Van der Poel, van Aert and Alaphilippe favorites for the Tour of Flanders
The men's and women's 2021 Tour of Flanders races are both set to take place this Easter Sunday April 4th, aka the Ronde van Vlaanderen
The world's best one-day riders will be on the start line, knowing that with it potentially being their final race of the Cobbled Classics (uncertainty surrounding Paris-Roubaix remains), they really need to give it everything they have got.
A major course change now sees the route centred around the town of Oudenaarde, which after Peter Sagan was crowned victor there in 2016 has hosted the finish each year since. However, a recent tweak to the race saw the start switch from Bruges to Antwerp, altering the opening kilometres of the race.
The Main Contenders
Defending champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) returns to try and do the double, while last year’s runner-up Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) would dearly love to avenge that agonising loss from last year. The third marquee name is, of course, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck QuickStep), but of all the major one-days in which he has gone up against the Van Twins, this is surely the one where he is at the biggest disadvantage
. Flanders typically favours riders with larger frames, as evidenced by the presence of Alex Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe), Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie) and Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal) among the most recent winners. Incidentally, all four of those riders are here again, this year.
Mads Pedersen will be in the mix and you wouldn’t bet against the ex-world champ should the race come down to an elite sprint. His Trek-Segafredo teammate Jasper Stuyven is of course in blistering form after an inspired opportunistic win at Milan-San Remo. That whole team seems to be firing on all cylinders at the moment.
2021 Tour of Flanders Favorites
Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix – 16/5
Wout van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma – 7/2
Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step – 8/1
Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck – Quick-Step – 16/1
Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe – 22/1
Florian Sénéchal (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step – 25/1
Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step – 33/1
Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates – 33/1
Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Deceuninck – Quick-Step – 33/1
Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers – 40/1
VIDEO: 2021 Tour of Flanders Preview
The Women's Race
This year's women's race will total 157km, climbing 10 'hellingen', also finishing with the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg duo.
Britain's Lizzie Deignan of Trek-Segafredo will be part of a strong team including Cyclist favourite Elisa Longo Borghini and Ellen van Dijk.
They will have tough competition from World Champion Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) plus teammates Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and Amy Pieters, Movistar duo Annemiek van Vleuten and Emma Norsgaard, Team BikeExchange's Gracie Brown and Lotto-Soudal's Lotte Kopecky.
Tour of Flanders 2021: Key Climbs
The Oude Kwaremont is an important climb at the Tour of Flanders, as it appears three times over the course of the race. The final appearance is 16km from the finish, so serves as the perfect place to grind out an attack.
Although it’s not especially steep (average 4%), it is 2.2km long and has ramps up to 12%.
The Paterberg appears twice in the Tour of Flanders, just 3km after the Oude Kwaremont and is the final climb in the race just 13km before the finish line.
Although the Paterberg is less than 400m long, it averages just under 13% and has ramps up to 21%. This is the final place for riders to make a big attack – Fabian Cancellara used the final few metres to gap Peter Sagan in 2013, before soloing away to claim victory.
Despite its infamy, the Koppenberg only appears once at the Tour of Flanders, 220km into the race. The Koppenberg is steep (average 11%, max 22%) and narrow, but with 44km of racing to go is too far away from the finish to be a likely place to mount a race-deciding attack.
That said, the racing here is manic as riders do not wish to be caught at the back, where you usually end up walking, ending your race.