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Preview: Women’s Tour of Flanders rich with star riders

The spring classics come to a climax at Tour of Flanders for the Women's WorldTour peloton. Here's the complete preview.

Sunday is our favorite day of the year for women’s racing with the fifth round of the Women’s WorldTour at Ronde van Vlaanderen. The Tour of Flanders stands as the single most important and prestigious classics race. First held in 2004, Flanders podiums have included top riders such as Nicole Cooke, Kristin Armstrong, and Ina Teutenberg. Recently, we’ve seen a new generation of stars win De Ronde: Marianne Vos, Ellen van Dijk, and Elisa Longo Borghini. In 2016, Lizzie Deignan capped an incredible spring with a victory. She will return this year but may be working for her Boels-Dolmans teammate Chantal Blaak.

What happened last year

Previously, Ronde van Vlaanderen was the finale of the women’s spring season. Only La Flèche Wallonne followed the main event before the WWT left Europe for a stint in China. This year, however, two new classics races, Amstel Gold and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, will fill out the Ardennes week with Flèche Wallonne between the two on Wednesday.

These new additions helped mix up the early season with teams like Boels focusing on the latter half of the spring, rather than coming in hot like it did at the start of 2016. Teams like Sunweb and Wiggle-High5 took advantage of this, posting significant results over the past month of racing. With several teams on early hot streaks, and with Boels supposedly coming into the peak of its season, Flanders promises to be a showdown.

The course

Flanders is known for two things: cobbles and hills. The 2017 edition covers 153 kilometers with six cobbled sections that come quickly — the first segment is just 15 kilometers into the race — and 12 short, steep climbs. The race returns to the iconic Muur this year at the 94-kilometer point and finishes with a one-two punch of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg followed by just 13 kilometers of flat roads to the finish.

Small moves may go on some of the early climbs and cobbles, but we probably won’t see any real fireworks until just past the halfway point, when riders hit a quick succession of hellingen including the Leberg, Berendries, and Tenbosse, capped off by the Muur.

Live Coverage!

According to the Flanders website, fans can watch the action starting at 1:30 p.m. CET (7:30 a.m. Eastern) with English commentary via the official Flanders Classic Facebook Page or the Flanders Classic website.

Contenders

We see several returning Flanders champions in the field this year with last year’s winner Deignan leading the way. Other past winners include Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) from 2015, Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb) from 2014, and Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) from 2011. Another previous winner, Marianne Vos is no longer on the start list and will leave it up to her young WM3 Energie teammate Katarzyna Niewiadoma on Sunday

Five-star favorites
Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5)
Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans)
Ellen van Dijk (Team Sunweb)

Four-star favorites
Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie)
Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans)
Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM)
Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott)

Three- star favorites
Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb)
Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle-High5)
Lotta Lepisto (Cervelo-Bigla)

Two-star Favorites 
Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb)
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Canyon-SRAM)

One-star favorites
Alice Barnes (Drops)
Gracie Elvin (Orica-Scott)
Rossella Ratto (Cylance Pro Cycling)

Course Details:

Kilometer – Landmark – Type – Details
15km – Lange Munte – cobbles – 2km
36.0km – Lippenhovestraat – cobbles – 1300m
37.5 km – Paddestraat – cobbles – 2.3km
56.1km – Achterbert – climb – 1500m average 5%, max 13%
62.7km – Eikenbeeg – climb – 1200m average 5.2% max 10%
65.8km – Wolvenberg – climb – 645m average 7.9% max 17.3%
71.6km – Haaghoek – cobbles – 2km
74.6km – Leberg – climb – 950m average 4.2% max 13.8%
78.7km – Berendries – climb – 940m average 7% max 12.3%
83.6km – Tenbosse – climb – 450m average 6.9% max 8.7%
94.0km – Kapelmuur – The wall of Geraardsbergen!
112.6km – Pottelberg – climb – 1353m average 6.5%
113.5km – Bevoorrading cobbles
118.4km – Kanarieberg – climb – 1km average 7.7% max 14%
124.8km – Kruisberg – climb – 1875m average 4% max 9%
136.6km – Oude Kwaremont – climb – 2.2km average 4% max 11.6%
140.1km – Patterberg – last climb of the day with just 13 kilometers of racing left