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With its 102-year history, The Ronde van Vlaanderen – the Tour of Flanders – is a monument of cycling. It’s arguably the biggest cycling event in Belgium and one of the hardest one-day races on the calendar period.
Brutally steep climbs, rough cobbles, technical narrow roads and brutal winds – this race has all the elements Flanders is (in)famous for, and the win comes with a lot of prestige.
For the women’s peloton, Sunday will be the 15th edition of the event, here’s what you should know:
Tour of Flanders fun facts:
1. Slightly shorter than last year’s edition, the 2018 course skips the Achterberg climb but still features 11 other climbs — including the famous “Muur” — as well as five cobbled sections for a total of 151 kilometres.
2. In winning the 2017 edition, Coryn Rivera became the first American — male or female — to win this Belgian classic.
3. Only one Belgian woman has won this monument, and that was Grace Verbeke (Lotto Ladies) in 2010. Belgian sprinter Jolien d’Hoore (Mitchelton-Scott) is keen to change that. She is currently leading the UCI Women’s WorldTour and will be sporting the purple leader’s jersey instead of her Belgian tri-colour national champion kit.
4. The Dutch meanwhile have historically been most successful in this race, with five wins in total. Mirjam Melchers won twice (2005, 2006), followed by victories for Annemiek van Vleuten (2011), Marianne Vos (2013) and Ellen van Dijk (2014).
5. German rider Trixi Worrack finished second in the very first women’s Tour of Flanders, back in 2004. The veteran racer will once again line up as an invaluable captain for her Canyon-SRAM Sunday for the 15th edition of this event.
6. Due to the harsh cobbles, many riders run wider tyres with lower pressure and double bar tape.
How to watch
The Women’s Tour of Flanders is held in conjunction with the men’s event on Sunday, April 1, starting at 10:55 a.m. local time in Oudenaarde (6:55 p.m. AEST, 4:55 a.m. EDT).
– Live on TV: After great national and international success of having the final hour of the women’s race live on Proximus TV and Facebook last year, the race finale will again be broadcast live in 2018. The Belgian channel “Canvas” will broadcast the final hour, starting around 2 p.m local time (10 p.m. AEST, 9 a.m. EDT). For those watching from Australia, SBS will livestream the women’s race on Cycling Central from 9:30pm to 11:30pm AEST.
– Highlights: Belgian channel “één” will offer highlights of the women’s after the broadcast of the men’s race. And, as with all UCI Women’s WorldTour races, the UCI will have the highlights in their YouTube channel.
Our top 5 race favourites, in no particular order
1. Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb): The powerhouse Dutch rider has shown great form already this spring as she’s been a race animator or super domestique at most races while also taking the win herself at Omloop van het Hageland and Dwars door Vlaanderen. If she’s not riding in support of her sprinter teammate and last year’s winner, Rivera, she’s definitely one to watch.
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM): With a WorldTour win and a second place finish already this season, the young Pole is well on her way to her best season yet. A great climber, Niewiadoma will be looking for her chances up the climbs or in a breakaway.
3. Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans): The world champion has shown strong form during all of the Spring races thus far, but hasn’t yet been able to show off that rainbow jersey on the top step. Flanders has been her dream and target race for a while now, so she’s determined to be in the mix.
4. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans): From the Olympic road race to the historic Ardennes Triple, there are few races this Dutchwoman hasn’t already won but Flanders is one of them. Van der Breggen has proven time and time again to be strongest soloist in the pack with a knack for picking the opportune moment for an attack. If the pack gives her any leeway at all, she’ll be gone until the finish.
5. Gracie Elvin (Mitchelton-Scott): While her teammate and Belgian national champion Jolien d’Hoore is hoping for a sprint finish to deliver her new team a big win on home soil, Elvin has made it no secret that she, too, has her sights set on the win. After finishing second in 2017, Elvin knows a win is possible, and has spent the last four weeks living in that part of Belgium to train on the roads and prepare for her big target race.
Also watch for: Mitchelton-Scott’s Jolien d’Hoore and Annemiek van Vleuten, Sunweb’s Coryn Rivera and Lucinda Brand, Ale Cipollini’s Chloe Hosking and Marta Bastianelli, Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Canyon-SRAM), Marianne Vos (Waowdeals) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5).
Current WWT series standings
1. Jolien d’Hoore (Mitchelton-SCOTT) – 380
2. Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) – 350
3. Marta Bastianelli (Ale Cipollini) – 350
2018 Women’s WorldTour
3 March – Strade Bianche, Italy
11 March – Ronde Van Drenthe, The Netherlands
18 March – Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Italy
22 March – Driedaagse De Panne, Belgium
25 March – Ghent-Wevelgem, Belgium
1 April – Tour of Flanders, Belgium
15 April – Amstel Gold Race, The Netherlands
18 April – Flèche Wallonne, Belgium
22 April- Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Belgium
26-28 April – Tour of Chongming Island, China
17-19 May – Tour of California, USA
19-22 May – Emakumeen XXXI. Bira, Spain
13-17 June – Women’s Tour, Great Britain
6-15 July – Giro Rosa, Italy
17 July – La Course by Le Tour de France, France
28 July – RideLondon Classique, Great Britain
10 August – Vargarda team time trial, Sweden
12 August – Vargarda road race, Sweden
16-19 August – Ladies Tour of Norway, Norway
25 August – GP de Plouay – Lorient Agglomération, France
28 August – 2 September – Boels Ladies Tour, Netherlands
16 September – Madrid Challenge by la Vuelta, Spain
21 October – Tour of Guangxi, China
You can find a preview of the men’s Tour of Flanders here.