Dwars door Vlaanderen preview: The Tour of Flanders appetizer with a spicy kick
No Pogačar, Van Aert, and Van der Poel leaves explosive men's race wide open, women's event expected to see all against SD Worx.
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Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Men’s race (WorldTour): Roeselare-Waregem, 184km, finish approx. 16:30 CET
Women’s race (1.Pro): Waregem-Waregem, 115km, finish approx 18:00 CET
Men’s race: Roll of honor: Van der Poel (2022), Van Baarle (2021), Van der Poel (2019), Lampaert (2018, 2017)
Women’s race: Roll of honor: Consonni (2022), Van Vleuten (2021), Van Dijk (2019, 2018), Henttala (2017)
Like a plate of Flemish shrimp croquettes ahead of a steaming bowl of Stoofvlees beef stew, the Dwars door Vlaanderen is the perfect appetizer for the Tour of Flanders main meal.
Wednesday’s races are short enough to give Ronde contenders the opportunity to rev cobblestone engines without blowing a gasket, pack well-worn Flandrien bergs alongside a stack of lesser-knowns, and give plenty of time for recovery before the Flanders feast to come.
Tadej Pogačar, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel all skip the DDV starter Wednesday as they keep themselves hungry for Sunday’s Ronde.
In the absence of the three Galacticos, Mads Pedersen, Tiesj Benoot and Jasper Philipsen headline a men’s race that sits wide open. Strade Bianche and Paris-Roubaix champions Tom Pidcock and Dylan van Baarle are other possible top-name starters as they chase back from recent crashes.
Ronde favorites Lotte Kopecky and Annemiek Van Vleuten sit out the women’s race. Instead, Marianne Vos, Pfeiffer Georgi, and defending Dwars champion Chiara Consonni will be in the spotlight Wednesday as rival teams look to pull a handbrake on SD Worx’s steely grip on the spring.
The course: Short, sweet, spicy
Translated as “Across Flanders,” the Dwars door Vlaanderen packs a lot into what is only a four-hour thrill-ride for the men, and a three-hour rampage for the women.
Action centers around a “hill zone” in the middle of the race that includes Flanders stalwarts the Kanarieberg and Hotond. It’s an uphill assault that typically leaves only a small group vying for the “W” on the slightly less relentless roads back to Waregem.
A final climb and cobblestone sector within the final 10km of both races provide launchpads for any late “Hail Mary” solo moves that need as much luck as they do legs.
The men face 11 “Hellingen” and eight cobbled sections in total, while the women see eight climbs and seven sectors. It’s lightweight compared to the oncoming Ronde, but means the racing is relentless on courses just two-third the length of their monument cousins.
How does Dwars typically pan out?
If recent editions give clues, small group sprints or darting late raids decide the DDV, though big engine riders like Van Baarle and Ellen van Dijk have ripped up recent editions with long solos.
In short – it’s a race that plays out like most Belgian classics – unbridled chaos that could go almost any way.
The riders and narratives to watch
VeloNews’ five riders to watch, based on provisional startlists:
Women: Vos, Reusser, Bastianelli, Consonni, Georgi
Men’s race: Pedersen, Philipsen, Küng, Benoot, Van Baarle
… And some wildcard bets: Vollering, Pidcock
In the women’s race, hey, guess what? SD Worx will be the team to keep tabs on. The Dutch powerhouse dominated the classics so far with six one-day wins already in 2023 and could be poised to make it seven Wednesday.
Lotte Kopecky is currently not slated to ride, but Strade Bianche and Gent-Wevelgem winners Demi Vollering and Marlen Reusser will bring ample horsepower to the SD Worx engine.
Annemiek van Vleuten isn’t expected to start for Movistar, meaning teams like DSM, Trek-Segafredo and FDJ-Suez will lead the resistance with on-form racers like Pfeiffer Georgi, Shirin Van Anrooij, and Vittoria Guazzini.
And what of the “GOAT’ Marianne Vos?
The all-conquering veteran is on the comeback trail after her off-season surgery, but she most certainly knows how to win a bike race. No rider in the peloton takes it lightly when the 35-year-old toes the startline.
And with Pogačar, Van Aert and Van der Poel all waiting for Flanders, the men’s race is wide open and ripe for taking by those otherwise stuck chasing the Galactico’s moves.
Even without Van Aert, Jumbo-Visma could be poised to score its fifth-straight classics victory on Belgian soil. Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne-winner Benoot will be joined by hitters like Olav Kooij, Tosh van der Sande, and – if he recovers in time from his E3 Saxo Bank crash – cobbles conqueror Van Baarle.
Ineos Grenadiers, Alpecin-Dececuninck, Trek-Segafredo, and Groupama FDJ will be best-placed Wednesday to stop the yellow-and-black barnstormers.
Filippo Ganna and Magnus Sheffield are set to lead Ineos Grenadiers alongside Pidcock, though the Brit’s status after his concussion is still not fully confirmed.
Groupama-FDJ came out swinging at Gent-Wevelgem, and Stefan Küng is an eternal cobblestone dark horse. Philipsen is fast, stong, and on form after scoring Alpecin-Deceuninck three wins already this season. And classics best-buddies Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven are expected to lead Trek-Segafredo for its ever-dangerous double threat.
And of course … the bedraggled Soudal Quick-Step.
Julian Alaphilippe, Davide Ballerini, and Tim Merlier give the “Wolfpack” options. But whether they can make it convert is another matter after what has been a classics campaign stuck in the wrong sprocket.