Tour of Flanders: Van Avermaet or Sagan?


Bets are being placed on who will cross the finish line first during this Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, as Flemish rider Greg Van Avermaet emerges as a favourite

260km of hills and cobbles

Will it be in-form Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet or world champion Peter Sagan? The Ronde van Vlaanderen, or Tour of Flanders, this Sunday is one of the most anticipated in years, with fans looking forward to a true competition as the world’s finest race over 259.5km of undulating, cobbled Flemish terrain.

Van Avermaet, from Lokeren, has enjoyed a spectacular patch, with a hat-trick of victories already this year: His Gent-Wevelgem triumph followed on from wins in the E3 Harelbeke and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He insists that he will “race aggressively” and not allow the burden of expectation to inflict on his style.

“I say it every year: I know the roads so well, I train every day on the parcours. And this year I feel like it’s my turn.”

Sagan, however, the so-called “Hulk” from Slovakia, has dominated classics in recent years, including last year’s Tour of Flanders, and has won the points classification in the Tour de France for the last five years.

Others hopefuls on Sunday include Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert (who yesterday sealed victory in the Three Days of De Panne), Norway’s Alexander Kristoff and Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski.

Rain is forecasted for the Flemish Ardennes on both Friday and Saturday, meaning that the cobbles could still be wet by the time the peloton hits them on Sunday afternoon. The race takes in 18 climbs, including the daunting Muur van Geraardsbergen (pictured), which makes a welcome return after a five-year absence.

Photo: John Thys/BELGA

Flemish cycling

Flemish cyclists have played a dominant role in the history of European bicycle racing. With the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), the region also has a classic cycle race.
Flandriens - The legendary pioneers of the Flemish cycling tradition are called “Flandriens”. They include Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Planckaert, Johan Museeuw and Walter Godefroot.
Eddy Merckx - Having won 525 races in his career, Brusselaar Eddy Merckx, nicknamed “the Cannibal”, is considered one of the greatest cyclists of all time.
Trophy - The annual Flandrien Trophy honours the best Belgian cyclist of the past season. Professional cyclists choose and vote for the nominees.

number of times Merckx won the Tour de France

1 913

first Tour of Flanders

1 969

Merckx becomes first Belgian to win the Tour de France in 30 years