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5 things we really want to see at the Tour of Flanders

Sunday is poised to be another incredible day of racing in the Ardennes

5 things we really want to see at the Tour of Flanders

Is it already time for the Tour of Flanders? Sunday marks the 104th edition of De Ronde, and it’s poised to be a good one. Established in 1913, it stands as one of the oldest and most prestigious one-day races on the professional cycling calendar. Originally conceived by cycling journalist Karel Van Wijnendaele, the race was born out of a desire to showcase the challenging terrain and picturesque landscapes of the Flanders region. Over the years, the route has evolved, incorporating cobbled roads, steep climbs, and iconic sections such as the Koppenberg and the Muur van Geraardsbergen, which have become emblematic of the race’s toughness. The Tour of Flanders has witnessed legendary battles, heroic solo rides, and unexpected upsets, cementing its status as one of the five Monuments in cycling.

Given the tough parcours, there will be lots of gritty and dramatic racing, but here are some things that we hope to see.

1. A total battle royale between Tadej Pogačar, Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert

We’ve already been treated to some stellar racing in 2024. Pog dominated the Volta a Catalunya, clinching victory in four out of seven stages. At Strade Bianche, Pogačar initiated a solo breakaway a staggering 81 km before the finish line, ultimately crossing it nearly three minutes ahead of the runner-up.

Pro peloton astounded by Pogačar’s, van der Poel’s, and van Aert’s performance levels

Similarly, van der Poel and van Aert have been a level up on the rest. At the E3 Saxo Classic, Mathieu van der Poel surged ahead with 44 km remaining, leaving Wout van Aert trailing behind due to an unfortunate crash coinciding with his Dutch rival’s attack. Despite van Aert’s efforts to close the gap, the race quickly turned into a battle between the two riders. Granted, Mads Pedersen took advantage of what seemed to be a fatigued van der Poel at Gent – Wevelgem, but it’s clear that the new Big Three–Pog, MvdP and van Aert, will be the ones to watch when the roads get steep and cobbly. The best thing we can hope for as fans if those three arrive together at one of the legendary climbs for a true test between them.

2. A Puck Pieterse upset

The Dutchwoman has made a name for herself off-road, dominating in both MTB and ‘cross, but her time on the road has been limited. She finished fifth at the 2023 Strade Bianche, and 7th and 8th at Gent – Wevelgem and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, respectively. Could we see a big result on Sunday? This will be her last big road race as well–she has a shortened season due to her focus on the Paris Olympics. And she definitely wants to go out on a high note. “With how it’s going now, of course, you have to dream of the highest and I think we have a really good team,” she said to cyclingnews.com

Holy Puck Pieterse has some amazing skills

“We worked really well together here at Gent-Wevelgem, so I think even winning is possible.” Could Flanders be the day she stands on top of the podium that doesn’t involve trails and dirt? (Just cobbles.)

3. Visma – Lease a Bike back to winning form?

Visma – Lease a Bike dominated the Grand Tours in 2023. Primož Roglič won the Giro d’Italia, Jonas Vingegaard won the Tour de France, and Sepp Kuss won the Vuelta a España. Vingegaard has continued his winning ways at Tirreno-Adriatico and O Gran Camiño, but the team hasn’t quite been the force in the one days…yet. Van aert has been clear that his big goals this year are the Classics. He condensed his ‘cross season and has been targeting a big win at Flanders or Roubaix. He will need a strong team, which may be a problem, given that Dylan van Baarle and Christophe Laporte are on the DL. Still, look to riders like American Matteo Jorgenson and Belgian Tiesj Benoot to be there for their team leader on Sunday.

4. A big ride for Simone Boilard?

Maggie Coles-Lyster had a terrific ride at Gent Wevelgem, finishing 10th in her second go at the Belgian race. She took 13th in 2023, and it’s clear that with more and more European racing in her legs, we’ll continue to see her improve. Although there are a few climbs in Gent – Wevelgem, Flanders may be more suitable to Simone Boilard. The Uno-X Mobility finished 16th at Gent – Wevelgem, but if she can hold her own on those sharp, punchy climbs, we may see a big result from the Québec city native.

5. Fem van Empel shining at Flanders?

Fem van Empel was supposed to kick off her season in Gent-Wevelgem as the leader, but did not start. The 21-year-old world ‘cross champion was very much looking forward to her first road race of 2024. “I’ve had a good training block and I’m curious to see where I stand at the moment,” she said. She was meant to be the team leader, since Marianne Vos wasn’t starting. We’ve seen lots of the top riders excel in ‘cross we well: including Vos, van der Poel and van Aert.

Mastery of cyclocross demands exceptional bike handling skills and high power output, attributes well-suited for the demanding terrain of classic races characterized by challenging ascents. Vos will undoubtedly be the team leader at Flanders, but given the two-pronged approach teams can tend to use at a race where anything could happen, van Empel may find herself in a position to take a very big result.

There will be a total of six Canadians riding on Sunday. As mentioned, Coles-Lyster and Boilard, as well as 2023 Paris – Roubaix winner, Alison Jackson will race the women’s event. In the mens, Hugo Houle, Guillaume Boivin and Nickolas Zukowsky will be there. You can watch the Tour of Flanders on Flobikes.com