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  Ronde van Vlaanderen Preview  
  The big one is here, the third round of the World Cup and the race everyone wants to win during their career Ronde van Vlaanderen. Last year Ellen Van Dijk attacked a select group of favourites and soloed to the win. With Lizzie Armitstead sitting in the bunch nobody wanted to chase. Van Dijk is back to defend and will be one of only two former winners on the start line. 2011 winner Annemiek Van Vleuten will lead the Bigla squad. Somewhat surprisingly it is a race Vos has only won once, claiming her win in 2013 but wont be making it number two this year with her focus elsewhere.

2014 Results

1 Eleonora VAN DIJK
2 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD +1:01
3 Emma JOHANSSON +1:01
4 Elisa LONGO BORGHINI +1:03
5 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN +1:03
6 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN +1:03
7 Liesbet DE VOCHT +1:03
8 Megan GUARNIER +1:03
9 Tiffany CROMWELL +1:03
10 Evelyn STEVENS +1:03

Past Winners

2014 Ellen Van Dijk
2013 Marianne Vos
2012 Judith Arndt
2011 Annemiek van Vleuten
2010 Grace Verbeke
2009 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg
2008 Judith Arndt
2007 Nicole Cooke
2006 Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel
2005 Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel
2004 Zoulfia Zabirova

The Route

At 145km it is one of the longest and most difficult races on the calendar. The route covers 10 climbs several of them cobbled and five other cobbled sections. The first climb, the Wolvenberg comes at the 49.4km and with an average gradient of 7.9% and a maximum 17.3%. It is here we are likely to see the first main action. The first cobbled section the Ruiterstraat comes immediately after and the Kerkgate and Holleweg follow over the next five kilometres. The cobbled Molenberg is next (463m 7% Average. 14.2% Maximum) including 300m of cobbles.

Between the Molenberg and the third climb of the day the Leberg is the penultimate cobble section of the Paddestraat. At 2.3km it is the second longest of the race and likely to put more riders under pressure. Followed by Haaghoek around 10 kilometres later. The Leberg (950m 4.2% Average. 13.8% Maximum) at 82.6km. Just under 10km later is the Leberg and from here the remaining eight climbs come in relatively quick succession. The teams looking to make the race as selective as possible will use the next 50km to drop the sprinters.

The infamous climb of the Oude Kwaremont comes with 16.7km and at 2.2km is the penultimate climb is the longest of the race. At 4% average it is not the steeped but it reaches a maximum of 11.6% and with 1500m of it cobbles it is far from easy. With 13.3km to go comes the Paterberg, at just 360 metres it is relatively short but with an average of 12.9% and a maximum over 20.3% it will test the legs of everyone. It gives riders one last chance to attack and hope to hold on to the finish.


Helling 1: 49.4km Wolvenberg - 645m 7.9% Average. 17.3% Maximum
Helling 2: 62.1km Molenberg - 463m 7% Average. 14.2% Maximum (300m cobbles)
Helling 3: 82.6km Leberg - 950m 4.2% Average. 13.8% Maximum
Helling 4: 86.6km Berendries - 940m 7% Average. 12.3% Maximum
Helling 5: 92.0km Valkenberg - 540m 8.1% Average. 12.8% Maximum
Helling 6: 102.7km Kaperij - 1000m 5.5% Average. 9% Maximum
Helling 7: 110.0km Kanarieberg - 1000m 7.7% Average. 14% Maximum
Helling 8: 118.4km Kruisberg/Hotond - 2500m 5% Average. 9% Maximum
Helling 9: 128.2km Oude Kwaremont - 2200m 4% Average. 11.6% Maximum (1500m cobbles)
Helling 10: 131.6km Paterberg - 360m 12.9% Average. 20.3% Maximum


49.5km Ruiterstraat - 800m
52.8km Kerkgate - 2650m
55.4km Holleweg - 350m
67.1km Paddestraat - 2300m
79.6km Haaghoek - 2000m

The Contenders

Start list available here

Boels Dolmans

The team was dominant in Qatar and the early European races and while they were less dominant in the three Drenthe they were always present at the front. Ronde Van Vlaanderen is one of the biggest races on the calendar so expect to again see them dictating the race.

