Just ten days from the Tour of Flanders, the countdown to Belgian cycling’s greatest occasion began in earnest in Roeselare on Wednesday morning as the peloton lined up for Dwars door Vlaanderen.
As ever, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) drew the largest cheers from the home fans, as he returned to action after missing Milan-San Remo for personal reasons. The Belgian often forgoes this race, but has opted to line up to ensure he has sufficient racing in his legs ahead of the weekend’s WorldTour races.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) lined up with a very different aim – the Spaniard is making a rare appearance in Flanders in order to familiarise himself with the cobblestones ahead of the Tour de France’s trek over the pavé in July.
Others in the field include Milan-San Remo winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), who admitted that he was still suffering from his exertions on the Riviera on Sunday, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Ian Stannard (Sky), Stijn Devolder (Trek) and last year’s winner Oscar Gatto, who leads Cannondale in the absence of Peter Sagan.
As ever in Flanders, however, the road to victory will doubtless go through Omega Pharma-QuickStep. As well as Boonen, the team includes Gert Steegmans, Andy Fenn and 2012 Dwars door Vlaanderen winner Niki Terpstra.