Tour of Flanders 2014
Preview of the second one-day Monument of the year
Last Updated: 04/04/14 4:13pm
The Tour of Flanders this year contains 17 climbs and 16 sections of cobbles
Belgium grinds to a halt on Sunday as some of the toughest riders in cycling do battle at the legendary Tour of Flanders.
One of the hardest, oldest and most prestigious one-day races on the calendar, the second Monument classic of the season has the power to define a career for any rider lucky enough to win it.
The cream of Classics talent will all be fighting it out over a 259km parcours featuring no fewer than 17 "hellingen" climbs, one more than last year's race.
In addition, 16 sections of cobblestones will separate the also-rans from the contenders in what is guaranteed to be one of the biggest spectacles of the year.
Any rider wanting to win "De Ronde" will need to be alert to the constant barrage of attacks and will no doubt also require a decent slice of luck to avoid the inevitable crashes and punctures that characterise the famous race.
The Tour of Flanders will be screened live on Sky Sports 4 from 11.30am to 4pm (BST).
The day starts in Bruges with an early-morning depart and a run south into the heart of the Flanders region. The largely straight transfer leads the riders down to Kortrijk, before the race swings east for a brutal barrage of climbs and cobbles on two differing loops around Oudenaarde.
The climbing starts with the first of three ascents of the Oude Kwaremont at 109km, after which the riders get a short 10km break ahead four distinct blocks of climbing.
The first two blocks come on the opening loop around Oudenaarde, with three climbs in an 11km stretch and then four climbs in 26km serving to soften legs and dispense with the weaker riders in the race.
However, it is on the third block, which comes as the first loop ends and second starts, where the race will really spark into life.
It opens with the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, which is followed by nearby partner in crime the Paterberg, with huge crowds inevitably lining the route of both.
The riders then head off to arguably the most famous climb of them all, the Koppenberg, which arrives at the 215km mark. Placed 44km from home, the infamous steep and narrow ramps cannot decide the race, but contenders will have to be positioned well because it represents an ideal place for attackers to strike and form a new front group.
Another two climbs complete a leg-breaking stretch of five ascents in just 17km, but there is still more punishment to come, because after 11km of respite, the riders have to tackle the final three climbs in 13km, including another back-to-back visit of the potentially decisive Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg.
Coming 16km and 13km from home, those two "hellingen" will provide the last chance for potential winners to attack their rivals and thin the lead group down even further, if not break away solo.
From there a largely flat run back into Oudenaarde will decide who writes their name into cycling folklore for 2013.
Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing)
Spartacus is a two-time winner of the race and returns as the defending champion, having got the better of Peter Sagan in the 2013 edition. The Swiss maestro is yet to claim a Classics win this year, but he is nevertheless in good form and often saves his best performances for the biggest races.
Fabian Cancellara, right, duels with Peter Sagan in last year's race
Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
The Slovak is a podium machine and it seems unfeasible that he won't be in the mix at the end of the race. He already has one win, one second and one third to his name already in one-day races in 2014, and will be determined to avenge his defeat to Cancellara in last year's edition.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
The Belgian is a three-time winner of the Tour of Flanders but is arguably the outsider of the "Big Three". He injured his hand at Dwars Door Vlaanderen last week and was in so much pain he shed tears. However, that didn't stop him sprinting to fifth place at Gent-Wevelgem, so he might not be as incapacitated as he is letting on.
Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
If things don't work out for Boonen, Quick-Step will turn to the in-form Terpstra, who has already won Dwars Door Vlaanderen and finished second at E3 Harelbeke so far in the cobbled Classics. Even if Boonen's chances don't crumble, the Dutchman could have a significant say in proceedings.
Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin)
The Belgian is rapidly turning into the nearly man of the Classics. His defeat to Cancellara at Paris-Roubaix last year has been followed up by four top-five finishes already in one-day races so far this year. However, many commentators suggest a big win is just around the corner and the Tour of Flanders could well be it.
