2021 Ronde van Vlaanderen: Tour of Flanders Preview

That time of year is upon us once again. On Sunday, April Fourth the men’s and women’s elite versions of the Ronde van Vlaanderen will be contested. 


The buildup of Flemish Cycling Week is behind us, and all that remains is the main event itself.


In 2021, we will have to wait a little bit longer than usual for the conclusion of the spring classics campaign. Paris-Roubaix, originally scheduled for April 11th, has been postponed to October due to the lockdown in France. 


However, that should take nothing away for De Ronde. Here is everything you need to know ahead of the second monument of the season.


The Route



The men’s race will cover 263.7 kilometers from Antwerp to Oudenaarde. The women’s race will start and finish in Oudenaarde, covering 152 kilometers along the way.


Both races will take on iconic cobbled climbs such as the Molenberg, Kanarieberg and Taaienberg. 


The outcome of each event is also likely to be significantly impacted by the Oude Kwaremont – Paterberg combination, which appears for the final time about 14 kilometers from the line.


Men’s Favorites



As they were at Sanremo, the three big guns of Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe are the betting favorites for De Ronde. Coming off of an impressive win at Gent-Wevelgem, van Aert gets the nod as top choice this time around.


Alaphilippe, van der Poel and van Aert deserve the recognition of being the favorites. However, we have seen enough over the past few weeks to know that the star-studded trio is beatable. 


Danish champion Kasper Asgreen pulled off a great solo win at E3 Saxo Bank Classic eight days ago. The fact that he is Alaphilippe’s teammate just makes him even more dangerous.


Dylan van Baarle has been on great form this spring. He picked up two top tens at E3 and Gent-Wevelgem before capping it off with victory at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday.


Trek – Segafredo has been somewhat hit or miss this season. They were forced to pull out of Gent-Wevelgem due to Covid protocol, so current form is somewhat of a mystery. However, they will have a strong lineup with MSR winner Jasper Stuyven and former World Champion Mads Pedersen at their disposal. 


Peter Sagan also deserves a mention. There were some questions about his condition after a spell with Covid. However, 4th place at Milano-Sanremo and a great stage win in Catalunya suggests he has some vintage form in his legs.


Other former champions on the start list include Alberto Bettiol, Niki Terpstra and Alexander Kristoff. 


Women’s Favorites



A season ago, the 2020 Ronde van Vlaanderen was dominated by Boels – Dolmans. Now named SD Worx, the team still has the firepower to control the race in a similar manner. All six of their riders have the ability to win this race, and they work extremely well together. 


Once again, we have seen recent evidence that SD Worx can be beaten. There have been plenty of other names who have been riding well this spring.


Back at the beginning of March, Lotte Kopecky secured victory at Le Samyn. Since then, she has been there or thereabouts in all the Belgian classics. As the reigning Belgian Champion, she will have an extra bit of motivation for Flanders.


Grace Brown has had a very good season so far. The Aussie won the Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne on the 25th of March. She has also finished in the top ten at several other Belgian classics like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Dwars door Vlaanderen.


The undisputed GOAT of women’s cycling, Marianne Vos, showed impressive form to win Gent-Wevelgem last week. She is also a former winner of De Ronde, having come out on top back in 2013.


By her standards, Annemiek van Vleuten has had a relatively quiet first season at Movistar thus far. However, a great win at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday could be a sign that big things are in store for the European Champion. 


Lastly, the 21-year-old Emma Norsgaard deserves a mention. The Dane has been so close to securing a big victory this season. Norsgaard has ridden in five Belgian classics this season. In those races, she has three second places and two additional top tens. 


Final Thoughts


If you are looking for a bike race that is truly the pride and joy of its local community, look no further than the Ronde van Vlaanderen.


The event as a whole is not quite the same without the fans and the Flemish flags waving on the side of the road. However, the racing will still be phenomenal. 


The combination of history, local passion, current stars and the iconic cobbled bergs make Ronde van Vlaanderen one of the most special days of the cycling season. 


My Picks: Wout van Aert and Emma Norsgaard


– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)

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