After the thrills and spills of Milan-San Remo, riders head to Belgium this week for the start of the cobbled Classics, with Dwars door Vlaanderen kicking off a month of one-day races. The riders face 201 kilometres, nine sections of pave and 12 ‘hellingen’ – the short but steep Belgian climbs –during Wednesday’s race, the 66th running of the race across Flanders.
Last year's winner Matti Breschel won't be there to defend his title. The Dane, now riding for Rabobank, is still recovering from knee surgery which has disrupted his whole Spring Classics season.
However there is no lack of big names on the start list, including sprinters Tom Boonen (QuickStep), Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo). There are also Classics specialists such as Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil), Sylvain Chavanel (QuickStep), Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky).Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) will also ride and look to make up for missing out in Milan-San Remo, as will Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek), who was disappointed with his second place on Saturday.
The race is likely to start quietly on Wednesday morning in Roeselare, with a breakaway expected to form during the relatively flat first half of the race. The first climb, the Nieuwe Kwaremont, comes 90 km into the race. Things then get really serious after 110km The first two sections of pave come on the next climb the Kattenberg, with cobblestones and climbs coming regularly from there until the end.
There are nine pave sections, for a total of 9.8km, with the last section coming on the last climb, less than 10 km before the finish.
The climbs include some of the well known hellingen from the Tour of Flanders, including the New and Old Kwaremont, and the Paterberg. The Nokereberg is the last climb and could decide who emerges to win in Waregem.