Geraint Thomas has been in good form this year
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
With Ian Stannard out injured, Team Sky's focus shifts to Thomas, who has been in impressive form so far this year. He forced the decisive breakaway at E3 Harelbeke and although he could only sprint to third, that display proved he has what it takes to challenge for victory in Flanders.
Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
Quick-Step not only have a Plan B, but also a Plan C in the form of the excellent Stybar. A powerful rider with a swift turn of speed, the Czech showed he can handle cobbles with a sixth-place finish at Paris-Roubaix last year.
Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing): The veteran Belgian has to play second fiddle to Cancellara, but as a two-time winner of De Ronde, he knows how to tackle the race and, more importantly, knows how to win. He doesn't have great form, but is likely to rise to the occasion.
Tom Boonen is a three-time winner
2013: Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
2012: Tom Boonen (Bel)
2011: Nick Nuyens (Bel)
2010: Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
2009: Stijn Devolder (Bel)
2008: Stijn Devolder (Bel)
2007: Alessandro Ballan (Ita)
2006: Tom Boonen (Bel)
2005: Tom Boonen (Bel)
2004: Steffen Westermann (Swi)
Alex Dowsett (Movistar)
David Millar (Garmin-Sharp)
Luke Rowe (Team Sky)
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
Scott Thwaites (NetApp-Endura)
Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)
Teams and riders
Ag2r-La Mondiale: Davide Appollonio (Ita), Gediminas Bagdonas (Lit), Steve Chainel (Fra), Lloyd Mondory (Fra), Damien Gaudin (Fra), Hugo Houle (Can), Sebastien Minard (Fra), Sebastien Turgot (Fra).
Astana: Borut Bozic (Slo), Francesco Gavazzi (Ita), Andriy Grivko (Ukr), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz), Andrea Guardini (Ita), Valentin Iglinskiy (Kaz), Arman Kamyshev (Kaz), Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz).
Belkin: Lars Boom (Ned), Tom Leezer (Ned), Bram Tankink (Ned), Maarten Tjallinggii (Ned), Jos van Emden (Ned), Sep Vanmarcke (Bel), Robert Wagner (Ger), Maarten Wynants (Bel).
Sep Vanmarcke could have a say on the outcome
BMC: Marcus Burghardt (Ger), Silvan Dillier (Swi), Thor Hushovd (Nor), Greg van Avermaet (Bel), Taylor Phinney (USA), Manuel Quinziato (Ita), Michael Schar (Swi), Klaas Lodewyck (Bel).
Cannondale: Maciej Bodnar (Pol), Oscar Gatto (Ita), Ted King (USA), Kristijan Koren (Slo), Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita), Alan Marangoni (Ita), Fabio Sabatini (Ita), Peter Sagan (Svk).
Europcar: Jerome Cousin (Fra), Antoine Duchesne (Can), Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra), Yohann Gene (Fra), Tony Hurel (Fra), Vincent Jerome (Fra), Alexandre Pichot (Fra).
FDJ: William Bonnet (Fra), David Boucher (Bel), Mickael Delage (Fra), Arnaud Demare (Fra), Murilo Fischer (Bra), Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra), Johan Le Bon (Fra), Yoann Offredo (Fra).
Garmin-Sharp: Jack Bauer (NZ), Tyler Farrar (USA), Raymond Kreder (Ned), Sebastian Langeveld (Ned), David Millar (GB), Steele von Hoff (Aus), Dylan van Baarle (Ned), Johan Vansummeren (Bel).
Giant-Shimano: Nikias Arndt (Ger), Roy Curvers (Ned), Koen de Kort (Ned), John Degenkolb (Ger), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA), Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned), Albert Timmer (Ned).
Katusha: Vladimir Gusev (Rus), Vladimir Isaychev (Rus), Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr), Viacheslav Kuznetzov (Rus), Luca Paolini (Ita), Gatis Smukulis (Lat), Alexey Tsatevitch (Rus).