Ellen Van Dijk won the race last year from a long solo break from a select group. With teammate and eventual overall World Cup winner Lizzie Armitstead in the group nobody wanted to chase and bring her back. The team is even stronger this year and it is a tactic they continue to use successfully. Van Dijk one a stage solo and finished third overall in Qatar. Second in the opening European race Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then took an impressive third place finish in the bunch sprint at the opening round of the World Cup Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe. Not normally a rider you would look to in a bunch sprint but her finishing speed has increased making her an even more dangerous rider. Give her any sort of gap and she will be hard to bring back.

In Lizzie Armitstead they have a very motivated rider who won two stages and the overall in Qatar before finishing third at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and second at Strade Bianche, when teammate Megan Guarnier rode away from a select group. Armitstead took the World Cup lead after winning the select group sprint at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. It is a big target for Armitstead and with two of her biggest rivals out of the race, a strong team and continued good form it could be the year Armitstead takes the win.

The performances of Romy Kasper might have gone unnoticed due to the results of other riders in the team but Kasper has been consistent usually around the top 10. Finished 12th at Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe in a sign of good form. Chantal Blaak was very strong in the opening races of the season in Belgium winning Le Samyn des Dames, second Omloop van het Hageland and fourth Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Likes to attack and will be a dangerous card to play.

Rabo Liv

With Marianne Vos focused on qualifying for and winning gold on the dirt at the Rio Olympics is skipping much of the road season others have the chance to step up. The team put four riders in the top 10 last year and three remain with the team Van der Breggan 6th, Ferrand-Prevot 11th and Brand 12th. There is no doubting the strength of the team but if they want to come out on top they will need to work together to break the dominance of Boels Dolmans.

Anna Van der Breggan has had a strong season winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, second at Le Samyn, 5th Strade Bianche and rounded out the podium at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. Finished sixth last year after a similar run of form leading in to the race. Strong from a select group expect to see her on the attack.

World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot is a rider who improves every time she rides. Trofeo Alfredo Binda was her first race of the season but she didn't disappoint finishing second. On paper it might not be a race for her but don't discount her because of that. Despite it being early in the road season has picked up where she left off.

Lucinda Brand was the top finisher for the team at Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe just missing the podium in fourth. An attacking rider that helped her win Energiewacht Tour and the final World Cup round GP de Plouay last year.

Wiggle Honda

A big shake up in the team during the off season has seen them emerge as a powerhouse especially when it comes to sprinting. The team brings two time World Champion Giorgia Bronzini plus two other leading sprinters including Chloe Hosking and Jolien D'hoore. On their own each rider is very strong but together they are a near unbeatable combination.

D'hoore will come in to the race full of confidence having won the opening World Cup round Rental Ronde van Drenthe and an earlier win at Omloop van het Hageland. Despite making a quick transition from the track, where she finished fourth in the omnium has continued the good form on the road. Both D'hoore and Bronzini have finished just outside the top 10 in the past and both are on great form and have proven to be close to the mark before. Hosking is much more of a pure sprinter but could prove to be an important player for the team. The team have another very strong option in Elisa Longo Borghini who just missed out on the podium last year finishing fourth, repeating her performance from 2013.


The team put two riders in the top 10 last year in Tiffany Cromwell ninth and Evelyn Stevens tenth. Cromwell's ninth last year was her best result after 31st in 2010, 15th in 2012 and 14th in 2013. The classics specialist has had a strong start to 2015 in Europe 5th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 6th at Ronde van Drenthe and 11th Trofeo Alfredo Binda.

Trixi Worrack finished 15th last year and has finished just outside the top 10 on two other occasions. One of the most experienced riders on the team and packs a very quick finish especially from a select group. Alena Amialiusik could be the surprise packet. Finished 10th back in 2012 and while she would likely prefer a hillier race with people looking elsewhere Amialiusik could surprise. Finished third at Trofeo Alfredo Binda last year beating a number of big names in the sprint.

