360 metres at 12,9%).

The Cobbled Sections:
1. Lippenhovestraat (1.100 metres)
2. Paddestraat (2.300 metres)
3. Holleweg (900 metres)
4. Kerkgate (2.500 metres)
5. Jagerij (800 metres)
6. Mariaborrestraat (2.400 metres)
7. Stationsberg (600 metres).

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It could all happen on the Paterberg

The Favourites:
Mathieu van der Poel is the top favourite for the Tour of Flanders again. The World champion won the E3 Saxo Classic last Friday. He made his move on the Paterberg and then soloed 40 kilometres to the finish. Jasper Stuyven and Wout van Aert were over a minute down, although Van Aert had crashed. “After the World championships in Glasgow, this is my best level ever,” Van der Poel said after the E3 Saxo Classic. In Gent-Wevelgem, Van der Poel was beaten in the sprint by Mads Pedersen, but he had done a lot of work chasing down Pedersen’s teammate, Jonathan Milan, and also he seemed to be riding in the wind more than he would in De Ronde. The World champion also has a tough E3 in his legs. However, we have seen it before that the Dutchman is not 100% in his last race for the Tour of Flanders. Van der Poel already has an impressive Flanders palmarès: In his first Tour of Flanders in 2029 he was 4th, he won in 2020, 2nd in 2021, won in 2022 and 2nd in 2023. If he wins for a third time, he will be an equal record holder. Van der Poel will have Søren Kragh Andersen, Gianni Vermeersch and, for the first time in Flanders, Jasper Philipsen. The Milano-Sanremo winner could pull off another big win, but more likely a top-10 as the climbs and cobbles will take their toll.

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Will this be the sight on Sunday in Oudenaarde?

Wout van Aert, would have been one of the top favourites, but the Belgian of Visma | Lease a Bike crashed in Wednesday’s Dwars Door Vlaanderen and broke a collar bone and ribs, he wont be riding on Sunday, or for the next few weeks. The Dutch team is also weak due to injuries and sickness, Christophe Laporte is unsure due to on going problems and Dylan van Baarle and Jan Tratnik are all suffering from injuries. The team is certainly not as strong as last year, but Matteo Jorgenson, the winner of Dwars Door Vlaanderen is now the man to watch. The American won Paris-Nice, 3rd in the points, 5th in the KOM and best young rider, he followed that up with 5th in the E3 Saxo Classic. Tiesj Benoot also looked good on Wednesday, maybe all is not lost for the men in yellow.

Dwars Door Vlaanderen 2024
Matteo Jorgenson or Tiesj Benoot?

Lidl-Trek has been the most noticeable team in the Classics so far. In the E3 Saxo Classic they had four riders in the top 11, with Jasper Stuyven taking second place after a good Milan-San Remo, but he was in the same crash as Van Aert and wont be on the start line. Mads Pedersen was also good in the E3 Saxo Classic, but only finished 11th. He had a great season start with wins in the Etoile de Bessèges and Tour de Provence, plus a very good Paris-Nice and 4th in Milano-Sanremo, then he won Gent-Wevelgem last week. He looked stronger than Van der Poel at times and beat him in the sprint. With these results, Pedersen has moved himself up into the top favourite for Sunday, along with Van der Poel and Van Aert.

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Mads Pedersen must now be one of the favourites

Tim Wellens takes the leadership of the UAE Team Emirates from last year’s winner, Tadej Pogačar. The Flemish rider has been quite successful in recent races, he was second in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and fourth in the E3 Saxo Classic. Wellens has the form, but the win would be difficult. He will undoubtably he a strong-man in the race and could make the difference in the finale.

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Tim Wellens – Probably not a winner, but a man to watch

Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) will also be seen at the front in the Tour of Flanders. Both have been racing well, but maybe not at their full potential. Both teams also have back-up men in Fred Wright and Valentin Madouas, they could split the race or make a late move.

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Fred Wright and Matej Mohorič – Possible?

Biniam Girmay looked to be back to his old form in E3 Saxo Classic. The Intermarché-Wanty rider has been quiet, but last Friday he was amongst the action. He was lacking a little at the finish and was 19th, then in Gent-Wevelgem he took 7th. Spanish champion, Oier Lazkano, is still young at 24 and needs more Classic experience. This year he has already won the Clásica Jaén and was third in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Jhonatan Narváez took sixth place in the E3 and the Ecuadorian will be the leader of INEOS Grenadiers, but he crashed out of Gent-Wevelgem and was suffering from concussion, so he has a question mark next to his name at the moment.

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Biniam Girmay mixing it with Fred Wright and Stefan Küng in Gent-Wevelgem

Patrick Lefevere has not been impressed by his Soudal Quick-Step men in the Classics so far this season. His riders were invisible in The E3 Saxo Classic, they were a bit better in Gent-Wevelgem, but the Belgian team are not the powerhouse they were, for many different reasons. Julian Alaphilippe and Kasper Asgreen ave both been seen, but for little result. The French double World champion has said that De Ronde is his favourite race and he has to take his revenge for his crash into a moto back in 2020.

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Alaphilippe might have won in 2020

2019 winner, Alberto Bettiol, has won Milano–Torino, third Overall in the Étoile de Bessèges and fifth Milano–Sanremo, but didn’t finish the E3 Saxo Classic after a crash, so he is another favourite rider with a question mark.

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Alberto Bettiol knows how to win De Ronde

Then there are the outsiders: Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X Mobility), Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech), Matteo Trentin (Tudor), Nils Politt (UAE Team Emirates) and Vincenzo Albanese (Arkéa-B&B Hotels). Trentin is probably the most likely rider to do something on Sunday, he has the form and always performs well in Flanders.

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Matteo Trentin – The best of the outsiders

So, who are the favourites?
Top: Mathieu van der Poel
Maybe: Mads Pedersen
Possibly: Matteo Jorgenson, Tiesj Benoot, Tim Wellens
Outside: Matej Mohorič, Stefan Küng, Jhonatan Narváez(?), Jasper Philipsen.
* The start line-up might change before Sunday. *

Gent-Wevelgem 2024
Mathieu van der Poel – The No.1 favourite again?

# Stay PEZ for the ‘Race Report’ on Sunday and all the news in ‘EUROTRASH’ Monday. #

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