The 100th edition of De Ronde is poised to be a dramatic affair as we tick off the second monument of 2016 this Spring. After a week of varied Belgian cycling across the country, this Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen once again sits as the cherry atop the cake of Flemmish cobbled racing. Stretching from the historic town of Brugge to Oudenaarde, the 255.9km course shall once again demand the utmost from any rider with an eye on victory here. With home stars such as Greg Van Avermaet and Tom Boonen searching for glory in this centenary edition alongside the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Peter Sagan and Tiesj Benoot; an epic battle for the title seems certain.
There is little doubt that Peter Sagan enters this race with the form and skills required to win it, though his recent sprinting efforts at the end of such arduous contests do raise doubts about his ability to see such a contest out to the end. Should he manage to join a group of five or more riders which reaches the finish first, there is a good chance that he will have limited his efforts on the front and still retain enough energy to take the win with a solid sprint to the line.
Fabian Cancellara will be extremely motivated to take another win at the Tour of Flanders during his final season as a professional cyclist, especially considering his brilliant form as of late. Alongside this comes a supporting cast of Trek riders which offer the level of strength and stamina required to survive such a contest in good position in hope of making all the key moves. The Swiss rider is certain to be a major protagonist once again and will not be afforded an inch of freedom during the day’s racing.
Sep Vanmarcke really should possess a greater number of major cobbled and classic wins by this point of his career, yet the Belgian rider has often been painfully unlucky at decicive moments of races in recent years. He looks to be in good form entering the 2016 classics season and will feel confident of being the fastest man left in the many permutations of favourites which seem likely to contest the finale.
Belgian support will also be out to cheer on youngster Tiesj Benoot, a rider who has already demonstrated a prowess for this race during his senior debut in 2015 when finishing fifth. If he manages to make the selection for the decisive move once again, then he will be a threat in the final as Benoot has demonstrated his great turn of speed at the end of such races already.
Greg Van Avermaet seems to have finally solved his reputation as a nearly man and will be extremely motivated to win this 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders off the back of a Spring which has seen him better World Champion Peter Sagan on more than one occasion already. Avermaet has a very strong team at his disposal and should feature in any move which has the chance of making it all the way to the finale.
The strongest of outsiders likely to feature include Geraint Thomas, Zdenek Stybar, Michal Kwiatkowski, Arnaud Démare and Luke Rowe to name a handful.
1st Peter Sagan 2nd Fabian Cancellara 3rd Tiesj Benoot