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Tour of Flanders women’s preview: A historic first up Koppenberg and other things to watch

The contenders, the route, and the details of the climbs of the 2022 Ronde van Vlaanderen.

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The Women’s Tour of Flanders on Sunday will tackle the cobbled Koppenberg climb for the first time in its history that dates back to 2004, and defending champion Annemiek van Vlueten (Movistar) is feeling good about her chances.

Fresh off a three-week altitude training block in Tenerife, van Vleuten said she has returned to win the race she first claimed in 2011 and again last year.

With all the prestige of winning the Tour of Flanders, van Vleuten will of course be given a run for her money — and €50,000 is on the line this year for the women’s purse, which matches the men’s.

The 158km race starts and finishes in Oudenaarde, Belgium, with a circuitous route that winds around the Flemish countryside.

The Koppenberg kicks to 22 percent in the middle section. The rutted cobbles make the middle section particularly challenging in the dry, and if it is wet at all it takes power, finesse, and luck to clear it. (Photo: James Startt)

The final two cobbled climbs of the day are the Oude Kwaremont — a long, grinding slog at 2.2km in length — and then the short but rudely steep Paterberg, which kicks to 20 percent near the top. It was the Paterberg that van Vleuten used as a springboard for her winning solo attack last year.

But just coming over the top of the Paterberg alone is by no means a guarantee of success, as there is still 12km of flat and perhaps windy roads to the finish from there.

The favorites for the Women’s Tour of Flanders

Annemiek van Vleuten is top of the list. She has not raced since she came second to Lotte Kopecky at Strade Bianche at the beginning of the month. She spoke with Sadhbh O’Shea this week and expressed confidence not only in herself but in her strong team to defend her title.

Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) is another name high on the list of favorites. A home win at the Tour of Flanders would be huge, and Kopecky certainly has the finishing kick to seal the deal should the race come down to a group finish of any size.

SD Worx also has Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, who has won the 2020 race alone, and Demi Vollering, who was fifth here last year.

The race does not have a formulaic pattern for the winner — women have won here solo and from small groups — which is part of its charm.

Coryn Labecki is the only American to have won here, which she did from a small bunch in 2017. This year Labecki will be racing in support of Marianne Vos, who won the race in 2013. Vos finished just behind world champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) at last week’s Gent-Wevelgem, and as the greatest all-around racer of her generation can never be counted out.

The 11 classified climbs of the Women’s Tour of Flanders

climb km avg max length
Wolvenberg 69 7.90% 17.30% 645m
Molenberg 81.5 7.00% 14.20% 463m
Marlboroughstraat 85.5 3.00% 7.00% 2k
Berendries 89.5 7.00% 12.30% 940m
Valkenberg 94.8 8.10% 12.80% 540m
Koppenberg 114 11.60% 22.00% 600m
Steenbeekdries 119.3 3.10% 7.60% 1.1k
Taaienberg 121.8 6,6 % 15,8 % 530m
Kruisberg/Hotond 132.1 5.00% 9.00% 2.5k
Oude Kwaremont 141.9 4.00% 11.60% 2.2k
Paterberg 145.3 12.90% 20.30% 360m

How to watch the Tour of Flanders

Flo Sports has the live coverage in the United States. In Europe, fans can watch Flo Sports, EuroSport, or GCN+. In Australia, SBS is providing coverage.

VeloNews will of course be covering both races in full on the ground, so check back through the weekend for our detailed coverage.