1st of April, the big day. The race that everyone wants to win and the biggest classic on the women’s calendar. Yes, we are on the eve of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and everything in this little women’s cycling world gravitates around it. This time also the eyes of the spectators worldwide, as it will be broadcasted live. More details on this at the end of the preview.
Local hero Jolien D’hoore will be wearing the leader’s jersey of the Women’s WorldTour on this special occasion. Probably not something to celebrate in Flanders, though, as it means she won’t be showing her driekleur, the Belgian champion colours.
It’s basically the same parcours as last year, so no surprises here. The Muur is featured again but, being a bit isolated in the middle of the race, it won’t be easy for the potential attacks over there to last for too long. It will add to the overall attrition though, as basically every bit of the road since they pass Oudenaarde for the first time since the start at km. 56.
Roughly 40 km to the finish, the Kanarieberg, a non-cobbled but very hard climb that resembles the typical Ardennes hills that we’ll get to see in a couple of weeks, is usually the place where the big favourites start to show their cards. A very small group may emerge from the top of it. Another important ‘berg’, partially cobbled, is the Kruisberg/Hotond. The strongest riders will face then the infamous Oude Kwaremont + Paterberg section. From that point it’s 13 flat kilometres to the finish in Oudenaarde.
The start is at 11:00 CEST and the race is expected to finish around 15:00.
Sprinters who can withstand a hard race or true classics riders? That’s the question. It no strange tactics such as Boels-Dolmans’ decision not to work on the front last year happen again, De Ronde is more than hard enough to make it easy for the strongest all-rounders to drop the sprinters.
On paper, the race should be among the following names: Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans), Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM), Ashleigh Moolman (Cervélo-Bigla), Ellen van Dijk (Sunweb) and Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans). Especially the first four riders are the strongest uphill.
Outsiders include Gracie Elvin (Mitchelton-Scott), Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans), Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Canyon//SRAM) and maybe Floortje Mackaij and Lucinda Brand (Sunweb), Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) and Sheyla Gutiérrez (Cylance).
What about the fastest riders? Coryn Rivera (Sunweb) won last year but so far this season she’s not looking as strong as 12 months ago. Belgian champion and current WWT leader Jolien D’hoore also has some chances as long as the race doesn’t get way too aggressive on the climbs, and adds extra depth to a very strong Mitchelton-Scott lineup. It’s hard to look past these riders when it comes to the sprinters but there’s an obvious exception: Marianne Vos. The leader of Waowdeals is a bit of a mystery. She’s showing good form uphill, certainly better than last year, but she hasn’t been able to sprint well in the latest races.
How to follow the race live
Luckily, it will be the third year in a row that we’ll be able to watch Ronde van Vlaanderen live. Starting from 13:30 the race will be shown live on Eurosport Player and VRT.be (link). More options are expected to appear tomorrow here.
The official hashtag on Twitter is #RVVWomen.