Individual and team time trial World Champion and silver medallist in the road race Lisa Brennauer could be a name to watch. Fast on the line and it is a course she should be able to do well on. Has never finished better than 31st here.

Barbara Guarischi has never really been in contention for the win here with her best result 24th in 2013. The team has been without a sprinter for a couple of years now and Guarischi gives them that option. It will be a test to remain with the big names but if she can hang on will be a name to watch in a sprint from a small group.


Not the dominant force we have seen in previous years. The team was already a number of riders down due to illness and injury and three riders yet to start their road seasons. Emma Johansson will start after a quick turnaround from a broken collarbone. You should never discount Johansson but despite her determination and mental strength is unlikely to be at her best. Loes Gunnewijk is one of the most experienced riders in the peloton and it is a course that suits her. A classics specialist but with the absence of Johansson might prove to be the best chance for the team. Has twice finished inside the top 10 including eighth in 2013.

Melissa Hoskins is riding the race for the first time but has made it an early season target. Might not have the experience of others but took a big step up last year when she was often the only rider left with Emma Johansson. Hoskins handles the short climbs well and was attacking at the Commonwealth Games road race.

Valentina Scandolara has been flying this year winning a stage and the overall at the Santos Women's Tour in January. The form has continued in Europe most recently finishing second at Molecaten Drentse Acht van Westerveld. Finished 14th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda when she was picked to lead the team. Has never been in contention here before but after her performance last weekend is ready to step up again.

Annemiek Van Vleuten

The winner in 2011 and fifth the past two years and Van Vleuten looks to be back to the level we saw her in 2011. A strong start to 2015 including ninth at Strade Bianche before rounding out the podium at Acht van Westerveld. Bigla recruited well but are still putting the pieces together and still chasing a win. On this course Van Vleuten has proven numerous times she is one of the best. Has a strong finish but unlikely to win a sprint from a large group so expect to see her go on the attack. Bigla bring a strong team with Ashleigh Moolman, who finished in the first chasing group, Iris Slappendel and Joelle Numainville.

Kirsten Wild

Despite her renewed focus on the track ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics, where she is focusing on the omnium. Made a strong return finishing third at the World Championships in a sign she will be a contender next year. For now Wild is back on the road and took a convincing win at Novilon Eurocup. Wild has a strong record at the race with three podium finishes and another fourth place. Thirteenth last year where she led home the second big chase group. Knowing her potential expect the big teams to try and drop her and take her out of contention but that will not be easy.

Amy Pieters

With Kirsten Wild having left the team it is up to Pieters to step up and lead the team in the classics. Hasn't repeated the results she had in 2014 but has still been posting strong results consistently. In the opening Belgium and Dutch Races Pieters was top 10 in every one including a strong second at Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe. The only rider who managed to get close to the Wiggle-Honda dominance in the closing kilometres. A strong sprint but stepping up at this level will be the test.

Elena Cecchini

The Italian Champion keeps threatening to take a big win and with her consistency it is likely to come sooner rather than later. Finished sixth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 10th at Le Samyn des Dames and Strade Bianche. Looked set for a top 10 at Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe but got pushed too far back and finished 14th. Added another top 10 result finishing ninth at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. Cecchini's strength comes in her ability to climb with some of the best on the shorter climbs.

Carmen Small

Small left one of the top teams to chase Olympic gold on the track but returns to race one of the biggest races of the year with Twenty16, which returns to the professional level in 2016. Illness kept her out of the Track World Championships and without a strong team winning will be difficult. Small is a talented rider and if she has the form will not doubt put in a strong ride.

Other names to watch: Tatiana Guderzo, Claudia Lichtenberg, Sabrina Stultiens, Ganna Solovei, Eujenia Bujak, Sofie de Vuyst and Kim De Baat.
 © 2016