10 riders to watch at women's Tour of Flanders

 Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx) takes centre stage on the Tour of Flanders podium
Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx) takes centre stage on the Tour of Flanders podium
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Cycling fans will be treated to a spectacle as the peloton barrel over the cobblestone ascents deep into the final of the Tour of Flanders on April 2 in Belgium.

The famed back-to-back Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg before the run-in to Oudenaarde will be the prime locations to watch the world-class peloton contest for the win during the 20th edition of the Tour of Flanders.

From the sprinters and rouleurs to the cobble specialists and the queens of the hellingen; Cyclingnews highlights ten riders to watch at the 2023 Women's Tour of Flanders.

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Learn more about the Women's WorldTour in Cyclingnews' definitive guide for 2023, and join Cyclingnews for live coverage of the 2023 Spring Classics. Also check in after each race for our full reports, results, galleries, news and features.

Lotte Kopecky

Lotte Kopecky of SD Worx
Lotte Kopecky of SD Worx

It's been another stand-out spring for Lotte Kopecky, who delivered two wins for SD Worx at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Nokere Koerse while also finishing second behind teammate Demi Vollering at Strade Bianche after a close two-up sprint.

Kopecky lines up as the defending champion, and her winning performance at the Tour of Flanders last year will go down in history as she was one of the few riders to have won the iconic event while wearing the colours of the Belgian National Champion, a short list that also includes Philippe Gilbert in 2017 and Stijn Devolder in 2008.

Since SD Worx built a new sprint team dedicated to Lorena Wiebes this year, Kopecky has enjoyed a wildcard role, which seems to suit her skillset during the more challenging one-day classics.

Her versatility is illustrated by a winning sprint and power on the short and steep ascents, where she has the ability to match the strongest climbers in the field. A perfect example of this was on display during the previous two Strade Bianche, where she was unshakable on the route's short but steep climbs, and of course, during her victory at the 2022 Tour of Flanders.

SD Worx, once again, have the strongest team on paper and numbers to play with well into the final. Watch for Kopecky to revel in a wildcard role on the roads to Oudenaarde.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Annemiek van Vleuten of Movistar
Annemiek van Vleuten of Movistar

Annemiek van Vleuten has spent a part of this month putting in the miles and training at Mount Teide in Tenerife, all in preparation for her next block of racing that starts at the Tour of Flanders and culminates at the three Ardennes Classics.

The world champion is closing out her career this year, and so this Tour of Flanders will be her last. She won the race in 2011 and again in 2021 and is aiming to win a record-third title in Oudenaarde.

She hasn't won a race yet this spring, but with an ultra-targeted programme, she will have placed a high importance on being in top form for the Tour of Flanders as a major objective. Her other goals will come later in the season at the Giro d'Italia Donne and Tour de France Femmes.

Van Vleuten will lead a strong Movistar squad that includes Sheyla Gutierrez, Aude Biannic and Arlenis Sierra, but the team also has Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij, who were both active in the final at the mid-week Dwars door Vlaanderen and they could also play a role in the final at the Tour of Flanders.

Marianne Vos

Marianne Vos on the podium at Dwars door Vlaanderen
Marianne Vos on the podium at Dwars door Vlaanderen

Marianne Vos' would usually be considered an outright favourite at the Tour of Flanders, but the multi-time world champion has had a challenging start to the season.

She recently recovered from surgery to correct to treat pelvic artery constriction, which sidelined her from defending her rainbow jersey at the Cyclocross World Championships.

Vos started the season late with her first race back at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, and although she was part of the final in the closing 10km, leg cramps ruled her out of contention, and she finished in 20th place.

However, she appears to have regained much of her form in a short period of time, playing a major role in the final at Dwars door Vlaanderen. She rode into a decisive move with Marlen Reusser and then finished second in the sprint behind solo winner Demi Vollering to claim the last spot on the podium.

Vos may not have the strongest team to support a victory at the Tour of Flanders, but they do have potential contenders in Anna Henderson and Eva van Agt. Vos herself showed that she was recovered from surgery and was strong enough, at present, to be part of a full-throttle final into Waregem, which could translate into a winning performance this weekend.

Vos also has experience on her side, and as a former champion of the Tour of Flanders (2013), she knows what it takes to win in Oudenaarde.

Elisa Longo Borghini

Elisa Longo Borghini racing at Omloop het Nieuwsblad
Elisa Longo Borghini racing at Omloop het Nieuwsblad

COVID-19 has put a dent in Elisa Longo Borghini's health and spring classics campaign this year. The Italian appears to have bounced back relatively quickly with an 11th place ad Dwars door Vlaanderen where she played an active role in the final.

She also discussed, in a recent interview with Cyclingnews, her ability to race on instinct and how important that is to her winning strategy during the spring classics and stage races.

"If my enemies don’t know when I am going to attack, then maybe it's an advantage because they never know what I'm going to do. I'm very instinctive. Although, of course, having such a strong team to back me helps me too."

Longo Borghini has made a successful career out of her opportunistic racing style, which has netted her victories at one-day races Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Strade Bianche, GP Plouay, Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders.

