PREVIEW | Tour of Flanders 2024 - Mathieu van der Poel overwhelming favourite following van Aert and Pedersen's suffer injuries

The big one! The Tour of Flanders is the second monument of the season and the queen of all Flandrien classics. It is one of the most important and exciting days of the season, where the biggest classics specialists face off on the steep cobbled climbs to fight for a prestigious win. We preview the race ahead of us.

270 kilometers on the menu this year. The distance will make for a brutal race, the Tour of Flanders has always been a race for the riders who are capable of performing on a bike at top level for a large number of hours and this year that capacity will be put to the limit. The start at Antwerpen will then see just a bit over 130 kilometers that are mostly set to be calm, approximately half of the race. However in the second half everything changes, as the Oude Kwaremont will open things up.

profile tourofflanders2024

From 1375to 84 kilometers to go there will be a long succession of bergs and cobbled sectors that will thin down the peloton. Big attacks will no happen here, as the main favourites need to save their bullets wisely, however set-up attacks, split attempts and a lot of fatigue buildup may happen here.

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The crucial section of the race starts with the second passage over the Oude Kwaremont. Kwaremont, Koppenberg and Paterberg come in quick succession and this trio of ascents will not only destroy the peloton, it will also provide opportunities to launch potentially decisive attacks. They come with 54.5, 51 and 44.5 kilometers to go. Not many riders will survive the peloton afterwards, and with a thinned down group decisive attacks can also come after as the chasing power will not be so meaningful.

PREVIEW | Tour of Flanders 2024 - Mathieu van der Poel overwhelming favourite following van Aert and Pedersen's suffer injuries
Koppenberg: 600 meters; 13.3%; 44.5Km to go

Steenbeekdries (39Km to go), Taaienberg (37Km to go) and Oude Kruisberg (28Km to go) follow afterwards and provide further launching pads for dangerous attacks. After a small descent the race will enter it’s final sectors.

For the third and last time, the Oude Kwaremont. A grueling berg with inconsistent gradients, it summits with 16.5Km to go.

PREVIEW | Tour of Flanders 2024 - Mathieu van der Poel overwhelming favourite following van Aert and Pedersen's suffer injuries
Oude Kwaremont: 2.5Km; 3.7%; 16.5Km

And after a short section, the final berg of the race is always one that may see the differences, the Paterberg. Short but sharp, essentially a one-minute all-out effort after around 6:30h of hard racing where slipstreaming is not a thing. A climb most will know like the back of their hand, it will summit with 13 kilometers to go.

PREVIEW | Tour of Flanders 2024 - Mathieu van der Poel overwhelming favourite following van Aert and Pedersen's suffer injuries
Paterberg: 400 meters; 13.5%; 13Km to go

As every year, the run-up to Oudenaarde then is quite excruciating. Pan-flat after the small descent from the Paterberg, it is a place where attacks can still happen, but whatever happens depends on what will happen over the ascents.

PREVIEW | Tour of Flanders 2024 - Mathieu van der Poel overwhelming favourite following van Aert and Pedersen's suffer injuries
Finale Tour des Flandres 2023

No rain, we may have slick roads as throughout the week it will certainly fall, however on the day the wind will come from the southeast. A crosswind in the kilometers leading up to the finish, whilst the start we've got some sections of crosswind but also headwind which should make it difficult for echelons to really settle.

Will Mathieu van der Poel have competition?

Ultimately, I'm not positive on that. Visma looked incredibly strong on the opening weekend but throughout the spring they have gradually lost riders from their block and will arrive to Flanders stripped of their depth, whilst after Dwars door Vlaanderen's crash, the same applies to Lidl-Trek. This was already a race where depth is not crucial as it's so hard, but the main teams are almost entering on an equal level and directly, nothing points towards someone being able to match Mathieu van der Poel. Wout van Aert was the one rider who succeeded at E3, but he has lost another spring due to bad luck. Pedersen crashed hard at DDV where Jasper Stuyven was injured and after he already admitted this race was the one that suited him the least, it's hard to imagine him matching the World Champion.

