The Tour of Flanders takes centre stage this weekend and before the men go toe to toe on the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg the likes of Lizzie Armitstead and Elisa Longo Borghini will do battle as the women’s WorldTour hots up.
Last year Borghini of Wiggle High5 won the event, but this year it is wide open with several riders capable to winning at ‘De Ronde’.
So far the WorldTour series has been dominated by Boels-Dolman’s, Armitstead’s team; Chantal Blaak the current leader won at Ronde Van Drenthe and Ghent-Wevelgem, and then World Champion Armitstead won at Strade Bianche and Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Cittiglio earlier in the season which means both currently occupy the top two.
Along with Paris-Roubaix, Flanders is one of the most exciting races of the season, mostly due to its cobbled sectors and narrow winding roads which if not ridden on well can cause havoc which can create plenty of thrills and spills.
The race this year starts and ends at Oudenaarde and has 10 climbs and five cobbled sectors, which will make it an entertaining racing and with the women’s sport vastly emerging; it should be an absolute Classic.
Armitstead targeted Flanders at the beginning of the season
In previous years women’s cycling was dominated by Marianne Vos, but since her hiatus other riders have come into the fore; and none more so than Armitstead.
The Yorkshire lass from Otley won the Rainbow Jersey last September and her form so far this season has shown just how good she can be.
The 27-year-old has already won two races of the WorldTour and currently lies in second place behind her teammate Blaak; but victory at Flanders would take her above her teammate and back into first, despite this being the fifth race of 17.
But at the start of the season, Armitstead targeted Flanders as one of her main objectives along with the Olympic Road Race and the World Championships.
Speaking to CyclingNews back at the start of the season Armitstead said: “Flanders has always been a dream race. If I don’t win it won't be the end of the world but I’d really like to win it," and given her current form, you cannot really look past the British rider.
Armitstead will have to be wary of other threats
Winning a race like Flanders draws on a lot of different aspects of bike racing, but one important ingredient is experience; and Wiggle High5’s Borghini won the event last season so will be one of the favourites this time around.
In fact there are a number of riders that are capable of picking up a career defining victory; Dutch rider Anna Van der Breggen and another one of Armitstead’s teammates Megan Guarnier should have a good chance providing they are well placed when entering the last 15-20km. And Leah Kirchmann of Liv-Plantur who won at Drentse Acht van Westerveld cannot be discounted.
All in the entire race is wide open this Sunday, there are dangers across all 20 teams, and if Armitstead wants to add another victory to her palmares, her team will have to execute the plan perfectly.