Women's Tour of Flanders - Preview

Ten hills and five cobble sectors set to shake up Women's WorldTour's fifth round

Elisa Longo Borghini took the biggest win of her career at the Women's Tour of Flanders last year and she is back with Wiggle High 5 to try and defend her title.

It won't be an easy task for Longo Borghini as this year's event will see the best line-up of women racers keen to take the victory at the fifth round of the new Women's WorldTour. But Wiggle High5 will field a strong team, with several riders capable of taking the win including Emma Johansson, Jolien D'hoore and Amy Pieters.

So far, the Women's WorldTour has been dominated by the Boels-Dolmans team. Chantal Blaak won rounds at Ronde Van Drenthe and Gent-Wevelgem, and her teammate and world champion Lizzie Armitstead won Strade Bianche and Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Cittiglio. Blaak is now leading the ranking with 258 points while Armitstead is in second place with 248 points. Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5), who has featured in the finale of all the rounds, is sitting in third with 185 points.

Other women not to be discounted for the victory on Sunday are Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv), who briefly led the ranking after round two in Drenthe. Megan Guarnier, also on the Boels-Dolmans team, is knocking on victory's door having place second in Cittiglio and at the recent Pajot Hills Classic, won by Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv).

Orica-AIS duo Annemiek van Vleuten and Gracie Elvin have also had strong performances during their spring campaign. Van Vleuten has placed in the top 10 in all of the Women's WorldTour rounds so far and Elvin was second at Ronde van Drenthe. Mountain bike specialist Jolonda Neff will also be on the start line with Servetto Footon. The Swiss rider had an outstanding performance in Cittiglio with a third place behind Armitstead and Guarnier.

Others to watch out for are Leah Kirchmann (Liv-Plantur), who won Drentse Acht van Westerveld and Marta Bastianelli (Ale Cipollini), who won Omloop van het Hageland. Always active in the Classics, Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) should never be discounted for a win, and the same goes for her teammate Lisa Brennauer, who was recently second at Gent-Wevelgem.

The course

On Sunday, April 3, the star peloton, which includes the top 20 women's teams in the world, will take on a 141km race beginning and ending in Oudenaarde. It will boast 10 climbs and five cobbled sections.

The cobbled sections of the course are early on, beginning with the Ruiterstraat (46.2km), Kerkgate (49.5km) and Jagerij (52.7km), all lumped together. They will then cross over the Paddestraat at 63.4km, followed by the Haaghoek 12km later, which is the last cobbled section.

The climbing will begin at the 46km mark with Wolvernberg, just ahead of the first group of cobbled sectors, and the course routes toward the Molenberg (58.4km), Leberg (78.9km), Berendries (82.9km), Valkenberg (88.3km) and Kaperij (99km). They will then tackle the Kanarieberg (106.3km), Kruisberg (114.7km) and make their way toward the Kwaremont.

The Oude Kwaremont is the ninth ascent of the Women's Tour of Flanders, located at the 124.5km mark. It is followed directly by the Paterberg (127.9km), which is the last climb and has a steep section at over 20 per cent, making these two back-to-back climbs the most decisive of the race just 14km to the finish line.

Longo Borghini won the 2015 Tour of Flanders, with a solo breakaway. She attacked through the last set of climbs, with 20km to go, built a one-minute lead and never looked back. Her teammate Jolien D'hoore finished second and Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv Women) third.

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