• Wall of Geraardsbergen at the Tour of Flanders. (Getty)Source: Getty
As the northern hemisphere thaws, the cycling world turns its attention to the Classics – rich in history, one-day microcosms of all that is beautiful and brutal about the sport. First up for SBS is the Tour of Flanders.
Jane Aubrey

29 Mar 2018 - 9:54 AM  UPDATED 29 Mar 2018 - 5:35 PM

Women’s Tour of Flanders - 153.3km

Defending champion: Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb)

Arguably the most prestigious one-day race on the women’s WorldTour calendar. The route starts and finishes in Oudenaarde and takes in 11 climbs or ‘hellingen’ and five cobbled sectors with the women’s peloton acing ahead of the men.

The Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg with a little over 13km to race will likely be the decisive factor.

Rivera has been building up to her title defence, and her team carries considerable strength with the likes of Lucinda Brand and 2014 winner, Ellen Van Dijk. Jolien D’hoore lines up for Mitchelton-Scott aiming to be only the second Belgian to win the race with the Australian team also boasting last year’s runner-up in Gracie Elvin and Annemiek van Vleuten.

Aussie Chloe Hosking is in form for Alé Cipollini, and teammate Marta Bastianelli took the win at Gent-Wevelgem at the weekend. World Champion Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) has her eyes on the prize while Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) will be a danger.

The verdict: Rivera in a reduced bunch sprint.

SBS will livestream the women's race here at Cycling Central Sunday 1 April from 9:30pm to 11:30pm AEST.

Men’s Ronde van Vlaanderen 266.5km

Defending champion: Philippe Gilbert

Over the last two seasons, we’ve lost two three-time winners of De Ronde in Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen, and it’s a void that will be filled the hard way.

As good as Roubaix is, de Ronde is the classic for the purists, there’s nothing quite like it, and once again this year, it will start in Antwerp.

Eighteen hellingen (climbs) line the route, including the legendary Muur van Geraardsbergen, which awaits the peloton after 170km as is the Koppenberg at 221km. As in previous years, the crowd condensing loops containing the delightful double of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg are back. The Oude Kwaremont was the place where Gilbert launched his attack last year, holding off his rivals in an emphatic solo display of Belgian grit.

Four of the past 11 winners have won E3 Harelbeke before going on to win de Ronde. Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) will take comfort from that but so will a host of other contenders who finished in the top 10 including teammates Gilbert, and Zdenek Stybar, Greg Van Avermaet, Stefan Küng (BMC) and Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac).

Van Avermaet has gone on record as saying that it’s a case of ‘Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) versus the rest’, the reigning world champion and 2016 winner coming off the win at Gent-Wevelgem last weekend meaning he’ll be a marked man.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) makes his debut at de Ronde, but it’s likely we’ll see his best at Liege.

The verdict: It’s hard to go past the ridiculous strength of Quick-Step Floors.

SBS Viceland will broadcast the men's race Sunday 1 April from 9:30pm with live streaming available here at Cycling Central starting after the women's race at 11:30pm AEST.