Lampre-Merida: Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita), Davide Cimolai (Ita), Elia Favalli (Ita), Sacha Modolo (Ita), Andrea Palini (Ita), Filippo Pozzato (Ita), Ariel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg), Luca Wackermann (Ita).
Sir Bradley Wiggins will be in action for Team Sky
Lotto-Belisol: Kris Boeckmans (Bel), Stig Broeckx (Bel), Kenny Dehaes (Bel), Pim Ligthart (Ned), Jurgen Roelandts (Bel), Lars Ytting Bak (Den), Jens Debusschere (Bel), Tony Gallopin (Fra).
Movistar: Andrey Amador (Cos), Alex Dowsett (GB), Imanol Erviti (Spa), Ivan Gutierrez (Spa), Juan Jose Lobato (Spa), Dayer Quintana (Col), Jasha Sutterlin (Ger), Fran Ventoso (Spa).
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step: Tom Boonen (Bel), Iljo Keisse (Bel), Nikolas Maes (Bel), Zdenek Stybar (Cze), Niki Terpstra (Ned), Matteo Trentin (Ita), Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Bel), Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel).
Orica-GreenEdge:Mitchell Docker (Aus), Luke Durbridge (Aus), Daryl Impey (RSA), Mathew Hayman (Aus), Michael Hepburn (Aus), Jens Keukeleire (Bel), Jens Mouris (Ned), Svein Tuft (Can).
Team Sky: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor), Bernhard Eisel (Aut), Christian Knees (Ger), Salvatore Puccio (Ita), Gabriel Rasch (Nor), Luke Rowe (GB), Geraint Thomas (GB), Bradley Wiggins (GB).
Tinkoff-Saxo: Matti Breschel (Den), Daniele Bennati (Ita), Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den), Nicki Sørensen (Den), Karsten Kroon (Ned), Michael Kolar (Slo), Manuele Boaro (Ita)m Nikolay Trusov (Rus).
Niki Terpstra offers Quick-Step a second option
Trek Factory Racing: Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Stijn Devolder (Bel), Markel Irizar (Spa), Yaroslov Popovych (Ukr, Hayden Roulston (NZ), Gregory Rast (Swi), Jesse Sergent (NZ), Jasper Stuyven (Bel).
Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela: Marco Bandeira (Ita), Omar Bertazzo (Ita), Patrick Facchini (Ita), Johnny Hoogerland (Ned), Antonio Parrinello (Ita), Jackson Rodriguez (Ven), Nicola Testi (Ita), Andrea Zordan (Ita).
Cofidis: Edwig Cammaerts (Bel), Julien Fouchard (Fra), Egoitz Garcia (Spa), Gert Joeaar (Est), Cyril Lemoine (Fra), Adrien Petit (Fra, Florian Senechal (Fra), Romain Zingle (Bel).
IAM Cycling: Sylvain Chavanel (Fra), Martin Elmiger (Swi), Henrich Haussler (Aus), Sebastien Hinault (Fra), Jerome Pineau (Fra), Dominic Klemme (Ger), Roger Kluge (Ger), Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat).
MTN-Qhubeka: Gerald Ciolek (Ger), Linus Gerdemann (Ger), Ignatas Konovalovas (Lit), Martin Reimer (Ger), Kristian Sbaragli (Ita),
Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise: Tom Declerq (Bel), Yves Lampaert (Bel), Edward Theuns (Bel), Tom van Asbroeck (Bel), Preben van Hecke (Bel), Zico Waeytens (Bel), Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel), Jelle Wallays (Bel), Andreas Stauff (Ger), Jay Robert Thompson (RSA), Jaco Venter (RSA).
Wanty-Groupe Gobert: Laurens de Vreese (Bel), Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux), Jan Ghyselinck (Bel), Wesley Kreder (Ned), Bjorn Leukemans (Bel), Mirko Selvaggi (Ita), James Vanlandschoot (Bel), Frederik Veuchelen (Bel).