2019 Tour Of Flanders Preview

Who’s ready for the ‘hardest one-day race’ on the WorldTour calendar, the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen)?

“It is, without question, the hardest one-day bike race ever created,” George Hincapie, who finished a record 17 times, wrote in his biography. Here’s how the race got its start:

The History of the Ronde van Vlaanderen

In 1912 Odiel Defraeye, a 22-year-old kid from the Flemish town of Rumbeke, won three stages and the yellow jersey in the biggest cycling event in the world, the Tour de France.

Flanders erupted.

The following year, the Flemish sport magazine Sportwereld put together a Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen). It was a one-day race over 324 km. That 324 km makes it the longest edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen ever raced. Another Flemish cyclist, Paul Deman, won.

Then the First World War started, it wasn’t possible to hold the race, so the third edition wasn’t held until 1919. That year, another Flemish kid, Henri “Ritte” Van Lerberghe, who had fought in the trenches, came to Ghent to compete. He didn’t have his own bicycle so he had to borrow one.

Just before the start of the race “Ritte” shouted: “I will ride you all to hell !!!” Race favorite Jules Vanhevel had the best laugh on hearing the declaration and “Ritte” replied to him: “You shouldn’t laugh because I’ll ride you off my wheel in front of your own house!!!”

Van Lerberghe kept his promise and attacked on a hill in the Town of Ichtegem (hometown of Jules Vanhevel!). Amused, the other racers let him have the initial breakaway. By the time the peloton realized the size of the gap and started to chase him, it was too late. “Ritte” was too far ahead.

In the heavy North Sea winds he rode away and with the velodrome finish line in sight Van Lerberghe stopped at a local pub and ordered a beer. It was good, so he ordered another and then another. Race official Oscar Van Braeckel noticed “Ritte” sitting in the pub and he summoned Van Lerberghe’s coach to fetch him.

After considerable persuasion Van Lerberghe’s coach succeeded in dragging him from the pub. While “Ritte” was doing his “lap of honor” in the velodrome (walking because he wasn’t able to ride his bicycle) he cried out to the public: “You can all go home, I’ve got half a day lead on the others!!!!!” 

In reality, he had 14 minutes left of his initial advantage because of his trip to the pub. Nevertheless, Henri Vanlerberghe did complete the course and crossed the finish line for the 1919 victory in the Tour of Flanders.

Prior to the Second World War, the Ronde van Vlaanderen was often raced on the same day as Milano-San Remo. Non-Belgian riders preferred to race in Italy, which made the Ronde van Vlaanderen a mostly Belgian contest that saw only one non-Belgian winner before the war: Swiss rider Heiri Suter, who won the 1923 edition.

With wins in 1940, 1941 and 1943 East-Flemish rider Achiel Buysse was the first rider ever to win the Ronde 3 times.

In the course of the history of the Ronde, five other riders have matched that record.

Fiorenzo Magni is the only rider to have won the Ronde three times in a row (1949, 1950, 1951). Eric Leman also holds three wins (1970, 1972, 1973) and notably earned them during the years of Eddy Merckx, who himself won two Rondes.

Johan Museeuw was the fourth rider to win the Ronde three times (1993, 1995, 1998). Museeuw earned the nickname “de Leeuw van Vlaanderen” (the Lion of Flanders). He also won Paris-Roubaix three times.

Tom Boonen won three times as well (2005, 2006, 2012) and broke Museeuw’s 6 wins record by winning Roubaix a fourth time in 2012. Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, who also managed to get 6 wins, is the last rider who won the Ronde 3 times (2010, 2013, 2014).

Tour of Flanders Route

There’s very little to add to what was outlined last year. The course is essentially unchanged from 2018. Riders will cover 270 km from Antwerp to Oudenaarde with 17 helligen (cobbled climbs) and 5 section of flat cobbles. You can see a provisional start list here.

Here’s a list of the sections:

