At 266.5 kilometres and featuring eighteen (cobbled) climbs, the Tour of Flanders is a war of attrition. Virtually all ‘hellingen’ are situated in the second half of the race, while the route races from one climb to the next in the last 80 kilometres. The feared and revered Oude Kwaremont/Paterberg combo are the last obstacles. After the Paterberg there are 13,2 kilometres left.
Last two editions were won after a solo. Two years ago, Peter Sagan soloed to victory after heading out on his own the Paterberg. And last year, Philippe Gilbert kicked it up a notch and rode alone for more than 50 kilometres before winning the race in heroic style. What’s it going to be this year?
Besides Gilbert and Sagan there are two more contenders who did win the Tour of Flanders before – Alexander Kristoff (2015) and Stijn Devolder (2009, 2008).
Tiesj Benoot (Strade Bianche), Vincenzo Nibali (Milan-San Remo), Niki Terpstra (E3 Harelbeke), Peter Sagan (Gent-Wevelgem) and Yves Lampaert (Dwars door Vlaanderen) were victorious in the major Classics of 2018. Winning the GC’s of the Volta ao Algarve and Tirreno-Adriatico, Michal Kwiatkowski is in fine form, too.
All mentioned riders are lined-up in Flanders’ Finest.
Nibali’s appearance is all the more interesting since he never rode Flanders before. Amidst all specialists one would argue that he can’t win the race. Yet, who thought the Shark would pocket Milan-San Remo after a brilliant solo on the Poggio? If he is to win the Tour of Flanders Nibali would have won three consecutive Monuments: Tour of Lombardy, Milaan-San Remo and Sunday’s High Mass in Flanders.
Favourites 2018 Tour of Flanders
***** Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Sagan, Sep Vanmarcke, Michal Kwiatkowski
**** Philippe Gilbert, Tiesj Benoot, Niki Terpstra, Gianni Moscon
*** Dylan van Baarle, Oliver Naesen, Jasper Stuyven, Luke Durbridge
** Vincenzo Nibali, Alexander Kristoff, Zdenek Stybar, Wout Van Aert
* Edvald Boasson Hagen, Edward Theuns, Sonny Colbrelli, Sebastian Langeveld