At the Tour of Flanders, Belgium celebrates itself as a cycling nation. This could only be crowned by Wout van Aert’s victory in the spring classic.
The color yellow was a common sight on the front pages of Belgian newspapers on Thursday morning (30/03/2023): it was part of Christophe Laporte’s jersey. The newspaper “Newspaper” showed the professional cyclist from Jumbo-Visma on the first page, in a jubilant pose at the finish line of the race “Straight through Flanders“. “The predictions are yellow”was the headline above it – it referred to the upcoming major event in the Belgian cycling calendar: the Tour of Flanders next Sunday, one of the five so-called monuments in cycling.
Jumbo-Visma has big plans for the Tour of Flanders
Also Laportewho had also triumphed at Gent-Wevelgem just a few days earlier, immediately turned his attention to the “Ronde”: the great spring classic, which will start and end on Sunday in Oudenaarde and in which his team Jumbo-Visma has big plans has. Laporte is said to be one of the helpers who are supposed to carry their leader Wout van Aert to victory in the Tour of Flanders. “If I can help Wout win the ronde then I’ll be the happiest man in the world.”he said.
At Gent-Wevelgem, van Aert generously allowed the Frenchman to win in a joint solo run before the finish. To a start at “Straight through Flanders“, the last endurance test before the great Tour of Flanders, van Aert then renounced, as did the two other favorites, the two-time Tour champion Tadej Pogacar and last year’s winner Mathieu van der Poel.
Three-way fight between van Aert, Pogacar, van der Poel
Die “Three Kings“, as the cycling gazettes call the three dominating drivers in the scene, have already had some hot duels this spring. Pogacar only made its debut in the cobblestone races last year, but it showed how quickly it can handle the difficult terrain could adjust.
Pogacar was able to play to his strengths last year, especially on the hilly Tour of Flanders with its many climbs, only in the last few meters did he lose the win against Mathieu van der Poel. It was the second triumph for Dutchman van der Poel after 2020, when he defeated his long-time rival van Aert in the finishing jump.
Van Aert can set a monument with victory
This time, however, van Aert is considered the favourite, also because of the strength of the entire Jumbo Visma team, which has dominated all five races over Belgian cobblestones this spring. At the E3 Saxo Classic in Harelbeke there was a direct showdown of the “three kings”. Van Aert won the sprint against his two toughest opponents.
However, Merijn Zeeman, sports director at Jumbo-Visma, confirmed that only success in one of the great spring classics counts. “Without a victory at a monument, it would be a lost spring” Zeeman said to the “Newspaper“.
At Easter, the next classic is on the program with Paris-Roubaix. But for the Belgian van Aert, the victory in the Tour of Flanders should probably be above all. In Belgium, the “Ronde” is something like the Wimbledon final or the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monza: a major national event watched by the whole country. Van Aert can set a monument with a victory on Sunday in the most important race in his homeland.
Kopecky wants to repeat last year’s home win
It would be the first Belgian triumph for men since 2017. Lotte Kopecky celebrated a home win in the women’s race last year, in the Belgian champion’s jersey. Kopecky is one of the top favorites again this year for the 20th edition. She has already had two wins and three second places this season. With SD Worx she also has a top team at her side, with Demi Vollering, winner of the Strade Bianche, and strong sprinter Lorena Wiebes.
Kopecky’s toughest rival is likely to be Annemiek van Vleuten again this time, the Tour winner has also triumphed twice in the Tour of Flanders. With a third success, the Dutchwoman would become the record winner.