Ronde van Vlaanderen is the third race of 9 in the UCI Women’s World Cup for 2014 and one of the most prestigious events the calendar. Starting and finishing in Oudenaarde, the European heartland of Spring cycling the race includes most of the Flanders roads that trip of the tongue of many a cycling fan, Paterberg, Molenberg, Paddestraat, Wolvenberg and Haaghoek, they’re all in there and more. These sections of the Flandrian road network aren’t just known by cycling fans for the iconic moments of racing that have occurred on these lanes over the years. All of the Flandrian race organisers, understandably look to include at least some of these obstacles when designing their parcours.
World Cup standings
Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) leads the World Cup classification going into the Tour of Flanders stage of the competition after winning Ronde van Drenthe and finishing second behind Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) at Trofeo Binda. Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) is 50 points behind Armitstead in second place.
|2||Anna van der Breggen||170|
Alena Amialiusik (Astana BePink) wears the Mountain jersey, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo-Liv) the Youth jersey and Iris Slappendel (Rabo-Liv)continues the wear one of the jerseys she designed, the Sprint, despite not competing in Trofeo Binda.
What happened last year
Ronde van Vlaanderen was the race that has eluded Marianne Vos. Of all the ‘big’ races on the calendar, something had always prevented her claiming the title of the winner of the Tour of Flanders. Be it illness, injury, race events she had never taken that top step onto the podium. With the final selection down to Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products), Ellen van Dijk (then of Specialized-lululemon), Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) and Vos (Rabo-Liv) all tried to escape Vos in the final kilometres but there was no denying the World Champion her first victory at Ronde van Vlaanderen. Van Dijk finished second and Johansson third in the final sprint to the line.
|2004||Zoufia Zabirova||Trixi Worrack||Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel|
|2005||Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel||Susanne Ljungskog||Monia Baccaille|
|2006||Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel||Christiane Soeder||Loes Gunnewijk|
|2007||Nicole Cooke||Zoufia Zabirova||Marianne Vos|
|2008||Judith Arndt||Kirstin Armstrong||Kirsten Wild|
|2009||Ina-Yoko Teutenberg||Kirsten Wild||Emma Johansson|
|2010||Grace Verbeke||Marianne Vos||Kirsten Wild|
|2011||Annemiek Van Vleuten||Tatiana Antoshina||Marianne Vos|
|2012||Judith Arndt||Kirstin Armstrong||Joelle Numainville|
|2013||Marianne Vos||Ellen van Dijk||Emma Johansson|
Starting in Oudenaarde, the race heads, north-east out of town and through the adopted Belgium home town of Emma Johansson, Zingem, so expect to see lots of Swedish flags and ‘EMMA’ painted on the road in the early kilometres. The action begins after the 40 kilometre mark with Wolvenberg, Molenberg and the cobbles of Paddestraat and Lippenhovestraat following in quick succession over the next 20 kilometres.
There’s a good chance the final selection for those to contend the win could be made at the halfway point of the race, crossing the Haaghoek cobbles followed by a ninety degree left hand corner and the climb of Leberg. At just under a kilometre in length the climb averages just over 4% but that doesn’t tell the true story of the ascent, the initial metres are very shallow before reaching almost 14% in gradient. The top of the climb is also the ‘mountain’ point to contribute towards the World Cup Mountain jersey. Towards the top of the climb is a great place to see the race in person as you can see the riders approaching from afar before they battle up the climb.
The next 50 kilometres include the climbs of Hostellerie, Valkenburg, Kaperij, Kanarieberg, Kruisberg and Oude Kwaremont before the final climb of significance before the finish, the cobbled Paterberg, the final climb for the World Cup ‘Mountain’ jersey. It’s just 360 metres in length but could be a deciding factor in the race averaging 12.9% in gradient and peaking at over 20% combined with the jarring of the cobbles. This could be the place for those to attack who don’t fancy their chances in a sprint at the finish. With less than 14 kilometres to the finish it’s ‘do-able’ solo, just… The finish also represents the only sprint point on the course that contributes towards the World Cup competition.
Expect all the big teams and names to be mounting serious challenge to win this prestigious race. Especially look out for Rabo-Liv who are running out of opportunities to prove they can win without Vos, ahead of her return at Fleche Wallonne.