Advertisement

Sign up for our newsletter

Advertisement

Who are the favourites for the 2022 Tour of Flanders?

These key riders will be searching for victory at the upcoming Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday 3rd April 2022

Robyn Davidson
30 Mar 2022

With the dust barely settled on Matej Mohorič’s solo heroics at Milan-San Remo, the second Monument of the season is upon us.

The Tour of Flanders is a very different race to La Clasicissima, however, and favours a different kind of rider.

To win Flanders means scaling relentless cobbled climbs through the Flemish Ardennes, followed by the one-two punch of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, before finally reaching the finish line in Oudenaarde.

The men’s and women’s 2022 Tour of Flanders both take place on Sunday 3rd April. The men will race first, covering 272.5km across the Flemish countryside from the start in Antwerp.

The men’s route has lengthened by almost 20km from the 2021 edition, won by Kasper Asgreen of Deceuninck-Quick Step.

The women’s peloton will cover 158km on the same day, and the 2022 route finally includes the historic Koppenberg for the first time – a climb that has shaped the destiny of countless men’s races in the past.

Annemiek van Vleuten won last year’s edition with a trademark solo attack on the Paterberg, and will be looking to add to her ever-growing palmarès in 2022.


Men’s favourites 

Wout van Aert

Credit: A.S.O./Alex Broadway 

Update: Jumbo-Visma has since tweeted Wout van Aert is ill and 'unlikely' to be at the start line on Sunday.

The Belgian tricoloure might as well double as a target on the back of Wout van Aert, the national champion an odds-on favourite to win the Tour of Flanders.

Last year he claimed focussing too heavily on early-season races like Tirreno-Adriatico negatively impacted his Classics season.

However, his 2022 season has already produced an abundance of success, playing a key role in the recent Jumbo-Visma domination of Paris-Nice and taking a solo victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Van Aert and teammate Christophe Laporte also finished 1-2 at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic towards the end of March, breaking away on the Paterberg in a leg-breaking assault that no one could follow.

Whether the Belgian will be in the contesting group in Flanders or finds himself solo after accidentally breaking away from the peloton due to his sheer ability, following Van Aert is the key to glory...

Or a podium at least.

Tadej Pogačar

Credit: A.S.O./Aurélien Vialatte

Despite this being Pogačar’s debut at the Tour of Flanders, marking the strongest rider in the peloton as a contender by default feels like the right thing to do and speaks wonders about his abilities.

The Slovenian has already won two Monuments in his still-young career – Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia.

The two-time Tour de France champion began his season with success at the UAE Tour, and immediately followed that by storming his way to the win at Strade Bianche after a crushing 50km solo attack.

If that wasn’t enough, he won two stages at the week-long Tirreno-Adriatico, lifting the overall race winner’s trident and taking home the sprint jersey and young rider jersey too for good measure.

Because remember: this man is still only 23 years old. Such is Pogačar’s talent that victory at his first attempt at the Tour of Flanders would barely even count as a surprise.

Kasper Asgreen

Credit: A.S.O./Henning Angerer

The defending Tour of Flanders winner, Kasper Asgreen will be looking to kickstart QuickStep Alpha Vinyl’s Classics season after an uncharacteristically quiet start to the year.

After being named the most successful cycling team in the world for the tenth year in a row in 2021, their sole Classics win so far in 2022 has been Fabio Jakobsen’s success at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Yet Asgreen recently finished on the podium at Strade Bianche, salvaging a decent result for the team after a crash-marred, windy race that took World Champion teammate Julian Alaphilippe out of contention, and placed 32nd at Gent-Wevelgem.

Regardless of their form so far this year, QuickStep are always a team to watch, and are sure to be a looming presence in Flanders, lurking in the background like a waiting predator ready to pounce on their prey.

After all, it seems the pressure has switched to Jumbo-Visma to control races recently as opposed to the men in blue and white, which may well work to their advantage.

Once the wins start rolling again – which they will – they’ll likely come thick and fast.

Mads Pedersen

Credit: A.S.O./Alex Broadway

Former world champion Mads Pedersen is building a steady campaign for himself in 2022, including finishing 6th at his debut Milan-San Remo and 7th at Gent-Wevelgem.

