Cancellara is a world time-trial champion and has dominated the early stages of the Tour de France in recent years, so his victory in Flanders last year came as a surprise - especially since he changed his bike twice because of mechanical problems. But he is still the favourite to claim the 261.5-kilometre, Bruges-to- Ninove epic.
Yet, two-time winner Tom Boonen, runner-up last year, is aiming to seal his comeback to the sport after a series of interruptions and drug-related incidents that have blighted his career recently. Likewise, Stijn Devolder, who won in 2008 and 2009, is keen to re-establish his reputation with a victory in the race that first announced his talent to the cycling world.
However, the Tour of Flanders is such a tough race that it remains relatively open for all comers. Just good legs are not enough; most, not to say everything, is about tactics. If it rains on Sunday, its
infamous hills - like the 1.1 km Kluisberg or the Koppenberg with its 22% inclines - will be even more demanding because of the slippery cobbles.
First held in 1913, The Tour of Flanders was the brainchild of KarelVanWynendaele,co-founder of Sportwereld newspaper. Initially a devilish tour of 330 km, it only gathered 37 participants, who fell to just 10 the following year. Only in the 1920s did it catch on and establish itself. Thanks to some fierce weather over the years, and the fearsome cobblestones, it is now seen as a vital test for the world's greatest cyclists.
Pictured: Tom Boonen (left) and Fabian Cancellara neck-and-neck at last year's Tour of Flanders