Peter Sagan soloed to victory in 2016 after heading out on his own on the Paterberg to finish almost half a minute ahead of Fabian Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke. Once again, the World Champion is the man to beat in the 2017 Tour of Flanders. He was extremely strong in Milan-San Remo (although Kwiatkowski took the flowers) and powered to glory in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and twice in the Tirreno-Adriatico.
Olympic Champion Greg Van Avermaet is Sagan’s main rival. Last year he crashed with 100 kilometres remaining and was forced to abandon with a broken collar bone. Since then he repeatedly stated his main goal for 2017 in winning the Tour of Flanders. In the frst race of the Flemish Classics season, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Van Avermaet outsprinted Sagan.
QuickStep brings a strong squad with record holder Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Philippe Gilbert Zdenek Stybar all capable to win the race. Speaking of strong squads: Sky features Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe, while Trek has several irons in the fire also – John Degenkolb and Jasper Stuyven.
Contenders in the 2017 Tour of Flanders who tasted the sweetness of success in ‘Vlaanderens Mooiste’ are Stijn Devolder (2008, 2009), Tom Boonen (2005, 2006, 2012), Alexander Kristoff (2015) and Peter Sagan.
Greg Van Avermaet is the most successful rider in Flanders this spring. ‘Golden Greg’ took Omloop het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, while Peter Sagan outperformed him in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Philippe Gilbert could be a serious dark horse. The former King of the Ardennes Classics seems reinvigorated with his new squad QuickStep and finished in second in Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 before he took last week’s Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.
Favourites Tour of Flanders 2017
*** Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet, Sep Vanmarcke, Oliver Naesen, Phlippe Gilbert
** Tom Boonen, Alexander Kristoff, Niki Terpstra, John Degenkolb, Luke Rowe, Jasper Stuyven
* Tiesj Benoot, Ian Stannard, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Arnaud Démare, Dylan van Baarle, Tony Martin