Friday File: The Ronde; Hell on the Hellingen, You need to be strong, The Hurt Locker is open for business
The Belgian's call it their World Championships, this is the De Ronde van Vlaanderen.
It's the biggest Flemish cobbled race of the season. This race is not for mere mortals as the riders, more points if Belgian, are considered (understandably) as Flandriens. This will be the 100th edition with the home riders winning an astounding 68 victories. Daunting for the riders are the 18 climbs with iconic names: Oude-Kwaremont (tackle 3-times), Molenberg, Valkenburg, Koppenberg, Berendries, Paterberg. The Koppenberg is the steepest (max 22%) and riders are forced to dismount and walk up it. It's brutally steep cobbled climb which comes with 45km to go.
It really is the start of the cobble season. Also, enduring are it's fans perhaps cycling's most loyal. Belgium seems to stop to embrace this race, embrace it's heroes, embrace the history
"To be a classic rider, you need to be strong, you need to have a strong body - and you look like a really athlete."
- IAM Cycling
2016 Ronde van Vlaanderen: 100th edition, 255km, one of five Monuments, 17 cobblestone sectors, 18 climbs (including hellingen) and plenty of headwind.
I'm going for Peter Sagan, who has the smarts and tactic savy to do it. His Gent win is a perfect example. Greg Van Avermaet is also a threat and going so well this season, so he has to be up there. But, my dark horse is Tiesj Bennot, who finished fifth in his Flanders debut last year is the up and comer that is clearing knocking on the Flanders door.
My picks: 1. Peter Sagan 2. Greg Van Avermaet 3. Tiesj Bennot
I love the nicknames and here are all the winners...
The Hurt Locker is open for business...