The Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Vlaanderens mooiste, Flanders’ finest, De Ronde – call it what you like, but over the years this one-day classic has established itself as a race of equal stature to Milan-SanRemo, or even the hugely popular Paris-Roubaix. Like the latter, the 255km race can be split up into detailed sections where the riders will encounter hills and cobblestones, or indeed usually both together. Cloudy, mostly cool conditions with little wind have been forecast, which should make the racing fast and safe, and even for all riders.
Here last year, he finished 3rd after getting into the decisive three-man breakaway within 5kms of the finish. So far this year: 1st in Strade Bianche, unlucky 2nd in Milan-SanRemo. Then, 22nd in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, and continued to show good form by getting into a two-man breakway in Gent-Wevelgem, however he could not stay away and settled for 13th place. Has the ability to ride almost everyone in the race off his wheel, and will be amongst the selective moves. One of the main contenders. Consider very closely.
Missed a podium finish by only 2secs here last year, where he was a few metres in 4th. 2nd in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 42nd in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, 22nd in Milan-SanRemo, before returning to winning form by finishing 1st in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, and backing up a few days later to finish 1st in Gent-Wevelgem. Is flying at the moment – as is Omega Pharma-QuickStep and the support they offered him last start. Looks very dangerous as the form rider. Fair value. Should be a narrow favourite. Best bet.
9th here last year when he was aggressive, and whilst he was leading close to home he just didn’t have the strength reserve to win. Earlier this season, a 31st in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was promising, followed by a disappointing 87th place finish at Milan Sanremo, over 7mins down due to being involved in a crash. Recently; a DNF in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke made it frustrating, before a 39th place finish in Gent-Wevelgem, only 2mins33secs down showed a small positive glimpse of form, which he was importantly using as a foundation for this race. On that score he now warrants strong consideration for the WIN.
The Belgian champion will go deep into his strength reserves in a race he has been targeting, and he’s not far off a top performance. One of the most talented riders in the peloton. A genuine pirate of the pave. Should be respected. Watch closely.
Coming into good form with an excellent 11th place finish in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, before a very impressive 3rd at Gent-Wevelgem after attacking the peloton on a cobbled-climb. One of the main contenders. Worthy of close consideration for the WIN. Don’t dismiss.
2nd place finish here last year. 2nd place finish in Dwars door Vlaanderen, before backing up in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke to finish 33rd. Good value for an EACH-WAY result. Should give a good sight for a long way. An honest contender. Consider.
1st Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 7th in Dwars door Vlaanderen, 5th in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke. In top form and appears to have been rested for this by not taking the startline in Gent-Wevelgem. Presents as a genuine threat for a podium position with his ferocious ability to attack. One of the main dangers with EACH-WAY prospects. Respect.
6th in Milan-SanRemo, 6th in Dwars door Vlaanderen, 27th in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, 9th in Gent-Wevelgem. Looks stronger than his 38th place finish here last year. Coming into this as a big danger. Don’t overlook.
53rd here last year. This season: DNF in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, 48th in Gent-Wevelgem. Not without a chance of finishing in the top-25 riders over the line, however not at this stage. Ignore.
G Van Avermaet
22nd here last year. And this season: 26th in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, 27th in Gent-Wevelgem. Has the ability to finish on the podium, but will need crucial factors to go in his favour, and questions marks still exist concerning his heel injury. Not at this stage. Take on trust.
Heavily-raced Italian so far this season, with little experience over the cobblestones of Flanders. Finished in 10th place in Milan-SanRemo, and in 6th place in Gent-Wevelgem, last start. Has the talent to finish on the podium, however he won’t be suited by the obstacles. Overlook.
61st here last year. This season: 102nd in Dwars door Vlaanderen, 93rd in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke and over 9mins down. Not even if he’s riding a motorized scooter will he get on the podium. Discount.
E Boasson Hagen
40th here last year. This season: 25th place finish in Milan-SanRemo, 16th in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, 5th in Gent-Wevelgem. May surprise with a good showing in the top-10 riders over the line as he’s finding some strong form. Will need a lot of luck though, and other more fancied riders have better prospects. Take on trust.
