Gather around kids. It’s time for The Tour of Flanders, or De Ronde, as it is lovingly known.
This Sunday’s race marks the 102nd edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. It’s the biggest bike race in Belgium and one of the biggest one-day races of the year.
This is the longest Tour of Flanders in 17 years
The 2018 Tour of Flanders will see riders pedaling 267km (165 miles) from Antwerp to Oudenaarde. The course is 7km longer than last year’s race and is just 12km short of the longest ever edition of the Tour of Flanders (269km in 2001).
The course can be broken down into three sections. The race starts with a 108km spin from Antwerp to Oudenaarde, this is the easy section with no designated climbs. Then there’s a 110km circuit that starts and finishes in Oudenaarde which features 12 climbs. The closing 49km also starts and finishes in Oudenaarde with 6 climbs.
That’s a gnarly 18 climbs in total
Short, steep climbs are the name of the game at The Tour of Flanders, many of which are on cobblestone roads. This years race only gets harder as it goes thanks to all the climbs being concentrated on the back nine. The climbs for 2018 are mostly identical to the climbs featured in the 2017 edition. The main difference is the day’s third climb, gone is the Eikeberg and in its place is the Edelareberg.
The famous Muur van Geraadsbergen marks the eighth climb of the day, last year was it’s first inclusion in the race in six years. It’s 97km from the finish so it was assumed the climb would have little impact on the race, but last year proved that assumption wrong. The climb thinned the peloton and cleared the road for a long solo attack by Philippe Gilbert. Definitely a climb to watch for again this year.
Another fun climb to watch is the the Koppenberg climb which tops out 46km from the finish. It’s not unusual to see pro-riders unclip and walk their bike on it.
The most important climbs of the day are the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg (400m at 12.5%). The Kwaremont is climbed three times the Paterberg twice. The Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg are the last two climbs of the day, putting riders 14km from the finish. Perfect territory for a late attack.
Riders to Watch
Peter Sagan: A solo victory in 2016 was followed up by a near miss last year when Sagan meant the pavement thanks to a spectators jacket hanging over the fencing. If Flanders hadn’t been around for over 100 years you’d swear the race was built for him.
Tiesj Benoot: If you watched his ride at Strada Bianche, you’d be a fool to count him out.
Sep Vanmarcke: He’s been third twice, this could be his year.
Michal Kwiatkowski: He looked very strong at Tirreno-Adriatico and he’s previosly won Harelbeke, the mini-Flanders, so it’s only fitting he gets the big one.
Wout Van Aert: The cyclocross world champion looked very strong at Strade Bianche.
How to Watch the Tour of Flanders
In the US, FUBO TV will havethe live stream.
In the UK, the race will be shown live on Eurosport 1.
Follow along on Twitter using the official hashtag,#RVV18.