The Tour of Flanders sets off from Antwerp and the riders get a first taste of cobbles after roughly 100 kilometres. The pavé on the Lippenhovenstraat and Paddestraat appear in quick succession, but, to be frank, the first half of the race is nothing special. The eager anticipation of what’s in store gives the race its edge at this stage.
The riders tackle the first climb exactly halfway. After the Oude Kwaremont De Ronde intensifies with a new obstacle every 10 kilometres or so. Via climbs up the Kortekeer and the Achterberg the route continues to the cobbles of the Holleweg and onto Wolvenberg before Kerkgate and Jagerij serves yet more cobbled portions. And on it goes to the climbing combo Molenberg, Marlboroughstraat, Berendries and Valkenberg, all crammed together within 15 kilometres.
There is is still 88.5 kilometres to go after the Valkenberg. A relatively calm phase of 34 kilometres – with only Berg Ten Houte and Kanarieberg – makes way for a brutal finale.
The Tour of Flanders really is on fire when the riders tackle the Oude Kwaremont/Paterberg combo for the first time. This is an exciting phase with Koppenberg, the cobbled Mariaborrestraat, Steenbeekdries and Taaienberg in rapid succession. To be precise, within 10 kilometres.
With 30 kilometres left the riders tackle the Kruisberg/Hotond before the Oude Kwaremont makes its last appearance inside the final 20 kilometres. The cobbled climb is 2,200 metres long and averages 4%, while the Paterberg is quite the opposite. Only 360 metres long, but definitely a killer with its average gradient of 12.9% and steepest ramp of 20.3%.
The last 13.3 kilometres of the Tour of Flanders are flat.
The section after the Kruisberg/Hotond proved to be crucial last year. Kasper Asgreen attacked and only Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel were able to follow his move. The Dutchman then dropped his rivals on the steepest section of the Oude Kwaremont, but Asgreen regained contact just after the top. They crested the Paterberg together before the Dane outsprinted Van der Poel on the line.
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