The absence of Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) from the Tour of Flanders start list for Sunday's 99th edition has left the race wide open for a rider from the next generation of Classics specialists to stake his claim to de Ronde.
Although the winner may be new, the course is littered with the traditional climbs and challenges that have built the race into a Monument. Nineteen climbs dot the 264.2km route, beginning with the Tiegemberg after 87km before the first of three ascents of the Oude Kwaremont 20km later. A long softening up process follows, as the race criss-crosses the Flemish Ardennes by tackling the Kortekeer, Eikenberg, Wolvenberg, Molenberg, Leberg, Berendries, Kaperij and Kanarieberg.
In the final 55 kilometres, the race takes on the Kwaremont and Paterberg as a combination for the first time, before heading straight for the Koppenberg. The Steenbeekdries, Taaienberg and Kruisberg bring the survivors back around to face the Kwaremont and Paterberg for the final time, ahead of the wide, straight 13km run-in to the finish line in Oudenaarde.
Many of the teams took advantage of dry weather leading up to the race to pre-ride the pivotal sections of the course that will decided the winner on Sunday.
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