His stage win at Paris-Nice was the result outright speed in a punchy finish, and left him with the luxury of time to celebrate as he comfortably beat Wout van Aert for Trek-Segafredo first WorldTour win since the 2021 Tour de France.



The Dane has acknowledged that the recent E3 Saxo Bank didn’t go to plan, yet his success at Etoile de Bessèges suggests that was a one-off.

‘He knows sooner or later it will [work out],’ is the word from his team.

See also:

Mathieu van der Poel

The Dutchman raced with ‘no expectations’ at Milan-San Remo yet produced a monumental effort to finish third in his first race day of the season, coming back from a back injury. He then won Dwars door Vlaanderen ahead of Tiesj Benoot.


Women’s favourites

Annemiek van Vleuten

Credit: Luis Ángel Gómez/Photo Gomez Sport

It wouldn’t be a favourites article without the defending champion’s name underlined, highlighted and stuck in the middle of a board for every other team’s strategy breakdown.

Van Vleuten wasted no time in coming back from her season-ending fracture last year after crashing during Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

Back as if she never left (to be fair, her absence coincided with the off season), Van Vleuten reigned victorious at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in February.

Naturally, she then won at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in a sprint finish against Demi Vollering. The tables were turned at Strade Bianche, however, as the Team Movistar rider was outsprinted and tactically overcome by Lotte Kopecky.

The fact that Van Vleuten shows no signs of having lost any speed after her injury and continues to compete with (and beat) a younger generation only bodes well for the Tour of Flanders and beyond. Say, to the Tour de France Femmes

Lotte Kopecky 

Credit: Luis Ángel Gómez/Photo Gomez Sport

On the subject of Kopecky, the talented SD Worx rider is shining in a stacked team.

Strade Bianche success against Van Vleuten provided the biggest win of her career so far, with the Belgian looking to capitalise on her form at the upcoming Tour of Flanders.

Tactically she was perfect at Strade, following her competitor’s move up the 16% slopes of the Santa Catarina climb and then shutting off Van Vleuten’s line into the final corner to stay ahead.

She’s already said the Tour of Flanders is her favourite course, so is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Elisa Balsamo

Credit: SprintCycling via Trek-Segafredo

Single-handedly undoing the tradition of the so-called ‘rainbow jersey curse’, the in-form Elisa Balsamo has been the signing of the season so far for Trek-Segafredo.

Her latest victory on the road included beating none other than Marianne Vos. At Gent-Wevelgem, the rainbow jersey worked her way into the contesting group where she beat Vos, Lotte Kopecky and Marta Bastianelli to the line.

She’s getting very familiar with the top step of the podium.

The Italian’s commanding sprint has marked her as a key contender to try and distance, yet a strong Trek-Segafredo team consisting of Audrey Cordon-Ragot (who is recovering from Covid and won’t be at Flanders), Ellen van Dijk and Elisa Longo Borghini are capable of closing down any attacks.

Marianne Vos

Credit: A.S.O./Gautier Demouveaux

We should consider ourselves fortunate to be able to witness one of the greatest cyclists of all time in Marianne Vos.

Despite not achieving quite the same level of success on the road that we’re used to seeing so far in 2022, with a second to Elisa Balsamo at Gent-Wevelgem her best result in a campaign that has been affected by illness, Vos did notch up a record eighth world cyclocross title in January.

Her dominating efforts in cyclocross were evident throughout the winter, winning rounds in Waterloo and Iowa City (USA) and Rucphen (Netherlands) during the World Cup.

This month, Vos noted her excitement to return to the road. With a schedule that includes the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and altitude training before the Tour de France Femmes, it’s clear Vos is more than prepared for a few cobbles.

See also:

Marjolein van’t Geloof

She is such a consistent rider, racing to 6th at Le Samyn des Dames and 5th at Danilith Nokere Koerse. If at the Tour of Flanders start line, she can absolutely place top 10 for her team while looking ahead to her leadership role at Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

Le Col-Wahoo are knocking on the door for a big win, and they certainly have the talent for it to come soon with ambitions set on World Tour for 2023.

Grace Brown

Brown was recently seen attacking towards the finale of Gent-Wevelgem and for a moment it looked as though she could distance the peloton for victory, but it wasn’t to be.

Brown told Cyclist at the start of the season that she was looking forward to having fun at the pointy end of races with the team.


The Tour of Flanders takes place on Sunday 3rd April 2022.