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Why you should sneak off work and catch Dwars door Vlaanderen this Wednesday

Joseph Delves
17 Mar 2017

The 12-day Flemish week kicks off this coming Wednesday with Dwars door Vlaanderen

Spanning five races, Flemish week actually lasts 12 days, not that we’re complaining. Kicking off with Dwars door Vlaanderen and ending with the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) the races that make up this festival of Flemish cycling are as unique as they are difficult to pronounce. Consisting of Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke, Gent–Wevelgem, Three Days of De Panne, and finally the Ronde, for many cyclists in the Low Countries these races are the absolute pinnacle of the cycling season.

With its midweek running schedule, despite opening festivities Dwars door Vlaanderen has often been seen as the poor relation of E3 Harelbeke and Gent–Wevelgem, which take place on the Friday and Sunday before the Tour of Flanders the weekend after.

However, as of this year the race has been elevated to the UCI WorldTour, cycling's highest tier of professional races. Not that a few extra points are likely to change the composition of the riders challenging for the win.

There’s a pretty solid expectation among the Belgian fans that their home riders will contest each race as resolutely as if it were the queen stage of the Tour de France.

Translating as ‘Across Flanders’, Dwars door Vlaanderen will be the first time the peloton has seen cobbles since the twin season openers of Omloop Het Nieuwsbald and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in February.

Each year the Dwars’ roughly 200 kilometre route varies to take in a different selection of the area's many short hills. This year’s 72nd edition tackles 12 of the punchy Flemish climbs including the Kwaremont, Valkenberg, Eikenberg, Paterberg, before finally taking on the Nokereberg, 10 kilometres before the finish.

With some of these climbs themselves faced with cobbles, several flat cobbled sections will also see the riders jostling for position, including on final run in to the finish.

A similar parcours to the Tour of Flanders means many of the same riders will be present, although those with genuine ambitions of winning the Ronde 11 days later may choose to stay fairly quiet in the bunch.

However, the race still attracts a strong field and part of its charm is that anything can happen. This year world champion Peter Sagan will be in attendance as will Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo).

Women's Dwars door Vlaanderen

The women’s race, which takes place earlier on the same day, will see as many as 20 British riders competing.

With four British registered teams - Team Great Britain, WNT Pro Cycling, Drops Cycling and Wiggle-High5 - in attendance, it might be Hannah Barnes of Canyon-SRAM who provides the greatest chance of a British win victory.

Although as yet it’s not known if Boels-Dolmans are intending to deploy Lizzie Deignan, who will be looking to secure a second win at the Tour of Flanders the weekend after Dwars.