Dwars Door Vlaanderen is traditionally the tune-up for the Tour of Flanders and is part of the Flemish Cycling Week. The race takes place mid-week, this year on 31st March, days ahead of the Tour of Flanders.
The first edition of Dwars Door Vlaanderen took place in 1945, yet over the previous 65 years no rider has amassed more than two victories. 13 riders have won twice, though, including Yves Lampaert and Niki Terpstra.
The 2020 edition of Dwars Door Vlaanderen was cancelled due to the global pandemic, meaning we must look back to 2019 to analyse how the latest edition played out. It was Mathieu van der Poel who won from a group of five riders after a now trademark early attack. Anthony Turgis was second whilst Bob Jungels was also on the podium.
There were 60 riders that finished within one minute of the winner, which is uncommon in any of the Flanders Classics. It’s more likely that we’ll see long-range attacks and small groups form. Yves Lampaert won solo in both 2017 and 2018, however, Greg Van Avermaet’s attack was controlled by the group behind in 2016 and the race was decided in a sprint with Jens Debuscherre taking victory.
The major difference between Dwars Door Vlaanderen and the Tour of Flanders is its length. At 185km, Dwars is typically around 80km shorter than the Tour of Flanders.
This year's race begins in Roselare and ends in Waregem. En route it will be taking on 13 short steep climbs, including the Kortekeer, Knokteberg, Steenbekdries, Taaienberg.Contenders
Yves Lampaert and Philippe Gilbert have been on the podium together on numerous occasions (Image credit: Alex Broadway/SWpix)
We have mentioned Deceuninck-Quick-Step relentlessly throughout our Flanders Classics preview series and for good reason. The 2017 edition displays how the team can take control of Dwars Door Vlaanderen.
Quick-Step entered the race with numerous genuine contenders, namely Philippe Gilbert, Yves Lampaert, Niki Terpstra and Zdeněk Štybar. They launched attacks early on, starting with Gilbert with over 70km remaining. In the end, four riders went up the road including Gilbert and Lampaert. Consecutive attacks from the two teammates wore down Luke Durbridge and Alexey Lutsenko and Lampaert escaped to victory, with Gilbert sprinting to second for good measure.
We saw the team execute a similar tactic at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic this season, where Kasper Asgreen took victory.
This year, Julian Alaphilippe, Kasper Asgreen and Yves Lampaert lead the DQS machine. We can expect to see them employ a similar tactic to gain a numerical advantage in the final.
The main obstacle for DQS will be Mathieu van der Poel. The Dutch Champion is in electric form in 2021 and is aiming to become the fourteenth rider to win Dwars twice. VDP doesn’t need a team, he is not against attacking with an absurd distance to the line and has the strength to follow it up or win in a reduced sprint. He has collected four wins in 2021 already and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him add to that here. Tim Merlier and Jasper Philipsen provide great back-up for Alepcin-Fenix should it come in for a sprint.
The INEOS Grenadiers enter with intrigue, highlighted by the presence of Tom Pidcock. The 21-year-old has displayed superb abilities for his age in his first season with the Grenadiers, including a podium at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and a top-5 at a high-level Strade Bianche. Dylan Van Baarle and Michael Kwiatkowski are two other fantastic options, both riders finished in the top 5 in 2015 and Van Baarle already has strong results in Flanders this season.
Christophe Laporte has displayed some of the best form of his career in 2021. The Cofidis man has proved difficult to drop on hilly terrain and has shown form on cobbles before too. He is dangerous because he is fast in a sprint-finish, if he’s present in the finish he will be one of the riders to watch. Cofidis also have Elia Viviani who is more of a pure sprinter but has improved in 2021.
Tiesj Benoot (Image credit: LB/RB/CorVos/SWpix)
Alongside Søren Kragh Andersen, Tiesj Benoot will lead Team DSM and will be confident of being present in the final. In Benoot’s five appearances at Dwars he has finished in the top 10 four times, but never better than fifth. Although strong on hilly and cobbled terrain, Benoot doesn’t possess the best sprint. This means he needs to escape before the line, which could require team assistance. If he can jump up the road alongside Casper Pedersen, who is a much stronger sprinter, the team will gain greater tactical flexibility.
Anthony Turgis has been a strong performer when on Belgium soil. The 26-year-old was 2nd at Dwars in 2019, he also finished runner-up at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne earlier this year. The French squad have other options with former winner Niki Terpstra and Edvald Boasson Hagen, though both may have crested the peaks of their powers.
Trek-Segafredo are fuelled by familiar classics duo Jasper Stuyven and Mads Pedersen. Both are quick and their rivals will worry if either are still at the front entering the final kilometres. Ed Theuns and Alex Kirsch could also play prominent roles either as lead-out man or early attackers.
Some of the best pure sprinters present include Tim Merlier, Giacomo Nizzolo, Elia Viviani and Pascal Ackermann.
Favourites: Mathieu van der Poel, Deceuninck-Quick-Step
Outsiders: Anthony Turgis, Tom Pidcock, Christophe Laporte, Casper Pedersen
Cover image: Zac Williams/SWpix