Lippenhovestraat

  • Cobblestone section
  • 1300 m
  • 183.1 km left

Paddestraat

  • Cobblestone section
  • 1500 m
  • 181.7 km left

Oude Kwaremont

  • Cobblestone Hill
  • 2200m – Av. 4% – Max. 11,6%
  • 150.6 km left

Kortekeer

  • Hill
  • 1.000m – Av. 6,4% – Max. 17%,
  • 140.1 km left

Ladeuze

  • Hill
  • 1.100m – Av. 5.8% – Max. 12.2%
  • 133.9 km lfeft

Wolvenberg

  • Hill
  • 645m – Av. 7,9% – Max. 17,3%
  • 130. 2 km left

Holleweg

  • Cobblestone section
  • 1500 m
  • 129.5 km left

Haaghoek

  • Cobblestone section
  • 2000 m
  • 124.4 km left

Leberg

  • Hill
  • 950m – Av. 4,2% – Max 13,8%
  • 121.4 km left

Berendries

  • Hill
  • 940m – Av. 7% – Max. 12,3%
  • 117.4 km left

Tenbosse

  • Hill
  • 450m – Av. 6,9% – Max. 8,7%
  • 109.8 km left

Muur-Kapelmuur

  • Cobblestone Hill
  • 475m – Av. 9,3% – Max. 19,8%
  • 99.5 km left

Kanarieberg

  • Hill
  • 1000m – Av. 7,7% – Max. 14%
  • 71.9 km left

Oude Kwaremont

  • Cobblestone Hill
  • 2200m – Av. 4% – Max. 11,6%
  • 56.0 km left

Paterberg

  • Cobblestone Hill
  • 360m – Av. 12,9% – Max. 20,3%
  • 52.6 km left

Koppenberg

  • Cobblestone Hill
  • 600m – Av. 11,6 % – Max. 22 %
  • 45.9 km left

Mariaborrestraat

  • Cobblestone section
  • 2000 m
  • 41.9 km left

Steenbeekdries

  • Cobblestone Hill
  • 700m – Av. 5,3% – Max. 6,7%
  • 40.5 km left

Taaienberg

  • Cobblestone Hill
  • 530m – Av. 6,6% – Max. 15,8%
  • 38.1 km left

Kruisberg/Hotond

  • Cobblestone Hill
  • 2500m – Av. 5% – Max. 9%
  • 26.8 km left

Oude Kwaremont

  • Cobblestone Hill
  • 2200m – Av. 4% – Max. 11,6%
  • 16.9 km left

Paterberg

  • Cobblestone Hill
  • 360m – Av. 12,9% – Max. 20,3%
  • 13.5 km left

Tour of Flanders Weather

Good news for riders, bad news for us sadistic fans; the weather looks like it will be fair. Unseasonably warm, low winds, and very little chance of rain.

How to Watch

Sporza, Eurosport, will show the race live and streaming is available through FloBikes.

Tour of Flanders Favorites

Oliver Naesen (Belgium/AG2R La Mondiale)
28-year-old Oliver Naesen, the reigning Belgian national champion, looks incredibly strong. With podium finishes in both Milan–San Remo and Ghent–Wevelgem, Flanders might be his chance to shine. Not only is he strong, but he has a great sprint to finish things off. He has yet to win a major classic, maybe now is the time.

Philippe Gilbert (Belgium/ Deceuninck-Quick Step)
Philippe Gilbert won at Flanders two years ago and he too has shown great form so far this year. His Deceuninck-Quick Step team boasts a lot of depth and has a ton of collective experience. Many argue that he earned his 2017 victory thanks to a crash by Peter Sagan in the final kilometers, maybe 36-year-old Gilbert can put those arguments to rest.

Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium/CCC Team)
Van Avermaet, age 33, has started Flanders 12 times. He’s finished second twice along with third, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth. His team support looks weak so far this year, but despite that he has podium finishes at Het Nieuwsblad and E3. Flanders is a long grueling race, and Van Avermaet thrives at long grueling races. This could be his year.

Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic/ Deceuninck-Quick Step)
Three-time world cyclocross champion, Zdenek Stybar, seems to finally be the true leader on Belgium’s strong Deceuninck-Quick Step team. With victories at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the E3 Classic, he appears to have the form. He rides gracefully across the cobbles, is quick in a sprint and has the best classics team around him. He’s an easy top pick.

If I had to put a cohesive prediction of the overall race together, it would look like this:

Zdenyk Stybar will be the last man up the road after a strong DQS attack and I think he’ll win solo. Behind him, Alejandro Valverde will best a not-quite-back-to-form Peter Sagan in a small group fight for second.

Flanders Betting Chances

Rider Fractional Decimal Percentage
Stybar 7/1 8 12.50%
GVA 7/1 8 12.50%
MVdP 15/2 8.5 11.76%
WvA 15/2 8.5 11.76%
Sagan 8/1 9 11.11%
Jungels 9/1 10 10.00%
Naesen 14/1 15 6.67%
Gilbert 18/1 19 5.26%
Terps 18/1 19 5.26%
Benoot 20/1 21 4.76%
Kristoff 25/1 26 3.85%
Top 6: 69.64%
Likely winners: 95.44%
24 @ 28/1 to 100/1 51 1.96%
47.06%
Approximate book 142.50%
Share for top 6 48.87%
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