105th Ronde van Vlaanderen: April 4th, 2021

The Missa Solemnis of the Flemish cycling season is coming up again, only half a year after the previous one. It's de Ronde van Vlaanderen, also known as the Tour of Flanders, le Tour des Flandres, il Giro delle Fiandre, die Flandern-Rundfahrt or Тур Фландрии. Over a distance of 254.3 km the participants will ride from Antwerp to Oudenaarde, facing a swift succession of short, steep hills and cobblestones. Like every year the weather will be dry and sunny (followed by rain on Monday).

How big will the Big Three be? Can a pack of wolves thwart the plans of strong individuals? Can a former world champion be at his best after a week of quarantine? Who will be in the long break? Which outsiders will surprise us? Will we witness the resurrection of Peter Sagan on Easter Sunday? All these questions will soon be answered.




Climbs:
  1. Katteberg (152 km) [600 m; 6%]
  2. Oude Kwaremont (123 km) [2200 m; 4%]
  3. Kortekeer (121 km) [1260 m; 6.4%]
  4. Eikenberg (115 km) [1200 m; 5.2%]
  5. Wolvenberg (112 km) [650 m; 7.9%]
  6. Molenberg (102 km) [460 m; 7%]
  7. Marlboroughstraat (98 km) [2040 m; 3%]
  8. Berendries (94 km) [940 m; 7%]
  9. Valkenberg (88 km) [550 m; 8.2%]
  10. Berg Ten Houte (76 km) [1100 m; 6%]
  11. Kanarieberg (71 km) [1000 m; 7.7%]
  12. Oude Kwaremont (55 km) [2200 m; 4%]
  13. Paterberg (51 km) [360 m; 12.9%]
  14. Koppenberg (45 km) [600 m; 11.6%]
  15. Steenbeekdries (39 km) [700 m; 5.3%]
  16. Taaienberg (37 km) [530 m; 6.6%]
  17. Kruisberg-Hotond (26.5 km) [2500 m; 5%]
  18. Oude Kwaremont (16.7 km) [2200 m; 4%]
  19. Paterberg (13.2 km) [360 m; 12.9%]
Flat cobbled sections:
  1. Lippenhovestraat (169 km)
  2. Paddestraat (167 km)
  3. Holleweg (151 km)
  4. Holleweg (143 km)
  5. Karel Martelstraat (110 km)
  6. Jagerij (108 km)
  7. Mariaborrestraat (41 km)
Recent winners:
2011 Nick Nuyens
2012 Tom Boonen
2013 Fabian Cancellara
2014 Fabian Cancellara
2015 Alexander Kristoff
2016 Peter Sagan
2017 Philippe Gilbert
2018 Niki Terpstra
2019 Alberto Bettiol
2020 Mathieu van der Poel
2021 ???

Multiple winners:
3x Achiel Buysse, Florenzo Magni, Eric Leman, Johan Museeuw, Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara

The women's race will be held for the 18th time. They will start and finish in Oudenaarde over a distance of 136 km, hammering eleven climbs and three cobbled sections.



Recent winners (women):
2011 Annemiek van Vleuten
2012 Judith Arndt
2013 Marianne Vos
2014 Ellen van Dijk
2015 Elisa Longo Borghini
2016 Lizzie Armitstead
2017 Coryn Rivera
2018 Anna van der Breggen
2019 Marta Bastianelli
2020 Chantal van den Broek-Blaak
2021 ???

Multiple winners (women):
2x Mirjam Melchers, Judith Arndt

Let's hope for another memorable fight on the Flemish cobblestones!
 
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It breaks my heart that Greg is not on that winners list.

He's without any doubt the best rider in the history of the Ronde van Vlaanderen without ever winning it. Pure bad luck in 2016 and 2017 while being top favourite, no fitting pieces of the puzzle in 2015 en 2014. How that last one unfolded, still gets me nauseous.

It's the race of his dreams and I trully hope he can win it one day. But it will be incredibly hard.

Never give up.
 
It breaks my heart that Greg is not on that winners list.

He's without any doubt the best rider in the history of the Ronde van Vlaanderen without ever winning it. Pure bad luck in 2016 and 2017 while being top favourite, no fitting pieces of the puzzle in 2015 en 2014. How that last one unfolded, still gets me nauseous.

It's the race of his dreams and I trully hope he can win it one day. But it will be incredibly hard.

Never give up.
Will agree with you that I would love GVA to be on that list and I hope that when he is not a favourite he could slip away...
But Sean Kelly might have something to say about the best rider in the history of the Ronde van Vlaanderen not to win...
 