Mathieu Van der Poel in the meantime avoided the disastrous Dwars door Vlaanderen and trained throughout the week, he should arrive as sharp as in the last two weeks. I have little doubt that when he decides to attack no-one will be able to follow, and I believe he will do so early to avoid possibly being attacked by other teams. All in all the ultimate favourite for Flanders with the new circumstances. Soren Kragh Andersen can also certainly aim for a result.

Matteo Jorgenson - The team is down to one leader, in comparison with the five it hoped to bring. Van Aert injured, Laporte ill, Tratnik injured and Dylan van Baarle (who will start) nowhere near his best, it is down to Jorgenson and Tiesj Benoot to fight for a podium. For the Belgian - who was also injured earlier in the spring - this will be hard but Jorgenson is in my eyes the closest competitor to van der Poel. This is a race that suits climbers, the American has just won Dwars door Vlaanderen and is the best combination of climber and classics specialist around, with great form. He's going to lead the team by himself, a podium is definitely possible and a victory is not impossible but will depend on him dropping van der Poel. He has performed as I expected so far this spring, but here I don't expected him to win - although I definitely would not be shocked, he is the number 2 figure into the race.

Lidl - Trek - Lidl looked so incredibly good at Gent - Wevelgem but they simply cannot repeat the same strategy. Jasper Stuyven and Alex Kirsch are injured an out of the running, Mads Pedersen won't likely be at his best and the heavyweight Jonathan Milan will not be able to handle this amount of climbing. Toms Skujins is going to be an interesting figure but when it comes to winning ambitions it will be hard to imagine. Nevertheless the team has good options to ride into a podium.

Groupama - Perhaps the "underdog" team, as others are mentioned more as van der Poel's rivals, but the new best team in terms of depth. But there are a lot of ifs... Laurence Pithie is as astonishing puncheur and should be able to match the Dutchman for a while, but judging by Kuurne and Gent - Wevelgem, he will likely struggle with the distance of the race which will make it hard for him. The team have Valentin Madouas in rising form and this is a rider who has finished second here in the past, whilst the ever consistent Stefan Küng has just finished on the podium of Dwars door Vlaanderen and will be a strong candidate for the podium.

In the fight for the podium I envision Matej Mohoric, Tim Wellens and possibly Oier Lazkano if he can handle the distances; and Alberto Bettiol if he can avoid the mishaps. Matteo Trentin, Rasmus Tiller, Jonas Abrahamsen, Krists Neilands, Nils Politt, Victor Campenaerts, Fred Wright, Oliver Naesen and INEOS trio of Laurens de Plus, Ben Turner and Magnus Sheffield will also be in the fight for the main spots, mostly as riders who will not want to wait for a sprint. Also can Quick-Step actually be in contention? Julian Alaphilippe and Kasper Asgreen will hope so but it's honestly not likely.

There will be other contenders certainly with Biniam Girmay as another contender for the podium, so as long as he has recovered from the crash at Dwars door Vlaanderen. As I expect van der Poel to soar to victory alone, I think behind there won't be gaps as large if the riders understand the victory is unachievable. A sprint may decide many places in the Top10 I reckon. Michael Matthews, Vincenzo Albanese, Pierre Gautherat and Uno-X duo Alexander Kristoff and Soren Waerenskjold will be riders who will hope for such a scenario to have a good outcome on the day.

Prediction Tour of Flanders 2024:

*** Mathieu van der Poel
** Matteo Jorgenson, Tim Wellens, Stefan Küng
* Laurence Pithie, Jonathan Milan, Toms Skujins, Matej Mohoric, Mads Pedersen, Oier Lazkano, Alberto Bettiol, Matteo Trentin, Rasmus Tiller

Pick: Mathieu van der Poel

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