Tour of Flanders: Picking the podium — who will win and how?

The VeloNews editors pick their favorites for the men's and women's races. Who's your tip?

Photo: Eric Lalmand/Belga/AFP via Getty Images

The Tour of Flanders is the peak of the Flemish racing calendar and the top classics stars, plus a few other big names, are converging on Belgium this weekend.

It’s two for the price of one Sunday with both the men’s and women’s setting off for Oudenaarde in the hunt to become Flanders’ finest.

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Mathieu van der Poel and Lotte Kopecky are the defending champions. Can they do the double or will another contender swoop in and take the title?

We had a go at picking the winners.

Who will win the women’s race?

Andrew Hood, VeloNews

Annemiek van Vletuen has won the Tour of Flanders twice
Annemiek van Vletuen has won the Tour of Flanders twice (Photo: Dirk Waem/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

Annemiek van Vleuten hasn’t looked as sharp so far in 2023 as she’s been at this point the past few seasons, but my hunch is that she’s been playing a bit of poker. She’ll be going all-in the next few weekends (what a shame she won’t race Paris-Roubaix), and I think she’s targeting victory in every race.

To do it Sunday she will need to have the gas to drop SD Worx and everyone else in the peloton. I think Kwaremont/Paterberg is going to be just hard enough for her to ride everyone off her wheel. Wind and weather will be a factor, but she’ll win alone just second ahead of a chasing group.

Sadhbh O’Shea, VeloNews

Lotte Kopecky wins the 2022 Tour of Flanders
Lotte Kopecky wins the 2022 Tour of Flanders (Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

Lotte Kopecky for the double. Only one other woman has ever won back-to-back Flanders titles and that was Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel in the early years of the race.

Conquering Flanders’ finest two years in a row is a difficult task, but Kopecky has the nous to do it. The Belgian has had an imperious spring so far, winning 50 percent of the races she’s started. She was only barely beaten to the win at Strade Bianche with a crash-impacted Gent-Wevelgem her only blip.

At her best, Kopecky can stay with some of the top climbers over Belgium’s hellingen and she’s capable of beating almost anyone in a dash to the line. However, with the form she has had this spring, it seems more likely that she will solo to the line as the chasers fight for the scraps among themselves.

Fred Dreier, Outside Magazine

Demi Vollering soloed to the Dwars door Vlaanderen win
Demi Vollering soloed to the Dwars door Vlaanderen win (Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

Demi Vollering. Everyone will be looking at Lotte Kopecky, Lorena Wiebes, and now Marlen Reusser, which could allow Vollering to attack on the Paterberg and get an advantage. If that happens, SD Worx has the numbers to stifle and chase.

Jim Cotton, VeloNews

Marianne Vos finished third at Dwars door Vlaanderen
Marianne Vos finished third at Dwars door Vlaanderen (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Ten years won’t stop Marianne Vos. One decade after Vos won her one and only Ronde in her sensational 2013 season, she’ll do it again Sunday.

Sure, Vos missed a big block of racing and doesn’t have the big bench of SD Worx at her side, but the 35-year-old knows how to scent out a victory in all circumstances. She kicked back strong at Dwars door Vlaanderen earlier this week to make her long layoff look like a non-factor and will have the commitment of her under-the-radar yet impressive underdog team as it piles its forces into Flanders.

Vos clinches De Ronde out of a small group sprint. You know it.

Who will win the men’s race?

Jim Cotton, VeloNews

Van der Poel looked stronger than Van Aert at E3, but lost in the sprint. (Photo: Gruber Images/VeloNews)

Mathieu van der Poel makes it three by outsprinting Tadej Pogačar in the Oudenaarde straight.

Van der Poel and Pogačar both make attacks on the final Kwaremont climb to shred a small final group and leave only Wout van Aert and maybe one other clinging to the wheels.

The awesome foursome power over the summit and into the Paterberg, and that’s where Van der Poel drops one of his most destructive watt bombs. The Dutchman detonates so hard it makes his previous attacks at Amstel Gold and Strade Bianche look lazy.

Van Aert is blown away, leaving Van der Poel and Pogačar to rampage into the horizon … and from there, it’s Van der Poel all the way.

Andrew Hood, VeloNews

Wout van Aert recons the Tour of Flanders route (Photo by Dirk Waem/Belga/AFP via Getty Images)

You have to admit it’s pretty cool to see this generation’s absolute three strongest riders going at it for De Ronde. Van Aert and Van der Poel have been bashing heads since they were teenagers, and now Pogačar has crashed the party to be the first Tour de France winner since the days of Merckx to have a legitimate chance at victory.

Not discounting other players like Pidcock, I see the race coming down to a three-way tug-of-war. The only way Pogačar wins is if he can gap everyone over the final Kwaremont/Paterberg double and hold it to the line, and I just don’t see it happening.

If all three come to the line, I think Van Aert will be the man with the muscle and momentum to finally win.

Sadhbh O’Shea, VeloNews

Tadej Pogacar on the attack at the E3 Saxo Classic
Tadej Pogačar is hoping to be at the front of the frame Sunday. (Photo: Gruber Images)

Call me foolish but I think Tadej Pogačar can win so I am going to manifest it here. Pogačar has taken to the Belgian cobbles like a duck to water over the last year. We almost take it for granted, but the two-time former Tour de France champion has been hugely impressive on the cobbles. This weekend, he could win his third monument title at the tender age of 24.

Pogačar’s biggest weakness on the cobbles is that he doesn’t have a fast finish compared to the burly specialists as was shown at last year’s Tour of Flanders and the E3 Saxo Classic last week. If Pogačar is to win, he’s going to have to do it alone. He’ll need to be more aggressive than he was at E3, but if he goes hard over the climbs he can get rid of the heavier classics riders and solo to the finish.

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