European road racing is not the main purview of Cyclocross Magazine—shocking, right?—but each year we like to keep our eyes on some of the Spring Classics that add some pavé, gravel and familiar Flanders hills to their respective routes. The next two weekends are big ones with the Tour of Flanders on Sunday and the famed “Hell of the North” Paris-Roubaix next weekend.
Sunday’s Tour of Flanders route features several cobbled climbs, including the Koppenburg—which you may remember from such bike races as the Koppenburgcross—and more importantly, a number of familiar faces in the Women’s and Men’s races. Both races are part of the WorldTour, so riders such as Marianne Vos, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Wout van Aert will receive a tough test against the world’s best.
Star-Studded Women’s Ronde Van Vlaanderen
The Women’s Tour of Flanders was first held in 2004, and the 15th edition of the race is 151km long. The route starts and ends in Oudenaarde, which is the town closest to the Koppenburg, and this year it features 11 major climbs and 7 total sections of pavé. Unfortunately for ’cross fans, the Koppenburg is not part of the route. However, just as the Men’s race does, the Women will finish with the noted Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climb combo, the latter of which is just 13km from the finish in Oudenaarde.
The defending champion—and first American to win the race—is a former cyclocrosser in Team Sunweb’s Coryn Rivera, who raced at Marian University and was last seen (cyclocrossly speaking) taking second behind Emily Shields at the 2015 Collegiate Nationals.
The ’cross-familiar part of the Women’s start list is headlined by Marianne Vos, who is one of the most decorated riders since the race’s inception. Vos won in 2013 and has a second and two thirds to her name. Other cyclocrossers on the start list include Rivera’s Sunweb teammate Lucinda Brand, Christine Majerus of Boels-Dolmans, Ferrand-Prevot of Canyon-SRAM, Nikola Noskova of Bepink Cogeas and Thalita de Jong of Experza-Footlogix.
The Women’s race starts at 11 a.m. Belgian time and is expected to finish about 4 hours later, which is around 9 a.m. Eastern. The last hour of the Women’s race will be broadcast via the Belgian network Canvas. The broadcast should be live starting at about 2 p.m. local time, which is 8 a.m. EDT.
More Women’s race info: rondevanvlaanderen.be
Van Aert Heads to ’Cross Motherland on the Road
After his third-straight win at Worlds, Wout van Aert said he is targeting next weekend’s Paris-Roubaix, and this weekend he will get a warm-up at the Tour of Flanders. Van Aert’s Veranda’s Willems-Crelan team is one of the seven Pro Continental teams that received invites for Sunday’s race.
Van Aert’s Spring Classics campaign has gone well, with the young rider acquitting himself well against WorldTour fields. His spring campaign thus far reached its acme with his third-place finish on the white gravel roads of the Strade Bianche in Italy earlier this month. Joining Van Aert is another three-time cyclocross world champion in Quick-Step Floors’ Zdenek Stybar. Stybar is also eying Paris-Roubaix after picking up his second career runner-up spot at the famed cobbled classic in 2017.
The Men’s race was first held in 1913, and this year’s race is the 102nd edition of the Flandrian classic. The 2018 route is 267km long, starting outside Antwerp and ending in Oudenaarde along the Minderbroederstraat (say that five times fast). The route features 18 climbs, including the Koppenburg and three trips up the Oude Kwaremont. The Koppenburg kicks off a series of six mostly cobbled climbs in the last 45km of the course where the racing action reaches its fever pitch.
Last year, Phillipe Gilbert of Quick-Step Floors got a jump on his competitors by attacking solo on the second climb of the Oude Kwaremont and riding solo for the last 55km to take the win. In 2018, Gilbert will try to become the first male rider to win back-to-back since Fabian Cancellara did so in 2013 and 2014. Dutch rider Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel is the only woman to do so after wins in 2005 and 2006.
The Men’s race starts at 10:30 a.m. Belgian time (4:30 a.m. EST) and is expected to finish around 11 a.m. EDT. Subscription-based Fubo.tv will be streaming the race with English commentary in the U.S. (it offers a seven-day free trial), and it is also expected to be available via the Belgian network Één.
More Men’s race info: rondevanvlaanderen.be