What to expect from the Tour of Flanders

I promised you a Tour of Flanders preview, but then realised that I’ve basically been drip feeding you just such a thing since the autumn. This is why there are quite a lot of links below. You’ve probably forgotten most of it though, so why not open all the linked articles in new tabs and quaff?

Tour of Flanders route

Here’s how they’ve changed the route, but the style of racing always remains the same.

Sometimes it’s cobbles, sometimes it’s a climb and quite often it’s a cobbled climb. What’s just as important is the absolute shit-fight to be in position for the start of any given section. The race uses narrow roads, so only a few riders can be at the front and yet everyone wants to be at the front. How does that work?

In short, people get tired and people take risks. When tired people take risks, they crash, holding up everyone behind. These delays only serve to emphasise how it is imperative to be at the front. Everything therefore goes up a notch. You have to be strong to thrive in this world and even if you succeed in getting a good position, this is your reward.

Tour of Flanders contenders

I listed a handful of cobbled classics riders to watch earlier in the year, but if I had to keep it down to three, it would be Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan.

As for the Brits, the nation’s best hope, Ian Stannard, has a fractured spine. These men are hard, but even they consider a broken back to be somewhat debilitating. Stannard has therefore been replaced by… Bradley Wiggins.

Don’t expect much of Wiggo though. His season thus far’s involved a lot of talk, but not much action. While he claims he wants to be a protagonist at Paris-Roubaix next week, he hasn’t done any cobbled races yet. Also, he’s not really someone who does well on short steep climbs. He’ll instead be supporting Geraint Thomas, who’s got a reasonable chance, provided he doesn’t crash. Which he will.

Atmosphere

Annoyingly, the race is only on Eurosport and not ITV4. This is a shame, because Belgian fans are passionate/mental and it’s one race where the crowds rival those seen in the Tour de France. It mostly looks like this and here’s what you can expect from the racing.

That said, if it’s pissing it down on Sunday and you find yourself with nowt to do, it might be worth subscribing to the Eurosport player for a month because that’ll cover all the remaining spring classics: this race, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold, La Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I get nothing if you sign up, by the way (which is annoying, because I reckon a couple of you will).