Belgium’s biggest cycling event, Ronde van Vlaanderen is this Sunday — it is the race that each and every classics rider yearns to win. Who are you picking to win the 260-kilometer romp across the famed climbs of Flanders? Here is our list of 10 favorites that will likely be key players in the Tour of Flanders.
Can Cannondale-Drapac’s Sep Vanmarcke rediscover the form that helped him finish third at Omloop in February? Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com 9. Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal)
Tiesj Benoot, 23, stunned the Belgian faithful with a fifth place in 2015 Tour of Flanders. What can he do this year? Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com 8. Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale)
Ag2r La Mondiale’s Oliver Naesen has a hot hand, riding to a gritty third-place result in E3 Harelbeke. Did he get lucky, or is he peaking at the perfect moment, ready to make a splash at De Ronde? Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com 7.
Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors)
Riding in his final Tour of Flanders, Belgian legend Tom Boonen will want to go out on top. But so far this spring, his best result was a modest sixth at Gent-Wevelgem. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com 6. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin)
Alexander Kristoff, winner of Flanders in 2015, didn’t come raging into the spring classics this year, but with a win in stage 2 of Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, the Norwegian may be on an upward trajectory. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com 5. Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott)
Belgian Jens Keukeleire rode to second place in Gent-Wevelgem behind Greg Van Avermaet. Not only was the result impressive, but the Orica-Scott rider’s strength was apparent as he helped drive the winning move and fend off a charging peloton of top sprinters. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
The winner of Paris-Roubaix in 2015, John Degenkolb is showing glimmers of his old self, sprinting to fifth at Gent-Wevelgem. The German might be able to surprise the outright favorites, especially with support from a strong Trek-Segafredo squad. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Once thought of as a man strictly for the hilly Ardennes, former world champion Philippe Gilbert is back on the cobblestones after a five-year hiatus. The Belgian champion doesn’t seem to have missed a beat, winning Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde with a breakaway on the Muur, the iconic cobbled climb now back in the Flanders route to the delight of fans and riders alike. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
The two-time world champion is flying this spring, riding to second in Milano-Sanremo and third at Gent-Wevelgem. Peter Sagan keeps getting played by tricky team tactics, however. Will his brute strength be enough to defend the Flanders title that he won with panache last season? Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet can do no wrong this spring. He is coming off of two wins in a row at E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem. Can he win the big one, when it really counts on Sunday? Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com