The 98th edition of the Tour of Flanders will roll out from the centre of Bruges on Sunday to mark the start of one of most evocative, demanding, and downright insane spectacles in professional cycling. For the cycling-mad locals, it doesn’t get any bigger than De Ronde van Vlaanderen. Their race eclipses all other events on the international sporting calendar, and that includes the Tour de France. The proof lies in the millions who come out to line the course just to catch a glimpse of their heroes in action. All across the region they congregate on the cobbled climbs, bier in one hand, frites in the other, to celebrate this festival of cycling.
The Challenge Ahead
While the spectators soak up the atmosphere, the riders undergo an all-together different experience. Between Bruges and Oudenaarde the course winds its way over 260 km to tackle 17 fierce Hellingen in total. What these climbs may lack in altitude, they more than make up for with gradients in excess of 20% in addition to the race’s defining feature: the cobbles! It is a true test of a rider, requiring the very highest levels of endurance, power, bike-handling skills, experience, tactical nous, as well as the very best from their equipment: one mechanical mishap at the wrong time and it’s game over.
Katusha Back Two-Pronged Attack
One rider more who is than up for this challenge is Katusha’s Classics specialist, Luca Paolini. The 37-year-old has all the necessary experience to be considered a real frontrunner for Sunday and is already planning how he can go for the win: “I’ll have two days to mull over where to attack […] I’ll have a film in my head beforehand of what I’d like to do.”
While Paolini is ready to go on the offensive, should a select group arrive at the line to fight out the sprint, Katusha will have one of the big favourites in their line-up in Alexander Kristoff, who came fourth in last year’s race. The Italian and the Norwegian combined perfectly in the finale of Milan-Sanremo two weeks ago, and if similar circumstances play out on Sunday, a second Monument victory in 2014 could be on the cards for the Russian ProTeam.
An Open Race for Movistar Team
Despite not achieving great results in previous editions of De Ronde, Movistar Team cannot be discounted, especially with the team backing Andrey Amador. The Costa-Rican loves racing in the cobbled classics, as was proved at Gent-Wevelgem last Sunday where his determined breakaway attempt only got caught by the peloton within the final 1000 metres.
With the likes of Giovanni Visconti and JJ Rojas out with injury, Sunday provides a great opportunity for some of the squad’s youngest members, including German Jascha Sütterlin and Spaniard JuanJo Lobato, who will be taking on their first Ronde.
Canyon wishes Katusha and Movistar Team the best of luck and looks forward to an exciting race!
Provisional Lineups for our ProTeams:
Katusha: GUSEV Vladimir, ISAYCHEV Vladimir, KRISTOFF Alexander, KUCHYNSKI Aliaksandr, KUZNETSOV Viacheslav, PAOLINI Luca, SMUKULIS Gatis, TSATEVICH Alexey
Movistar Team: AMADOR Andrey, ERVITI Imanol, GUTIéRREZ Iván, LOBATO Juan Jose, DOWSETT Alex, QUINTANA Dayer, SÜTTERLIN Jasha, VENTOSO Fran