How to watch men's and women's Dwars door Vlaanderen 2021 – live TV and streaming
The Tour of Flanders is almost upon us, with just one cobbled Classic – Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen – remaining before the biggest race of Belgium's season. The men's and women's races return after a COVID-enforced break in 2020, and the stars of the men's and women's peloton will be out to do battle.
One of the most impressive things about Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s all-conquering display at last week’s E3 Saxo Bank Classic was how they managed to so thoroughly dominate the race even without their star rider, Julian Alaphilippe.
The Frenchman has not raced any of the Classics since Milan-San Remo, but will return at Dwars door Vlaanderen to re-join many of the riders who were a part of that triumphant at E3 Saxo Bank victory, including Florian Sénéchal Davide Ballerini, Yves Lampaert, and the winner Kasper Asgreen.
He’ll no doubt be itching to get racing on the cobbles again, but if Deceuninck-Quick-Step are to repeat their success from last Friday, and again get the better of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), he may need to reign in some of his usual instincts.
On paper, Alaphilippe and Van der Poel are the two strongest riders in the race, so could in theory work together to ride away from the rest of the field, but such a scenario would not maximise Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s chances of victory.
Instead, Alaphilippe would be better deployed as a sort of man-marker of Van der Poel while his team-mates make the early attacks; and even if the duo do break away, he should refuse to take any turns, in order to try to exploit Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s numerical advantage.
It’s unusual not to see Alaphilippe give his all in any attack he is a part of, but both himself and his team need him to ride smart if they’re to repeat their E3 Saxo Bank success.
After last week’s E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem, the Flemish classics and the build-up to the Tour of Flanders continue on Wednesday at Dwars door Vlaanderen.
Not all riders like to race in the week leading up to Flanders, but, owing perhaps to the doubts surrounding Paris-Roubaix and the coronavirus situation more generally, the start list is stacked this year.
That’s without Bora-Hansgrohe and possibly Trek-Segafredo, whose participation remains up in the air. Both teams were forced to miss Gent-Wevelgem due to coronavirus cases but only a few Trek-Segafredo riders were deemed to be 'close contacts' with positive cases and so may still be able to race.
The COVID-19 cases and quarantines are another reminder that that the floor can fall away from a rider’s season at any moment. Coupled with the dominance of Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, and Julian Alaphilippe, riders have to take opportunity to win.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) will be back to defend his title, while Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) is also on the men's start list after missing the E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem.
At the women's race, 2019 champion Ellen Van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) is back, with Annemiek Van Vleuten (Movistar) and Classic Brugge De Panne winner Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange) among the other top names lining up.
At the men's race, it's no surprise that Deceuninck-QuickStep bring the strongest team, with E3 Saxo Bank Classic winner Kasper Asgreen, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Davide Ballerini, Yves Lampaert, and Florian Sénéchal joining Alaphilippe.
Former world champion and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne winner Mads Pedersen joins Stuyven as co-leader of Trek-Segafredo, though the team's participation is still in doubt after they missed Gent-Wevelgem due confirmed COVID-19 cases.
AG2R Citroën boast two contenders in Oliver Naesen and Greg Van Avermaet, while Ineos Grenadiers bring a strong quartet of Michał Kwiatkowski, Tom Pidcock, Luke Rowe, and Dylan Van Baarle, and Alexander Kristoff and Matteo Trentin represent UAE Team Emirates.
Other notable names to start include Tiesj Benoot, Søren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Nippo), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious), and Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Énergie).
Finally, the likes of Elia Viviani (Cofidis), Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels p/b KTM), David Dekker (Jumbo-Visma), Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix), Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos), and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) are ones to watch in case of a rare mass sprint finish.