The 74th edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen - A travers la Flandre (Wednesday April 7) will
see the world’s best riders tackle a challenging mix of cobbles and Flemish hills. The semi-Classic Belgian race is 182km long, starting in Roeselare and finishing in Waregem. In-between the riders face 11 hills and three debilitating stretches
This year’s route resembles recent editions with the first stiff ascent coming in the form of the Nieuwe Kwaremont around 82km in. From there until the finish, climbs loom around every 10km, including the Kluisberg, Knokteberg and Kortekeer that
flow into the cobbles of Mariaborrestraat. This section stretches to 1,250m and includes the climb of the Steenneekdries, before a taxing cobbled descent. With the weather forecast for a chilly 8°C and occasional thunderstorms, the riders must
show all their handling acumen to speed into another couple punchy climbs, Taaienberg and Berg Ten Houte, that follow in quick succession.
At around 150km, the Knokteberg is negotiated for the second time. The riders then hit the finale that includes the uphill cobbles of Vossenhol (800m at 6.5%) and Holstraat (1km at 5.2%). The last climb, which could decide the race, is the cobbled Nokereberg
(500m at 5.7%) whose pinnacle is around 9km from the finish.
Legendary Belgian team Lotto Soudal, headed by Tiesj Benoot, is prepared for different scenarios at Wednesday’s race. “A reduced bunch sprint in Waregem is among the possibilities but, as always, a lot will depend on the weather,” says
Frederik Willems, who’s on Lotto Soudal Sports Director duties alongside Herman Frison. “At the moment, the forecast for Wednesday isn’t great, which may cause a dangerous start as well as a fast finale.
“In my opinion, the Knokteberg is likely to be the decisive point in the race as it will be climbed twice and it’s also one of most difficult parts of the race,” Willems continues. “The race might be decided there. Then again,
if the forecast is right and if it’s cold and wet, like last year, the cobbled sections will also play their part. Chances are likely that a small group fights for victory, just like last year. There are still some kilometres left to cover from
the final climb until the finish, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a reduced bunch will be able to come back.”
In 2018, Belgium’s Yves Lampaert won for the second successive year, catching the leading group by surprise with an attack inside the final kilometre. His rivals weren’t quick enough to react and Lampaert took the win by just two seconds over
Team Sunweb’s Mike Teunissen (2nd) and EF Education First’s Sep Vanmarcke (3rd). Team Dimension Data’s Edvald Boasson Hagen and Trek-Segafredo’s Mads Pederson rounded out the top five.
Lampaert’s back this year aiming for three in a row and, whether it’s Lampaert or a teammate, it’s hard to look beyond team of the moment, Deceuninck-Quick Step, who’ve enjoyed a stellar start to the season, already racking up
20 victories. Within their ranks also lies the 2017 Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres winner Philippe Gilbert and Bob Jungels, victor last month of Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.
The Belgium team won’t have it all their own way, of course, and face intense competition from the likes of AG2R La Mondiale’s Oliver Naesen, who’s enjoyed an impressive season to date with four top-10s in one-day Classics and semi-Classics
including second at Milan-Sanremo and third at last Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields.
The winner of Gent-Wevelgem, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) also lines up, as does current UCI World Champion Alejandro Valverde. The 38-year-old’s fresh from 10th overall at the recent Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and faces Dwars
door Vlaanderen – A travers la Flandre for the second successive year after finishing 11th in 2018. Valverde’s more synonymous with the Ardennes Classics but has targeted Dwars door Vlaanderen in the build-up to the Ronde van
Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres on Sunday 7th April.
And keep an eye out for Lotto Soudal’s Tiesj Benoot, who finished seventh here last year and hit top-five in the recent Strade Bianche. “Benoot rode strong in 2018 but wasn’t part of the decisive move,” explains DS Frederik Willems.
“That’s why we must ensure such a scenario doesn’t happen again this year, which will mean sending guys like Jens Keukeleire or Nikolas Maes up the road when others start to attack.”
There could also be a Pro Continental winner in the shape of Direct Energie’s Niki Terpstra, who won this race in 2012 and 2014.
Whoever wins will be buoyant come Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres , which is why the prestige of Dwars door Vlaanderen - A travers la Flandre is arguably higher now than in previous years. In 2018, it was moved from its mid-week
slot after Milan-Sanremo to the middle of the Flemish ‘Holy Week’ of racing. Its elevated status also recognised the importance of Sunday’s Monument, so was reduced from 200km, losing the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs.