DE RONDE: Four Flanders scenarios
Flanders is set for a legendary 101st Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday. With the famous 'Muur van Geraardsbergen' back in it and another 'Oude Kwaremont' and 'Paterberg' finale, the Sports Gazette lines out fourpossible scenarios of what might happen.
1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) makes a decisive move on the Paterberg
The final climb of De Ronde, coming 13 kilometres from the finish, is the gruelling cobbled Paterberg.
Although only 400 metres in length, it has a maximum gradient of 20%, comes first after 209 kilometres and again 38 kilometres later.
The Paterberg has been used as the last climb in De Ronde for the last five years and is a popular place for riders to attack their rivals in a bid for glory.
Last year, Peter Sagan managed to drop Fabian Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke on the Paterberg before soloing to victory.
In all probability, this will once again be Sagan's plan. This time he will hope to shake off an in-form Greg Van Avermaet and cruise solo to the finish line again.
2. Sprint between Sagan and Van Avermaet (BMC)
Olympic champion Van Avermaet will be expecting Sagan to attack on the Paterberg – whether he can stay with him or not is another matter.
If the Belgian does manage to match Sagan up the climb, cycling fans all over the world will look forward to a mouth-watering sprint between the two.
Excluding the Olympic road race, which Sagan passed on, six of Van Avermaet's last ten victories have come in head-to-head sprints against Sagan.
In Milan-San Remo we saw Sagan attack on the Poggio dragging Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) and Julien Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) to the finish line.
Few at this point would have bet against Sagan comfortably sprinting to victory.
However, the work that he had done without help from his teammates or other riders had clearly sapped his strength and he was inched out by the Pole on the line.
Sagan will be mindful not to make that mistake again.
3. Attack on the Oude Kwaremont
The Paterberg is where many people expect to witness the decisive attack of the race, but it would be foolish to rule out fireworks on the penultimate climb of the race, the Oude Kwaremont.
It was three-times Ronde winner and retiring Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors) who proved that the climb can be decisive.
He escaped in a group of three with Ballan and Pozzato in 2012 and edged out his opponents with ease in the sprint to win his, so far, last Ronde van Vlaanderen.
4. Boonen waves goodbye to his fans with, unexpected, early glory
Local fans won't enjoy reading this but, in all probability, Boonen is unlikely to win a fourth De Ronde title.
Boonen, quite rightly, is a legend in Flanders.
Former Belgian coach Jose De Cauwer, just as most experts, expects Boonen to use his final De Ronde as preparation for the race which made his name, Paris-Roubaix.
However, with only a week left in his career, and an almost unrivaled classics pedestal, it would be a mistake to underestimate his winning chances if he manages not to be dropped on the final climbs.