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Best rider to not win Flanders is hard to rate. There are a lot of legendary riders who have never won Flanders for various - and obvious - reasons. For best Flanders rider to not win Flanders, I'd say that Van Avermaet is a good call (as is Kelly), but I'd nominate Frans Verbeeck who between 1969 and 1977 finished 8, 4, 16, 3, 7, 2, 2, 9 and 6 as well.
 
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Van Avermaet: 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10
Verbeeck: 2, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9
Kelly: 2, 2, 2, 4, 8
Moser: 2, 2, 4, 7
Maertens: 2, 5, 6, 8, 8

I'd say Greg has the upper hand here. He animated the finale more than the other guys (trademark Paterberg presence) and was more in contention than for instance Kelly, who only got his honorary places in group sprints and sprinted for victory just the once. Verbeeck has an amazing track record too, but those were other times with a much smaller 'top level field'. Okay, he had to battle Merckx and other legends, but Greg faced Boonen and Cancellara who are 2 of the very best cobblestone riders ever (Boonen actually being the best) and modern phenomenons whose names I don't need to write down. Also GVA broke his collarbone when being a very big favourite, ánd he is still counting (c'mon you old man) .

Safe to say: all the riders above would deserve a spot on the Ronde van Vlaanderen palmares. But (un)fortunately that's not how it works.
 
Maertens has a cobble in the window of the Ronde museum as the “moral” winner in 1977 (he had been disqualified during the race but kept riding, and working with Roger de Vlaeminck). It is alleged he was paid by Roger to keep riding after been disqualified en route for illegal wheel change.
 
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The best rider not to win Flanders is Remco Evenepoel. Other contenders are Julian Alaphilippe and Wout Van Aert.

Fun fact:
Flanders is held twice in less than 180 days.
Not so fun fact:
Roubaix won't be held once in more than 2.5 years, looking at Macron's speech about the lay of the land.
 
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Insane that no active rider, male or female, has won this race twice. Goes to show that, in spite of the key attacks usually happening in the same handful of places, this is one of the hardest races to master.
The only active riders to have won any single monument twice or more are Valverde (LBL x 4), Gilbert, and Nibali (GdL x2 each). I think that's more an indicator of how open and competitive bike racing in the classics currently is, than of how difficult to win this particular race is.
 
Van Avermaet: 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10
Verbeeck: 2, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9
Kelly: 2, 2, 2, 4, 8
Moser: 2, 2, 4, 7
Maertens: 2, 5, 6, 8, 8

I'd say Greg has the upper hand here. He animated the finale more than the other guys (trademark Paterberg presence) and was more in contention than for instance Kelly, who only got his honorary places in group sprints and sprinted for victory just the once. Verbeeck has an amazing track record too, but those were other times with a much smaller 'top level field'. Okay, he had to battle Merckx and other legends, but Greg faced Boonen and Cancellara who are 2 of the very best cobblestone riders ever (Boonen actually being the best) and modern phenomenons whose names I don't need to write down. Also GVA broke his collarbone when being a very big favourite, ánd he is still counting (c'mon you old man) .

Safe to say: all the riders above would deserve a spot on the Ronde van Vlaanderen palmares. But (un)fortunately that's not how it works.
So Kelly only sprinted for the win once, which makes him a lesser Ronde-rider than GvA, who has finished on ST as the winner... once. And Kelly didn’t animate the race (except in 86, driving the winning break to lose to a wheel-sucking vdPoel, and 87, gifting the win to his mate Criq). And Greg had it tough against Tom and Spartacus, while Kelly only raced against the likes of Vanderaerden, Moser, Raas and de Vlaeminck.
 
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Gilbert won't start, because his knee needs more time to heal. Another former winner, Bettiol, has been ill, but is still expected to start.
The best rider not to win Flanders is Remco Evenepoel. Other contenders are Julian Alaphilippe and Wout Van Aert.
Sean Kelly would be my suggestion. He was second twice and won the other four monuments. He could have won it twice if it hadn't been for certain tactical decisions. I think he said in a documentary that he made a deal with Van der Poel and Criquielion not to chase after them, mostly because of his negative rivalry with Vanderaerden. He regretted that later.
Insane that no active rider, male or female, has won this race twice. Goes to show that, in spite of the key attacks usually happening in the same handful of places, this is one of the hardest races to master.
That's probably because a young generation is taking over. MvdP has a realistic chance to become the next multiple winner.
 
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Jan 7, 2021
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Best rider to not win Flanders is hard to rate. There are a lot of legendary riders who have never won Flanders for various - and obvious - reasons. For best Flanders rider to not win Flanders, I'd say that Van Avermaet is a good call (as is Kelly), but I'd nominate Frans Verbeeck who between 1969 and 1977 finished 8, 4, 16, 3, 7, 2, 2, 9 and 6 as well.
Best nickname of any rider ever.....the flying milkman
 
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