Ronde van Vlaanderen 2023

It is time for the big one.


How much do we need to cover? If I recall correctly, a strong group got up the road on Berg Ten Houte last year and had a gap until the penultimate time over Oude Kwaremont.

We recently saw these two climbs in Dwars door Vlaanderen. Berg Ten Houte (1000m at 6.4%, cobbled) and Kanarieberg (950m at 8.5%). Percect for getting up the road before the main finale.

The favorites have in the past two years had the main selection start here. At Oude Kwaremont (2.5 km at 3.1%, cobbled), Paterberg (360 m at 13.1%, cobbled) and Koppenberg (500 m at 11.9%, cobbled) . Here, we have an idea of who will win. I once again expect the winning move to be made here.

Taainberg is up next, starting with 37.3 km left of the race.

In between here and the last time up Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg is the Kruisberg-Hotondberg. However, more damage can be done on the two last climbs. 18.5 km left of the race, the last time up Oude Kwaremont and 13.2 km left, when they reach the top of Paterberg.

The run home, with a headwind this year.


Wind blowing from the north, meaning a headwind home from Paterberg but it is such a short distance. No rain on the menu and 9 degrees C.

How will the race unfold?

Let’s be honest. There are three ways this race can go. Jumbo-Visma wins, Mathieu van der Poel wins or Pogacar wins. It is as simple as that. This is my look at how I would approach the race as each team/rider.

Jumbo-Visma: They have the numbers. It is clear in E3 that Pogacar and Mathieu van der Poel are just a bit superior to Wout van Aert, whenever it gets steep. I think the fact that Paterberg has the barriers makes it even more difficult, as you can’t ride in the gutter. The thing is, they have Laporte and Benoot in their arsenal. They also have Dylan van Baarle but after the crash in E3, my brain tells me it is the other three we need to focus on. I sit with a feeling, that it benefits Wout van Aert. If the big three gets away, Laporte and Benoot will work on getting back – Wout van Aert can skip turns. Not just Laporte and Benoot wants to get back in the race, there will be others who want to get back on. I would highly argue going up and “blocking the road” near Berg Ten Houte and Kanarieberg. It sounds worse than it is, but Trek-Segafredo and FDJ did it last year. Get the riders out in front before Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. Exploit the numbers – get out in front. Make MvdP and Pogacar work to catch, thereby increasing the chances of Wout van Aert winning in a sprint. Yes, it is their best option.

Utilize their numbers. Get a few riders up the road before the penultimate ascend of Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. It is crucial they use Benoot and Laporte to attack and attack, it is MvdP and Pogacar that must respond.

Mathieu van der Poel: They are the only team who currently have made efforts to mess with Jumbo-Visma. In E3, when De Bondt did a hail-mary attack before Taainberg. That is the way to do it. Despite my best will, they should aim between a balance of getting riders up front but also making sure MvdP is in a good position at all times. They should not force anything but they can not get run over by Jumbo-Visma. Have SKA and Veermersch mark Laporte and Benoot. Follow attacks. Try to start Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg ahead of the main peloton. Otherwise they likely won’t contritube anything in the finale. I think MvdP is confident in his ability to beat Pogacar in a sprint. I think he knows that Wout van Aert should never have the option of starting his sprint in third position. He is at his best this time of year and I think he is even stronger than in 2022.

Use SKA to monitor Laporte and Benoot. Try to get a domestique out in front of Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, otherwise, their leader is isolated for the rest of the race.

Pogacar: Step 1. By at the right position at the right time. As someone who rewatched the 2022 edition of Dwars Door Vlaanderen, he missed the main move there due to a poor position. He missed some of the attacks in E3 due to poor positioning. The thing is, he is so strong it barely matters anyway and when they were at the foot of Oude Kwaremont, Trentin had him in a good position. Shortly after, I was left speechless. Despite UAE only having one rider that can win, I think should have Wellens follow Laporte/Benoot attack early on – if it happens. If he gets over Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg with three JV riders, despite being the strongest rider, it will still be tough to win.

Use Wellens to monitor Laporte and Benoot. Try to get a domestique out in front of Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, otherwise, their leader is isolated for the rest of the race.


JV – they have raced to perfection. Winning OHN, KBK, E3, GW and DdW so far. They may not have the two best riders for Ronde van Vlaanderen, but they have number 3, 4 & 5. Once again, Van Baarle is a big joker after the crash in E3. They must use the course in an unconventional way. They don’t beat MvdP and Pogacar on the cobbled climbs and that is big issue they will have to overcome. They must race without much hierachy, I would solely ride for Wout van Aerts sprint. Let Laporte and Benoot attack, see how Pogacar and MvdP respond. Attack early, utilize their numbers.

MvdP – he is my favorite to win. I think he is stronger than in 2022. He was very close to getting dropped by Pogacar last year, I think his level match him more this year. As I have mentioned, it would be a good idea to try and get a rider up the road before the finale. Otherwise, he will sit in a group filled with JV riders and Pogacar all alone and that is a tough spot to be in. His recent results here are 1st, 2nd, 1st. He will be 1st or 2nd again tomorrow.

Pogacar – how far out will he attack to not be stuck in a bad group? I think it will be Oude Kwaremont again. It was not the race approach in 2022 that got him 4th, it was the poor decision making in the sprint. You don’t sprint under conditions made by MvdP. I think the best approach is to do what he does, attack a long way from home, eat and drink and try and win solo. After 274 km of racing, he can also beat JV and MvdP in a sprint.

The rest? They can’t win. Their names include Mads Pedersen, Powless, Mohoric, Madouas, Küng and JV domestiques.

Who will win?

I will take a win for Mathieu van der Poel.

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