Dwars door Vlaanderen is one of the few races in which looking at recent results doesn’t give us much indication of who could take victory. For example, Ellen van Dijk won this race two years in a row with solo victories in 2018 and 2019, while Annemiek van Vleuten took the win in 2021. Last year, however, Chiara Consonni managed to cross the line first in a reduced bunch sprint and a large group of riders came to the finish. The Flandrian terrain is hard enough to split things up if the peloton races aggressively, but sprinters can also make it to the end if teams decide to race in a cagey fashion. In 2023, the race will take place on March 29 and there’s a stellar line-up set to take to the start.
Demi Vollering and Marianne Vos return to racing for the first time since Strade Bianche and Trofeo Binda respectively, while Movistar’s Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij will also be back to take part in this semi-Classic. These sorts of riders will hope that the climbs are raced so that the faster sprinters are dropped and they can have a shot at the win themselves. Riders like Marta Bastianelli, on the other hand, will be hoping for things to stay under control for a bunch finish, so this should make for an interesting race dynamic.
With cobbles and bergs aplenty and the risk of poor weather conditions, it’s going to be a tough race around Flanders, the perfect warm-up for the Tour of Flanders a few days later.
In a route spanning 115.2km, the women’s peloton will face seven cobbled sections and eight climbs in the 2023 edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen. The race begins in Waregem and the riders hit the first cobbled section after just 16.5km of racing, which could make for a chaotic and explosive start – positioning will be important here. There is then around 15km of racing until the first climb of the day, the Volkegemberg, which leads straight into another cobbled section, the Holleweg.
Image: Dwars door Vlaanderen
The Berg Ten Houte and Kanarieberg climbs come next in quick succession and this is where we should expect to see the race begin to break up, especially if there are teams with an interest in dropping some of the sprinters. Around a 10km descent follows into and through the town of Ronse, before the climbs of Knokteberg-Trieu and Hotond. A section of cobbles on Mariaborrestraat follow, then the race’s final climb of Ladeuze, before the riders get around 10km of respite.
After 85.5km of racing, two cobbled sectors come in quick succession. The second of these, the Huisepontweg, is where Lotte Kopecky launched her winning attack in Nokere Koerse a few weeks ago. The riders then enter the local laps around Waregem with each lap including the Nokereberg climb and the cobblestone section of Herlegemstraat. Whether these two obstacles will be enough to split the bunch up and avoid a group finish remains to be seen – last year a selection of around 30 riders reached the finish line together.
In 2023, Chiara Consonni will be back to defend her Dwars door Vlaanderen title, she sprinted to victory here last year ahead of Julie de Wilde and Elise Chabbey. Consonni hasn’t shown the same sort of form yet so far in the 2023 season though, so it’s likely that UAE Team-ADQ will opt for Marta Bastianelli as their protected rider; the experienced Italian has already won Le Samyn des Dames this year and is perfectly suited to the tough bergs that the region of Flanders has to offer.
Demi Vollering at Strade Bianche 2023 (Image: Alex Whitehead/SWpix)
Dwars door Vlaanderen also sees the return of some big names to the peloton. Team SD Worx’s Demi Vollering hasn’t raced since she took victory at Strade Bianche a few weeks ago but will be back in action this week. The Dutch rider will be one to watch for attacks on the climbs but can also perform well in a reduced bunch sprint. Gent-Wevelgem winner Marlen Reusser also starts for SD Worx and she’s another one to keep an eye on for long-range attacks.
Marianne Vos of Jumbo-Visma will also take to the start line in Waregem, surprisingly having never raced Dwars door Vlaanderen before in her illustrious career. While Vos has been taking time to recover from surgery this season and has only raced at Trofeo Binda so far this year, her palmarès mean that she should never be counted out.
From FDJ-Suez, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig will be the team’s leader and she has proven year on year that she can perform well on the punchy terrain of Flandrian races. The Danish rider finished third at Strade Bianche so is clearly in good form and will take confidence into this race, supported by a strong team including Gladys Verhulst and Loes Adegeest.
Elisa Balsamo won’t be taking part in Dwars door Vlaanderen for Trek-Segafredo which means they don’t have a clear sprinter. This does give them the opportunity to allow riders like Lucinda Brand and Shirin van Anrooj the opportunity to attack. Van Anrooj won Trofeo Binda a few weeks ago with a daring solo move and could look to do the same here.
Pfeiffer Georgi winning Brugge De Panne 2023 (Image: Cor Vos/SWpix)
The duo of Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij also return to racing at Dwars door Vlaanderen after spending some time training at altitude. They will be looking to have an attacking race and are both riders to watch. Arlenis Sierra will be the sprinter for Movistar if it comes down to a reduced bunch kick. We can expect Team DSM to be quick to react to any attacks, especially with recent Brugge-De Panne winner Pfeiffer Georgi in their mix and strong climbers Elise Uijen and Juliette Labous.
Kristen Faulkner is due to return to racing for Team Jayco-Alula after she has not finished a race since Strade Bianche where she finished in third place but was eventually disqualified due to wearing a glucose monitor during the race. Despite her result being void, Faulkner did show huge strength in Strade Bianche with her solo effort and could look to repeat that in Dwars door Vlaanderen. Maria Martins returns from her recent track campaign for Fenix-Deceuninck and could perform well here if it comes down to a reduced bunch sprint, as could Elinor Barker and Amalie Dideriksen of Team UNO-X.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio before Strade Bianche 2023 (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)
AG Insurance-Soudal-Quick Step boast a strong line-up with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio leading the charge. The South African rider showed good form in Strade Bianche and has been vocal about wanting to target the Classics this year. Justine Ghekiere is also a talented climber and could perform well on the rolling terrain of Dwars door Vlaanderen, while Ally Wollaston will be a good option for the team in a reduced bunch sprint, if she has recovered from recent illness.
Ruby Roseman-Gannon has been steadily improving every race for Team Jayco-Alula and could be in the mix at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Audrey Cordon-Ragot of Zaaf Cycling Team is also a rider to watch, as is Letizia Borghesi of EF Education-TIBCO-SVB.
We are backing Demi Vollering to take the victory at Dwars door Vlaanderen. The SD Worx rider has always been strong on the rolling climbs and can respond well to explosive, punchy efforts. She will have a strong team around her and confidence from her recent performance at Strade Bianche.
Cover image: Dwars door Vlaanderen 2022 (Flanders Classics)