The first ‘helling’, Tiegemberg, appears after 10 kilometres. It’s as if it’s misplaced by the organisation, since the first hour of racing is easygoing for the rest. The next hurdle is the pavé of the de Huisepontweg, which is after 50 kilometres, where the action more or less begins.
Climbs up the Korte Aast and Wolvenberg precede de ‘kinderkopjes’ of the Kerkgate and Jagerij. By now, the race is halfway and the easygoing opener is definitely done and dusted. The combination of Molenberg, Marlboroughstraat, Berendries and Valkenberg within 14 kilometres is a solid way to get things going. Let’s call it the pre-finale to seperate the women from the girls. It precedes the last calm phase of almost 20 kilometres. From then on, it’s all systems go.
The Koppenberg is crested with 44.6 kilometres left to race. Every 5 kilometres or so a new hill appears with a stretch of pavé just before it, like some sort of welcome mat. In order of appearance the riders hit the Mariaborrestraat, Steenbeendries, Stationsberg and Taaienberg.
And on we go, into the finale. The riders tackle the Kruisberg/Hotond with 26 kilometres remaining to continue towards the awe-inspiring combo Oude Kwaremont/Paterberg. Both paved with cobbles, the Oude Kwaremont is a 2.2 kilometres climb at 4% and the Paterberg is 360 metres long and excessively steep. The average gradient sits at 12.9% and the toughest ramps go up at an unforgiving 20%.
After the Paterberg there are 13.3 kilometres remaining. On the flat.
SD Worx dominated last year’s finale. Marlen Reusser was on the attack with Brodie Chapman on Oude Kwaremont before Annemiek van Vleuten bridges\d across on Paterberg with a number of riders holding on for dear life in her slipstream. When she reached the summit only Lotte Kopecky and Marlen Reusser survived the carnage. Momenets later Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Brodie Chapman and Kasia Niewiadoma came clawing back.
Van den Broek-Blaak was still fresh enough to accelerate on the flat and Van Vleuten closed down the gap with Kopecky in her wheel. A perfect situation for SD Worx and the team played it perfectly. Kopecky outsprinted Van Vleuten and 2 seconds later Van den Broek-Blaak crossed the line celebrating.
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Tour of Flanders for women 2023: route, profiles, more
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