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

Van der Poel, van Aert and Alaphilippe favorites for the Tour of Flanders

The Tour of Flanders is inarguably one of the most brutal and demanding of the five monuments, which themselves represent the very pinnacle of one-day bike racing. This year, barring a miracle, ‘the Ronde’ will also be the only cobbled monument of the spring, what with the cancellation (or at the very least, postponement) of Paris-Roubaix all-but-confirmed.
 
The Tour of Flanders is a race characterised by cobbled sectors and short, sharp climbs – with the ‘bergs’ typically playing a definitive role in the outcome of the race.

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 267km race route comprises 19 bergs this year, with 17 cobbled sections aka "hellingen". The Muur van Geraardsbergen does not feature, unfortunately for fans of neo-baroque architecture. After a flattish and quiet first half, the Oude Kwaremont kicks off the chaos – and features two more times after that. The brutal final sequence of 50 kilometres goes Kwaremont, Stationsberg, Taienberg, Kruisberg, Oude Kwaremont once again and then finally the Paterberg agan.
 
After that it’s 14km of pan flat to the finish line – the perfect terrain for a glorious solo ride to the line after a daring attack or for some cat-and-mouse if a group arrives at the top of the Paterberg together.

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

Oude Kwaremont

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%.

Paterberg

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.

Koppenberg

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.

 
Tag: classics
 
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