Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen are looking to make history at the Tour of Flanders, but who are the other riders who could win the cobbled Classic?
The key thing about Cancellara is that he knows the Flanders hills like the back of his hand. Nothing on the route will surprise him. He will have a plan of where to attack if the race pans out the way he intends it to.
Keeping up with one of his attacks is another matter, though. Something that his rivals will want to keep at bay.
Illness scuppered his chances at E3 and he couldn’t even get out of bed for Ghent-Wevelgem, but he rebounded to win the first stage of the Three Days of De Panne.
Despite knowing he could win in a sprint finish, Kristoff followed the attack of Niki Terpstra to win last year. Whether he’ll be in a fit state to do the same again this year is yet to be seen, but if he’s in the final group when they approach the finish line he will feel confident of winning.
Boonen knows how to win here, but he’s not done so since 2012 – the last time he won a major Classic.
He wasn’t really at the races at E3 Harelbeke or Ghent-Wevelgem, but like Cancellara, Boonen feels at home in Flanders and will want to claim his record-breaking fourth title.
Greg Van Avermaet
We built Greg Van Avermaet up before E3 and Ghent-Wevelgem, but illness forced him out of the first race and he battled to ninth in the second.
Like Kristoff, we’re unsure of his fitness and health and he won’t have had the preparation he’d like ahead of the big race. But like Kristoff, Van Avermaet is strong enough to get through the race without being on top form.
After winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad many people thought that this could be Van Avermaet’s year to win a big race and this could be his best chance of Monument success this season.
Your essential guide to the 2016 Tour of Flanders
We thought he’d be one of the ones to contend for the E3 title, but instead Sep Vanmarcke put in a great performance to finish second to Peter Sagan in Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday.
Second place is something of a speciality for Sagan, but Vanmarcke has had his fair share of disappointments in the Classics as well.
Third is his best performance in Flanders, back in 2014, but he just has to win a big one sooner or later. Will this be his year?
Like Vanmarcke, Sagan has to win a Monument sooner or later and he enters in very good form thanks to his Ghent-Wevelgem win.
Perhaps more importantly for Flanders, Sagan rode to second place in E3 on Friday on a route more similar to what he’ll face in the Ronde against riders who will be his biggest rivals.
Tactically he can spot the right moves to follow, but he will be a marked man on Sunday. The benefit he has is his sprint finish, which could allow him to sit back and wait for the moves to be made. As long as he’s in a position to follow them then he’s got a strong chance of winning.
While Boonen will probably be Etixx-Quick Step‘s leader in the race, Terpstra has a better chance of winning it, having come second last year.
He’s not shown particularly great form coming into the race, but then again he never really does at this time of year.
He won the GP Le Samyn at the start of March with a very powerful performance in pretty average conditions, but the field will be stronger and the conditions tougher in Flanders.
Lotto-Soudal youngster Tiesj Benoot isn’t in the prime of his career yet, but he’s already pretty handy over the cobbles. He may be the next generation of Belgian talent, but he could spring a surprise on Sunday.
If you’re a gambler, an each-way bet on Benoot may be a safer option, but if the race pans out in his favour few people will be surprised to see him win.
Etixx-Quick Step’s third option for the Tour of Flanders is Zdenek Stybar, but the Czech may have his sights more on the following week’s Paris-Roubaix.
He came ninth in Flanders last season, before second in Roubaix, but enters this year’s race without the same form he showed this time last year.
Fifteenth at E3 and 46th in Ghent-Wevelgem isn’t the best build up to a big race, but thanks to his cyclo-cross background Stybar is used to gritting his way though races and this could be no different.
But the Pole’s win at E3 Harelbeke on Friday has catapulted him into the conversation as one of the favourites for Flanders – a race he’s not ridden since 2013.
He can climb, we know that, but can he climb the relentless climbs of the Tour of Flanders? Kwiatkowski will have Thomas, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe by his side and either one of them could break the top 10.
Kwiatkowski was brought in to win a Monument, but few would have guessed that the Tour of Flanders might be his first shot at it.