The 2012 Tour of Flanders will be held on Sunday. One of the five "monuments" of cycling, and the first of the Spring classics, it has been held since 1913.
Belgian riders have had the most victories, 67, with Italians following with 10 victories (Netherlands 9, France 3, Germany 2, Switzerland 2, United Kingdom 1, Denmark 1).
The first Italian victory came in 1949 with Fiorenzo Magni. Before WWII the race was usually held on the same day as Milan-Sanremo which kept Italians at home and the French riders preferred Milan-Sanremo as well. In fact, the there was only one non-Belgian victory before WWII (in 1923 by Heiri Suter of Switzerland).
Fiorenzo Magni went on to win the next two editions, 1950 and 1951. The other Italian winners have been:
1967 Dino Zandegù
1990 Moreno Argentin
1994 Gianno Bugno
1996 Michele Bartoli
2001 Gianluca Bortolami
2002 Andrea Tafi
2007 Alessandro Ballan
Gianluca Bortolami's victory in 2001 set the record for the fastest Tour of Flanders at an average speed of 43.6 km/h.
Italian favorites for Sunday's race: Alessandro Ballan (winner in 2007) and Filippo Pozzato (6th in last month's Milan-Sanremo).
From a team perspective Liquigas has Peter Sagan who finished 4th in Milan-Sanremo. The captain for Lampre will be Danilo Hondo who finished 16th in 2011 and 9th in 2010 in the Tour of Flanders.
Of course, other favorites include Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara, and Sylvain Chavanel. Boonen and Chavanel, both of Omega Pharma-QuickStep, were on a short (!) 165 km recon of the new course during the week:
The course has been changed drastically for this year's race. The finish was changed from Meerbeke to Oudenaarde; famous hills like the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg that have been the final two hills in almost every edition since 1975 have been removed from the course. The new final features the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, both will be climbed three times. Also included in the final are the infamous Koppenberg (climbed after the first passage of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg), the Steenbeekdries and the Kluisberg.
Danilo Hondo, after an 80 km recon yesterday said, "This year Ronde van Vlaanderen will be even more demanding than usual since the opponents are very strong and the new course is really tough."
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