Ronde van Vlaanderen preview

Sources: Race website, Sat24.com, Cronoescalada

Watch live on Sunday here http://www.proximustv.be/fr/cyclisme/flanders-classics/tourdesflandresfemmes

Official map and route profile

map

profilefl

Link to interactive route in Cronoescalada

Google Streetview recon

Line up on the race website is up to date, but you can check against Cycling Fever to be certain. Illness seems to be knocking out riders again with a lot of last minute changes.

Weather on the day will be surprisingly warm at 19 degrees Celcius, with a SSE wind of around 21km/h.

There are 10 climbs at Wolvenberg (46km), Molenberg (58km), Leberg (79km), Hostellerie (83km), Valkenberg (88km), Kaperij (99km), Kanarieberg (106km), Kruisberg/Hotend (115km), Oude Kwaremont (124km) and Paterberg (128km). Cobbles are at 46km, 50km, 53km, 63km and 76km.

The riders are going to need a lot of Haribo to get through this one. Virtually identical to the route last year, the start in Oudenaarde rolls out for a couple of uneventful kms until it reaches Zingem, and the route narrows after some sharps turns. Any escapees will likely be brought back quickly by the time the peloton moves towards Oosterzele with a sidewind in the open countryside. (There seem to be some unlisted cobbles at around 12km in, although Google maps may be out of date.) The next stretches of road are flat and wide, looping back in a SW direction until Oudenaarde at the 39km mark. If there are contenders stuck in a bad place at this point then they’ll have to keep calm and ride until Zottegem because it’s the first 2 climbs with 3 sets of cobbles along very narrow roads. After a brief respite and a chance to reposition it’s back to cobbles once more and the next 4 climbs before another wide stretch of road can be found. If there are any leaders with a minute on the chasers by 100km then it’s probably game over, as the race goes past Ronse and into the last 4 climbs. The last turn at Kerkhove brings the riders back on tarmac and a straightish run of almost 10km to the finish back in Oudenaarde. This is where last years winner Elisa Longo Borghini attacked to finish solo.

At 141.2km it’s longer than most races, making experience more of an advantage than ever. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) has already stated she wants this, so if the other teams haven’t chosen one or two protected riders then they’ve already lost. Boels have 2014 winner Van Dijk along with Chantal Blaak, Evelyn Stevens, Christine Majerus and Megan Guarnier. Van Dijk rather than Blaak will likely step in should Armitstead get caught out. Wiggle H5 have last years winner in Borghini and runner up Jolien D’Hoore along with Emma Johansson, Amy Pieters, Chloe Hosking and Audrey Cordon Ragot. An experienced, more than capable team. They are being outgunned by Boels for wins and Orica AIS and RaboLiv for team performance. Evenly matched with Boels, if they can’t get a podium place with this team then I think they’ll need more than a telling off from their DS to get out of their funk. RaboLiv have stirred from their hibernation, and with the glow of Marianne Vos’ return (even though she’s not racing here) they must be feeling pretty good right now. With Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Anna van der Breggen they have two potential winners who have both made the top 10 the last 2 years running. Ferrand Prevot has hit the ground running in her first two races this year (11th in Strade Bianche and 4th in Pajot Hills). Orica AIS have Annemiek van Vleuten who has just missed out on the places twice in a row. She has a supportive team that has improved considerably compared to this part of the season last year. Canyon SRAM bring Elena Cecchini and Alena Amialiusik as their strong finishers, with Lisa Brennauer starting to improve too, plus Barbara Guarischi back from injury. Cervelo Bigla’s Ashley Moolman Pasio is not quite at the level of last year when she was 10th, so they will probably ride for Lotta Lepisto who was able to keep up with Vos at Pajot Hills. Cylance are without Shelley Olds so their team of 5 will probably support Rosella Ratto. Lotto Soudal Ladies bring back Claudia Lichtenburg and again bring a strong team with Sofie de Vuyst, Susanna Zorzi, Lotte Kopecky, Jessie Daams and Liselot Decroix.I don’t think Hitec are targeting this race as they have better chances at Energiewacht next week, but they have Lauren Kitchen and Charlotte Becker should an opportunity arise. Tibco-SVB have a good supportive team for Joanne Kiesanowski and Lauren Stephens. Liv Plantur bring Leah Kirchmann, and perhaps Floortje Mackaij will have a crack to put the disappointment of Gent Wevelgem behind her. UHC’s Coryn Rivera has a good chance of getting some points here, which won’t hurt her Rio 2016 ambitions. Ale Cipollini have their solid contenders in Marta Bastianell and Malgorzata Jansinska. PC Futuroscope 86 have Roxane Fournier and Lensworld Zennata Etixx will be supporting an on form Maria Giulia Confalonieri. Lares Waowdeals will be behind Monique van de Ree and perhaps Eileen Roe too. Others teams include BePink (Lex Albrecht), Parkhotel Valkenburg (Jip van den Bos, Janneke Ensking), TSVL Etixx Guill D’or (Kelly Druyts), Servetto Footon (Nicole Brandli), Team Inpa Bianchi (Sara Olsson) and BMS Birn (Camilla Mollebro). The start list is completed by BTC City Ljubljana, Astana, Twenty 16, Aromitalia Vaiano, Lointek, Podium Ambition, Top Girls Fassa Bortolo and Drops.

I’ll think it’ll be close between Boels and RaboLiv ultimately. I’ll go for Ferrand Prevot.