37th here last year. This season: 32nd place finish in Milan-SanRemo, 36th in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, then 10mins down in 107th place for Gent-Wevelgem. I’m a fan, and I believe he can win a one-day classic over 200kms with his bar-room-brawler style of riding, founded in the muddy cyclo-cross forests of Europe. However, odds are too short by double. Chances increase in wet conditions. Take on trust.
4th place at Milan-SanRemo, 14th in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, 2nd in Gent-Wevelgem where he wasted energy in an unsuccessful two-man breakway, and ultimately lacked the necessary kick to go over-the-top of the eventual race winner. Over the odds, so some value, however EACH-WAY prospects best. Worthy of very close consideration. An honest contender.
Odds: $34.00 (Non-starter.)
Defending champion here this year, he comes into the race with little form to speak about, however he is an expert over the cobblestones of Flanders, having finished in 15th place in 2009, and in 2nd place in 2008, amongst other results. Should not be discounted for a podium position. Consider.
7th here last year. This season: 23rd in Milan-SanRemo, 19th in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke. Expert classics rider with good results on the cobblestones of Flanders in his career prior. Consider closely.
15th in Milan-SanRemo, 12th in at Gent-Wevelgem. First start here, and hasn’t had much experience over the cobblestones of Flanders, however he has shown up on the podium before, by finishing 3rd in Gent-Wevelgem in 2009, and 3rd in Kuurne-Brussel Kuurne in 2008. Take on trust.
13th here last year, 1min24secs behind. This season: 50th in Dwars door Vlaanderen, 55th in Gent-Wevelgem. Odds too short by up to double. Worth the risk.
12th here last year. This season, 8th in Milan-SanRemo, 9th in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, 22nd in Gent-Wevelgem. Looks strong. Worthy of close consideration. Don’t overlook.
Odds: $41.00 (Non-starter.)
10th here last year when he did a lot of work to bring back the race. Has done nothing of note so far this season, could easily be four times the price without much question. Take on trust.
Fairly lightly raced so far this season – 3rd in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Last year, when he finished 2nd in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad he finished in 11th place at this race. Worthy of some consideration for a podium position, however a top-20 result is most likely. Difficult to discount.
1st here in 2009. He should improve here on his 45th place in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke this season. Experienced Belgian rider who should not be discounted. Under the odds. Hard to have at this stage. Take on trust.
Odds: $55.00 (Non-starter.)
11th here in 2010. This season: 20th in Milan-SanRemo. Pirate on a bicycle. Top-25 showing most likely. Take on trust.
Inexperienced classics rider. Under the odds. Worth the risk. Ignore.
5th here last year, in a season where he finished 1st in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. This season: 24th in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, 26th in Gent-Wevelgem. In fair form, and a top-20 result is most likely. Under the odds. Overlook.
81st in Milan-SanRemo, DNF in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, 11th in Gent-Wevelgem. Under the odds by double. Worthy of some consideration for an EACH-WAY result. Don’t discount.
1st Dwars door Vlaanderen, 25th E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke. Some inexperience here, however he is lightly raced and presents as excellent value for an EACH-WAY result. Don’t discount.
Started the season in winning form, then finished in 10th place in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. 21st in Paris-Roubaix in 2011 suggests a similar result here this time around. Under the odds. Take on trust.
33rd here last year. This season: 6th in in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 26th in Milan-SanRemo, 18th in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, 7th in Gent-Wevelgem. In good form, however his inexperience here will work against his chances to get on the podium. Not highly fancied. Take on trust.
32nd here last year. Last start he finished 25th in Gent-Wevelgem. Not much experience here, however his workhorse ability to suffer for his team presents him as a top-25 candidate. Discount his podium chances on account of his domestique role within his team.
Presents as a tough-as-nails style rider who can put everything into an attack and suffer hard to hold on. 5th in Paris-Roubaix last year was a notable achievement in a career of riding mainly stage races. A top-50 result is most likely. Under the odds. Take on trust.
His best result here was a 28th place finish in 2010. This season: He has raced both the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman without any wins, then 9th in Milan-SanRemo, and 16th in Gent-Wevelgem. Seems to be a class below the best riders here. Ignore.
1: T Boonen.
2: P Gilbert.
3: S Vanmarcke.
Roughie: N Terpstra.