The Tour of Flanders is affectionately called the High Mass or Flanders’ Most Beautiful by Flemish people. The race has been around since 1913. In 2004, the women got their own Tour of Flanders.
Two current Team Jumbo-Visma athletes have already won the classic: Marianne Vos in 2013 and Coryn Labecki in 2017. Both will also be at the start on Sunday, and they are full of confidence.
Labecki: “I feel very strong at the moment, both physically and mentally. I’ve felt like this since the beginning of the season. I notice that I am getting better with every race. The same goes for my teammates. Last Sunday during Gent-Wevelgem, Marianne showed that she is in good shape. You can always rely on her, and we can also count on the other riders.”
Sports enthusiasts sometimes compare the Tour of Flanders with the Dutch Elfstedentocht. Both sporting events have a rich history and are incredibly popular. The American Labecki refers to a sports spectacle in her own home country. “The Tour of Flanders is like Superbowl Sunday: a huge event attracting many spectators. My husband Nate will also be on the sidelines on Sunday, which gives me extra energy. He came over from California to support me this week. He was also there in the year I won, along with my father.”
The women will cover 158 kilometres on Sunday. They pass six cobbled sections and climb no fewer than eleven slopes. The first slope – the Wolvenberg – appears after 69 kilometres, after which the riders will cross the Marlboroughstraat, Berendries, Valkenberg and Koppenberg. The Koppenberg contains the steepest part of the race (22%). After 114 kilometres, the riders will ride the same course as the men, who are scheduled to start at 10 am. This part is quite challenging: a new slope is waiting every five kilometres, always preceded by a cobbled strip.
The best is saved for last because the Oude Kwaremont (2200 metres at 4%) and Paterberg (360 metres at 12.9%) are part of the final. From the top of the Paterberg, it is still more than thirteen kilometres to the finish in Oudenaarde. This last part is flat.
“It’s going to be a tough race”, Labecki says. “But the course suits the team and me well. We are strong in the hills and on cobblestones, so we will go for the win. Regardless of the result, it will be a beautiful day, because the Ronde is a special race.”
The Tour of Flanders for women starts at 1:25 pm. The finish is expected at 5:45 pm.