31 Mar Ronde van Vlaanderen Preview (1.WWT)
Four weeks after the inaugural race of the second UCI WWT series, it is now turn for Oudenaarde, East Flanders. The fourteenth edition of Ronde van Vlaanderen (a.k.a. Tour des Flandres and previously part of the defunct UCI Road Women’s World Cup) will witness the fifth round of the UCI Women’s World Tour on Sunday 2 April 2017. Flanders Classics, race organisers, will meet intense fan and rider demands bringing live television broadcasting to one of the most iconic races of the international calendar, where the cobblestones, hills and wind of the provinces of Hainaut, West Flanders and East Flanders provide an ideal scenario for cycling.
Together with the live TV broadcasting, the comeback of the Muur van Geraardsbergen bring more media attraction to one of the most awaited races of the international women’s calendar. De Ronde van Vlaanderen, which has been held uninterruptedly since 2004, will be joined this year by Liège-Bastogne-Liège as the only “Cycling Monuments” that host a women’s race as well.
Dutch ex-rider Mirjam Melchers-van Poppel and German ex-rider Judith Arndt are the winning record holders of the race with two victories each. Of the active riders only Dutch Annemiek van Vleuten, Marianne Vos and Ellen van Dijk, Italian Elisa Longo Borghini and British Lizzie Deignan have won the race once.
During the first four rounds of the second UCI WWT series we have witnessed four different winners (Elisa Longo Borghini, Amalie Dideriksen, Coryn Rivera and Lotta Lepistö) from four different teams (Wiggle-High5, Boels-Dolmans, Team Sunweb and Cervélo Bigla) corraborating the increasing competition level that women’s cycling is facing. What will Ronde van Vlaanderen bring?
Sunday, 2 April 2017, local time from 10:55 am until 15:00 pm approx (UTC+2)
Route 153.2km: Oudenaarde – Oudenaarde
The course, which has been lengthen 13 kilometres and added two climbs, will feature twelve climbs and five cobblestones sectors (Lange Munte, Lippenhovestraat, Paddestraat, Holleveg and Haaghoek, that are grouped together between the start and the fourth hill). The 2017 edition classified hills are the following ones:
- Achterberg at mark 56.1km -> 1500m long at an average 5% gradient.
- Eikenberg at mark 62.7km-> 1200m long at an average 5.2% gradient.
- Wolvenberg at mark 65.8km -> 645m long at an average 7.9% gradient.
- Leberg at mark 74.6km -> 950m long at an average 4.2% gradient.
- Berendries at mark 78.7km -> 940m long at an average 7% gradient.
- Tenbosse at mark 83.5km -> 450m long at an average 6.9% gradient.
- Muur-Kapelmuur at mark 94km -> 750m long at an average 8.1% gradient.
- Pottelberg at mark 112.6km -> 1353m long at an average 6.5% gradient.
- Kanarieberg at mark 118.4km -> 1000m long at an average 7.7% gradient.
- Kruisberg at mark 124.8km -> 2500m long at an average 5.0% gradient.
- Oude Kwaremont at mark 136.6km -> 2200m long at an average 4.0% gradient.
- Paterberg at mark 140.1km -> 360m long at an average 12.9% gradient.
After about 2km of neutralisation, the 153.2 kilometres of 2017 Ronde van Vlaanderen race course will start. The course has been modified from previous editions with its iconic and characteristic Muur-Kapelmuur making a long-awaited comeback, although it won’t be featured in the final part of the race. The village of Oudenaarde will host once again both the start and the finish line of the 14th edition of Ronde van Vlaanderen. The peloton will cover an initial 46-kilometre featuring the first three cobble sectors of the race (Lange Munte at mark 15, Lippenhovestraat at mark 36 and Paddestraat at mark 37.5) totalling 5600 metres of cobblestones. Once the peloton reaches back Oudenaarde, they will head West towards Geraardsbergen where the Muur awaits, entering a 38-kilometre sector that features seven hills and two cobblestone segment, that will likely cause important front selection. After facing the Kapelmuur riders will go back to Oudenaarde. Then the international peloton will have to deal with the Pottelberg, Kanarieberg and Kruisberg hills as the penultimate chance to break the race into piece, with Oude Kwaremont (at mark 136.6km) and Paterberg (with 13 kilometres to go) as the final difficulties to shatter an already (likely) selected group.
Favourites & Outsiders
Our favourite: Kasia Niewiadoma
Once again, as Marianne Vos misses Ronde van Vlaanderen, the 22-year-old Polish rider Kasia Niewiadoma will assume leading duties for Dutch team WM3 Energie. During this season Polish national champion (both road race and time trial) has kept her racing days to a minimum, counting them for great performances and good results proving she is on track to a face season that will likely be a turning point in her career, as her new role at WM3 Energie (after Rabobank-Liv farewell) will demand more results and responsibilities from the lightweight Polish rider. Niewadoma is our favourite to claim her first UCI WWT win at Ronde van Vlaanderen, a victory that will peak her great classics season and that will remind us not to merely quote her as a climber.
Our outsider: Tiffany Cromwell
Despite her slower start to the season, Australian rider Tiffany Cromwell has already delivered some good performances, scoring some good results such as finishing third and sixth at Le Samyn des Dames and Pajot Hills respectively. In Flanders Cromwell will try to improve her 2014 top-10 position. Along with her Canyon SRAM teammates she forms part of very strong and versatile roster with several winning chances and tactics to play at one of the most awaited races of the international calendar.
Sheyla Gutiérrez (Cylance), Empar Fèlix, Bea Gómez, Alicia González, Belén López, Eider Merino and Alba Teruel (Lointek), Irati Idirin, Naia Leonet and Lourdes Oyarbide (Bizkaia Durango) will be our Spanish representatives at the 2017 edition of Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Who to follow
Then world champion Lizzie Deignan (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team) won in Oudenaarde, East Flanders continuing Boels Dolmans outstanding winning streak. It was her first victory in her third participation at Ronde van Vlaanderen. The road world, Commonwealth and national champion got away with Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5) just after the Oude Kwaremont and the duo managed to stay away from the eight-rider chasing group. Despite the chasing efforts of four riders at the chasing group, Emma and Lizzie had respectively one and three teammates at the group that obviously did not collaborate on the chase, the two riders were able to maintain their gap until the finish line. In a very close sprint the British rider defeated the Swedish.
How to follow the race
The race will be live streamed via Proximus and Sporza. Proximus will stream and broadcast the race live. Sporza will support the event and during the Men Elite race, they will bring the most important passages of the women’s race.
Highlights at UCI channel and extensive summary after the arrival of the men’s race.
A few Twitter accounts and hashtags (among others) to follow the race:
A few Facebook accounts: