At 270.1 kilometres and featuring seventeen (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 three editions were won with a solo. Two years ago, Peter Sagan powered to victory after heading out on his own on the Paterberg. In 2017, Philippe Gilbert kicked it up a notch and rode alone for more than 50 kilometres before winning the race in heroic style, while Niki Terstra started his long-range attack with 30 kilometres remaining. What’s it going to be this year?
So we have Terpstra, Gilbert and Sagan as former winners at the start, but there are two more contenders who won the Tour of Flanders before: Alexander Kristoff (2015) and Stijn Devolder (2009, 2008). Devolder is on domestique duty these years and he will be trying to navigate the talented Dutch Champion Mathieu van der Poel to his first Monument victory in his first ever Monument.
Jungels and Stybar are the stars of the Flemish Classics until now. The Czech won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and last E3 BinckBank Classic after a perfect preparation by Jungels. The Luxembourg champion himself won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with an impressive solo. Alexander Kristoff popped up out of nowhere when he sprinted to victory in a windy edition of Gent-Wevelgem, while Mathieu van der Poel outgunned a group with Jungels and Tiesj Benoot in last Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen.
Favourites 2019 Tour of Flanders
***** Mathieu van der Poel, Wout Van Aert, Bob Jungels
**** Peter Sagan, Dylan van Baarle, Zdenek Stybar
*** Oliver Naesen, Mads Pedersen, Tiesj Benoot, Niki Terpstra
** Sep Vanmarcke, Yves Lampaert, Philippe Gilbert, Greg Van Avermaet
* Michael Matthews, Luke Rowe, Michael Valgren, Magnus Cort, Matteo Trentin