The 14,000 Tour of Flanders sportive riders got a soaking on Saturday but the Flemish weather is expected to dry, with a chance of sunshine on Sunday for the men’s and women’s Tour of Flanders, with a stiff northeast wind likely to be the biggest factor in the races.
Many of the sportive riders were forced to walk up the Koppenberg due to the wet and greasy cobbled surface just as the likes of Tadej Pogačar was formed to do during his final reconnaissance ride on Friday. However, race organiser Flanders Classics have promised to clean the cobbles one final time before Sunday to help ensure a safe race.
Some parts of the Koppenberg will dry out overnight but other sectors remain in the shade and could stay wet. Being up front and well positioned for the 14th of the 19 climbs on the Tour of Flanders route will be more important than ever.
Flemish weather forecaster Bram Verbruggen confirmed that the latest data indicates that Sunday will be dry for the Tour of Flanders, with sunny outbreaks later in the day and temperatures of about 9° C (48 degrees Fahrenheit) in the afternoon.
A north-easterly wind is expected to blow at between 10-25 kph. This could be the biggest factor on the often exposed Flemish road.
The early breakaway will enjoy a tailwind as they try to build a lead on the peloton but will turn into a headwind after 75km and face crosswinds until they hit the first of the 19 Hellingen. The twisting nature of the route will mean riders could face ever changing winds during the race.
A cross-tail winds and so a fast approach is expected for the final kilometres to the Oude Kwaremont climb, while the short section before the Paterberg will be into a headwind.
Importantly the final 13km of the race, from the top of the Paterberg to the finish in Oudenaarde, will be into a headwind, often on exposed roads.
The big three of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) are widely expected to go away on the final climb of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg but the headwind could slow their attack and help a chase group get back on, perhaps in the final kilometre, as happened last year.
Riders completed their final reconnaissance in the rain on Friday, with many teams opting for time on the home trainer on Saturday, instead of another day in the rain. Van Aert was one of the few riders to head out for a ride, the Jumbo-Visma rider doing a 65km spin around the Flemish lanes.
In contrast, Van der Poel only arrived at the Alpecin-Deceuninck hotel in Oostkamp, late on Saturday afternoon after spending the week training in Spain. He did not do a reconnaissance ride, claiming he knows the route after riding the Tour of Flanders four times and winning it in 2020 and 2022.
Most riders will be happy to see the improving weather forecasts. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) doesn’t mind wet races but is hoping for a dry race to avoid any bad luck.
“I don’t care if it’s wet or dry. Normally it takes a lot of guys out of contention, so then I’m fine with the rain. But I’m still not hoping that on Sunday it’ll be pissing down because the chances of having bad luck are greater,” the Dane said.
“I think right now the big deal will be the Koppenberg. The rest of the climbs are normally OK, they’re used to rain and then dry up quite fast, but the Koppenberg is covered by trees and it always makes it quite slippery, even if it’s been dry for two weeks.
“It’s really important to go into Koppenberg in a good position, and I mean first three to five riders, no further back. I think we have very good tires to make it over and I never had an issue with grip on the Koppenberg before.”
His Trek-Segafredo teammate Shirin van Anrooij also has concerns about the Koppenberg as she prepares to make her Tour of Flanders debut.
“I had never ridden any of the climbs or cobble sectors except the Koppenberg before our recon so it was all very new and then we also had some rain which maybe also made some of the race a bit harder than it could be on Sunday,” she said.
“I know the Koppenberg from the cyclocross races. It’s the only one that I really know from this race. But it’s so different on a road bike with road tires and now it was muddy. They’re expecting sunshine on Sunday but after so much rain on the weekend, it will maybe still be wet. I just hope we can ride up there.”