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We’ve had the prequel, now are you ready for the blockbuster sequel?
The E3 Saxo Bank Classic was an epic. The three biggest names in the men’s peloton - Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, and Tadej Pogačar - battling it out for over an hour, with a finish line sprint won by Van Aert the only thing that could separate them after an intense tussle.
Now it’s the time for the big one. The Ronde. The Classic. The one that all the cobbled races before them slowly build up to. It’s the Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Vlaanderen, and both the men’s and women’s races are primed to be the best showdowns in recent memory, every kilometre of which will be available to watch on GCN+.
They are legendary races for so many reasons, but the reason they are so unmissable every year is the unpredictability of them. Stacked with 19 bergs for the men and 13 for the women, the fan-lined Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg both await the riders in the final 20 kilometres. Will the double ascent be the launchpad for a winning move, or will the victors have already set off in pursuit of glory before then?
There are so many narratives, so many storylines. Will Van Aert, the man of the moment, win again? Did he gift Christophe Laporte Gent-Wevelgem knowing that his Jumbo-Visma teammate would repay him handsomely at Flanders?
Will his eternal rival Mathieu van der Poel, the defending champion, bounce back from second at E3 and wrap up his third Ronde? He has, bit by bit, been making this race, and the cobbled Classics, his.
What of Tadej Pogačar? The indomitable Slovenian. He who cannot be suppressed. He who seems to glide over cobbles with the same ease as he flies up the mountains. He was so close on debut 12 months ago - is he going to add this Monument to his collection?
And then there’s Soudal - Quick-Step. They desperately need a result - only a win will do, really - to end their barren run of form in the Classics that stretches back two years. Kasper Asgreen, the winner in 2021, seems their most likely hope, even if former world champion Julian Alaphilippe is their designated leader.
The easiest way to check out who is riding and who isn’t is by logging onto the GCN+ app and swotting up on the startlist, route and parcours. While there, you can relive the drama of last year when SD Worx produced a phenomenal team performance to set up Lotte Kopecky for the win, the Belgian champion outsprinting Annemiek van Vleuten for a memorable triumph.
SD Worx will once again be favourites. Who can stop them right now? Kopecky won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Danilith Nokere Koerse, while her teammates Lorena Wiebes, Demi Vollering and Marlen Reusser have won other Classics this spring. The latter’s win at Gent-Wevelgem was an exhibition.
It will be the rest versus SD Worx, everyone else desperately trying to hang onto their coat tails, to prevent not just one but all of their six cards. It won’t be easy, but when you’ve got Van Vleuten in your line-up, you’d be a fool to write-off Movistar.
There’ll be plenty fancying their chances. UAE Team ADQ will be led by the 2019 winner and on-form Marta Bastianelli. Third at Omloop, a winner at Le Samyn des Dames, Bastianelli is flying.
For all the justified talk about SD Worx, FDJ-Suez will back themselves, too. In Grace Brown and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, they have two riders who have both finished on the bottom step of the podium at the Ronde. It’s not inconceivable that they will better those results this time around,
Both races will be unmissable, and thanks to GCN+ it will be possible to watch both with ad-free coverage. Whether you’re at home, on the train or simply out riding yourself, you’ll be able to tune in via any smart device, while you can also pause, rewind, forward and pick up where you left off to ensure that you don’t miss a single moment of excitement.
Narrating the action and drama will be GCN+’s expert commentators and ear-to-the-ground pundits who will tell their own tales of competing in Ronde and provide informed, unrivalled analysis. Once the racing is over, GCN+’s World of Cycling is the place-to-be to pore over all of the finer details and stand-out moments. For when you want to recap all the action, GCN+’s tailored highlight packages - short, medium, long - allow you to do so whenever you want.
If Paris-Roubaix (also on GCN+ next week) is a Sunday in Hell, then Flanders is a Sunday of Joy. The monthly cost of a GCN+ subscription to ensure you stay abreast of everything? Less than a roadside plate of frites and mayo, and most certainly cheaper than a pint of Kwaremont beer.
You can catch all of the Tour of Flanders and the other upcoming Classics by subscribing to GCN+ here. (Territory Restrictions May Apply).