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Dwars Preview: Riders and Cobbles, Together At Last

Did you know? Dwars door Vlaanderen, Flemish for straight across Flanders, is actually a hellishly meandering circuit around Waregem.

The Media. The official website is a good place to find out who the sponsors are. Also there's a smattering of maps, climb descriptions, and startlist. This is both a Virtual Directeur Sportif and event. Don't sleep in.

The Hills. In case you were wondering why the race matters, it's the first chance (besides Het Volk over three long weeks ago) for riders to measure their strength and start attuning their bodies to Flemish weather and roads. The list, and some characteristics: (RVV) means it's also included in the Tour of Flanders/Ronde van Vlaanderen; (E3) means it's also featured in this weekend's E3 Prijs Vlaanderen. means it's a cobbled climb.

  • Katteberg
  • Berendries (RVV)
  • Valkenberg (RVV)
  • Eikenberg (E3) (RVV)
  • Oude Kwaremont (E3) (RVV)
  • Kalkhoveberg
  • Paterberg (E3) (RVV)
  • Cote de Trieu/Knokteberg (RVV)
  • Vossenhol
  • Nokereberg x3

The Kalhoveberg and Paterberg are the killers: cobbled, averaging 13%, topping out between 18 and 20%. If the moisture sticks around tomorrow, climbing and descending them will be especially tricky. But they also occur at KM 132-134 of 194, so other than shedding some of the pack fodder and maybe detonating a tiring escape group, they won't really dictate the outcome. Assuming the favorites stay upright. The race is a good classic in that it can end in a sprint, successful escape, or series of small groups -- all of which we've seen in the last five years.

As for those favorites, Tom Boonen is back to defend his win last year, notable for his gestures of approval toward his custom Specialized ride, tweaked after some minor back issues. His teammates include DeJongh, Devolder, Steegmans and Weylandt, all guys who can win. Silence! Lotto will counter with Gates, McEwen, Gardeyn, and Van Avermaet. Other notables: past winners Veuchelen and Eeckhout, O'Grady, Cancellara, Chavanel, Vaitkus, Eisel, Greipel, Hammond, Klier, Wesemann, Kopp, and a Max van Heeswijk sighting. We'll have a live thread open, and I have every intention of being on it. Enjoy!

Update [2008-3-25 17:52:37 by chris]: Snow hasn't been ruled out yet, and it's fairly clear something will be falling from the sky. If the race happens, it will be a spectacle. I'm guessing yes; lows are in the low 30s, which I interpret as meaning the drops will turn into flakes at night, but the roads will be wet enough to prevent accumulation. Maybe a better bet is on some slight course modifications if the cobbles are too slippery.