2013 Tour of Flanders Race Guide
Last Updated: 29/03/13 4:47pm
Fans out in force on one of the brutal cobbled climbs
Belgium grinds to a halt on Sunday as the nation takes in the legendary Tour of Flanders (or Ronde Van Vlaanderen, as the locals call it).
One of the toughest, oldest and most prestigious one-day races on the cycling calendar, this 'Classic' has the power to define a career for any rider lucky enough to win it.
The world's best riders will duke it out over a 256-kilometre course which features no less than 16 short, sharp 'hellingen' climbs - most of them covered with bone-jangling cobbles - 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 rely on a decent slice of luck to avoid the inevitable crashes and punctures which characterise the famous race.
For the first time this year as well, you can watch two-hour highlights of the race from 1900 on Sunday on Sky Sports 2 HD, as well as on the move with Sky Go.
It all kicks off 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 first climb of the race arrives after 91km in the shape of the Tiegemberg.
Passing into Oudenaarde for the first time the riders tackle the first of four distinct sectors as the famous cobbled climbs follow thick and fast.
The Taaienberg (113km) and Eikenberg (119km) double-header will be a rude awakening in an early loop, heavy on cobbled kilometres. The smoother Berendries (154km) and the Valkenberg (160km) act as the final run-in to the first of three passages over the Oude-Kwaremont/Paterberg sequence.
Massive crowds and VIP tents will line this section before the riders head off to arguably the most famous climb of them all - the Koppenberg (192km). Placed 64km from home, the infamous steep and narrow ramps cannot decide the race, but contenders will have to be positioned at the sharp end if they want to be in with a shout.
Six kilometres later Steenbeekdries offers no respite before a return trip to the Kwaremont.
As significant as the climbs themselves are the inter-linking roads - each major climb causing a fierce fight for position akin to the lead-out to a sprint finish.
With the peloton whittling down to a more select group, there is still the matter of one final loop over the two major climbs - the Paterberg crested for the last time with just 13km remaining. From there a largely flat run back into Oudenaarde will decide who writes their name into cycling folklore for 2013.
If you want to learn more about the Tour of Flanders, take a look at Team Sky's introductory video HERE, and don't forget you can tune in to Sky Sports 2 HD on Sunday between 1900-2100 to watch two-hour highlights, as well as on the move with Sky Go.