Tour of Flanders 2019: When is the Ronde, what TV channel is it on and how can I follow all the live action?

John MacLeary
The Telegraph
The Tour of Flanders is a supreme test of riders' bike handling skills, endurance and suffering - GETTY IMAGES
The Tour of Flanders is a supreme test of riders' bike handling skills, endurance and suffering - GETTY IMAGES

What is this race and why should I care about it?

Set up in 1913 by journalist Karel Van Wijnendaele, the Tour of Flanders – or De Ronde van Vlaanderen as the locals say – is the biggest day in the Belgian sporting calendar and has been described as being like the Boat Race, Royal Ascot and the FA Cup final. All rolled into one.

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The race itself, the second of the five monuments of the sport, originally departed from Ghent, the spiritual home of Belgian cycling, though over the years its route has changed. This year's race starts in Antwerp and concludes in Oudenaarde. Despite the various changes to the route over the years, one crucial characteristic of the Ronde remains: the hellingen, or hills which are often cobbled.

The 103rd edition of the race features 17 recognised climbs, including three ascents of Oude Kwaremont – the penultimate climb of the day – and twice up the final climb of the race, the Paterberg which tops out at an eye-watering 18.2 per cent in gradient: one-in-five in old money.

Though short in distance – the Paterberg is just 360 metres long – these brutal climbs are where, ordinarily, the decisive moves are made and if not, are where the field is whittled down further leaving the final selection of riders who will contest the race. In addition to the numerous hellingen, there are also five sections of kasseien, or cobblestones, the first of which comes 87km into the race, the fifth at 228km.

When is the Tour of Flanders?

The 14th WorldTour race of the season gets under way at roughly 9.45am (GMT) on Sunday April 7, 2019 after the bunch has first navigated its way through the 9.3km neutralised zone.

How long is this year's race?

The 103rd edition of the Tour of Flanders is 270.1km long.

How can I watch this year's race?

Those lucky enough to have subscriptions can follow the action on British Eurosport with their programme starting at 10.15am. Alternatively, you can follow the action right here – just bookmark this page and return at around 11am on Sunday morning for our live blog.

What's in it for the winner?

The winner will trouser a cheque – or possibly a bank transfer to the same value, we have not asked race organisers Flanders Classics – to the value of €20,000 while the second-placed rider gets €10,000 and the rider on the third step of the podium €5,000. Each rider in the top 20 takes home something, even if it's only €500. Here's the breakdown: 

What teams will ride the Tour of Flanders?

As with all WorldTour races, each of the 18 teams that make up the top-flight of professional cycling receive an invite and in the case of the Ronde all teams are contracted to race.

In addition to the WorldTour teams, race organisers Flanders Classics handed wildcard spots to seven Pro-Continental teams – Cofidis, Corendon-Circus, Direct Énergie, Roompot-Charles, Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Vital Concept-B&B Hotels and Wanty-Groupe Gobert.

And who is Telegraph Sport tipping?

Following a phenomenal run of results throughout the spring classics campaign, it is difficult seeing beyond any team other than Deceuninck-Quick Step to win Sunday's race. Indeed, the Belgian super-team has won the last two editions through Philippe Gilbert and Niki Terpstra who will both start this year's race, though the latter will be competing for his new employers Direct Énergie.

However, it would be remiss of us to ignore the 168 riders that will set off from Antwerp not dressed in Deceuninck-Quick Step livery and so, with that in mind, here are our selections for the Tour of Flanders:

  • Peter Sagan: The 2016 winner may not have enjoyed the best start to the season, but a strong ride at Ghent-Wevelgem will have given the Bora-Hansgrohe rider an opportunity to blow away a few of the cobwebs following a brief spell of illness. 

  •  Oliver Naesen: Second at Milan-Sanremo and a third place at Ghent-Wevelgem would suggest the former Belgian national champion is in the form of his life right now and may never again stand a better chance of winning the Ronde. 

  • Tiesj Benoot: The 25-year-old may have just one race on his palmarès, but has looked strong throughout the spring classics and again looked decent at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Probably not an out-and-out favourite, but certainly a dark horse.

  • Wout Van Aert: The 24-year-old former cyclo-cross star was hugely impressive at Strade Bianche and Milan-Sanremo where he was third and sixth respectively. Again impressed at last week's E3 where he was runner-up to Zdenek Stybar.

  • Bob Jungels​:Such is the strength in depth of the Deceuninck-Quick Step team that any one of five riders – the others being Philippe Gilbert, Yves Lampaert, Florian Sénéchal or Zdenek Stybar – could conceivably win, depending on how the race plays out. The Luxembourger may have laid relatively low since his Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne victory in early March, but looked lively at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Will be fascinating to see how Patrick Lefevere's squad decide to play their cards on what is, arguably, the biggest day of their season.

  • Niki Terpstra: The defending champion may not have the support he enjoyed at Quick Step in years gone by, but the Dutchman has proved time and again that on his day he can win the big races. Expect to see Damien Gaudin helping out. 

  • Mathieu van der Poel: Fresh from winning his maiden WorldTour race at Dwars door Vlaanderen, the cyclo-cross world champion will arrive a marked man, but his debut outing at what will be the longest one-day race of his career will be a different ball game to Wednesday's race. Two-time winner Stijn Devolder, however, will be on hand to guide the 24-year-old who is hoping to emulate his father Adri who won the race in 1986.

  • Matteo Trentin​: The Italian has enjoyed a strong spring classics campaign during which he claimed three top 10 finishes – including t​wo in the last week – and will lead Mitchelton-Scott's challenge. Another dark horse; another potential winner.

  • Greg Van AvermaetMay not have the support he enjoyed while at BMC, but the Belgian must not be discounted. Showed a little too much of himself at Omloop and will need to ride a more mature race if he is to end his wait for a win at the Ronde.

  • Luke Rowe: The Welshman is just one of two Team Sky riders that has ever finished in the top 10 – the other being Geraint Thomas – and will arrive in Antwerp in the form of his life. May have the legs, but does the 29-year-old have the local knowledge so crucial to winning in Flanders?

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