She lines up with a powerful Trek-Segafredo roster that includes Shirin van Anrooij, Lucinda Brand, Elisa Balsamo, Elynor Backstedt, and Ilaria Sanguineti. Indeed a team that can rival SD Worx.

Demi Vollering

Demi Vollering wins Dwars door Vlaanderen
Demi Vollering wins Dwars door Vlaanderen

Demi Vollering has quickly grown in her role as one of the leaders at SD Worx, a rider who can win it all, from one-day classics like the Tour of Flanders to high-mountain stage races at the Tour de France Femmes.

Wins at Strade Bianche and Dwars door Vlaanderen make her one of the favourites to win in Oudenaarde on Sunday. A full team to support her until the decisive climbs Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, Vollering is the team's best bet over the steep ascents. Also a fast finisher, she is more than capable of winning a small group sprint or going on a breakaway solo as she did on the roads to Waregem.

The team have so many options for a race like Tour of Flanders, and many rival teams will want to try and whittle down their numbers in the closing kilometres to even the playing field.

Vollering showed at Dwars door Vlaanderen that when the race heats up and the legs begin to fatigue, she has what it takes to make a late-race winning move where it will count the most.

Pfeiffer Georgi

DE PANNE BELGIUM  MARCH 23 Pfeiffer Georgi of United Kingdom and Team DSM attacks in the breakaway during the 6th Exterioo Womens Classic BruggeDe Panne 2023 a 1631km one day race from Brugge to De Panne  UCIWWT  on March 23 2023 in De Panne Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
DE PANNE BELGIUM MARCH 23 Pfeiffer Georgi of United Kingdom and Team DSM attacks in the breakaway during the 6th Exterioo Womens Classic BruggeDe Panne 2023 a 1631km one day race from Brugge to De Panne UCIWWT on March 23 2023 in De Panne Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Do not underestimate Pfeiffer Georgi. The British rider just took the biggest win of her career at Classic Brugge-De Panne after riding into a sprinter-heavy breakaway and then attacking them late in the race to take a solo win in De Panne.

She had been on the cusp of a big victory, and that performance truly solidified her strengths as a one-day classics contender.

It's been a telling season for Team DSM, as a whole, who came into the year prepared to support Charlotte Kook in her new role as a lead sprinter after the departure of Lorena Wiebes.

Although Kool proved her winning speed at the UAE Tour, attention has turned toward the superb tactical racing between Georgi and Megan Jastrab during the Spring Classics.

The pair worked together through the echelon-torn Classic Brugge-De Panne, and as Georgi took the win, Jastrab went on to finish fourth. The American rider turned heads again with a second place at Gent-Wevelgem.

Georgi and Jastrab will line up in Oudenaarde with a strong team that also includes Juliette Labous, and they are ready to, once again, play their tactics for a win at the Tour of Flanders.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig of FDJ-SUEZ
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig of FDJ-SUEZ

As the season heads deeper into the Spring Classics, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig has begun to emerge as one of the favourites for FDJ-SUEZ.

She finished strong third place at Strade Bianche and was part of the final racing into Waregem at Dwars door Vlaanderen, which means she is well-prepared for the Tour of Flanders and the Ardennes Classics in April.

The Danish Champion is well suited to the climbs in races like Tour of Flanders, where she will need to make her move if she hopes to be on the podium in Oudenaarde.

The team also has cards to play with Grace Brown and Loes Adegeest, so watch for these riders to key off of one another in the final.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of AG Insurance-Soudal QuickStep
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of AG Insurance-Soudal QuickStep

Although she had planned to retire this year, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio extended her career with AG Insurance-Soudal QuickStep, and it has turned out to be a rewarding experience.

The South African rider kicked off the season with her new team by winning the queen stage at Setmana Valenciana before finishing 12th at Strade Bianche and then 10th at Dwars door Vlaanderen.

Her performance at Dwars door Vlaanderen was perhaps the most telling ahead of Flanders, as she raced late into the final with the lead group and was one of several late-race attackers on the roads to Waregem.

She has the strength on the steep climbs to stay with the front of the field at the Tour of Flanders, so watch for her to be part of the final in Oudenaarde.

Liane Lippert

WAREGEM BELGIUM  MARCH 29 Liane Lippert of Germany and Movistar Team competes in the chase group during the 11th Dwars door Vlaanderen 2023  Womens Elite a 1149km ine day race from Waregem to Waregem  DDV23  on March 29 2023 in Waregem Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
WAREGEM BELGIUM MARCH 29 Liane Lippert of Germany and Movistar Team competes in the chase group during the 11th Dwars door Vlaanderen 2023 Womens Elite a 1149km ine day race from Waregem to Waregem DDV23 on March 29 2023 in Waregem Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Movistar will undoubtedly be backing Annemiek van Vleuten for the win at the Tour of Flanders, but the recent performances of Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij warrant a mention as these two could also be among the final in Oudenaarde.

Although Van Vleuten was not racing at Dwars door Vlaanderen this year, Lippert and Mackaij were the most active riders in the front group.

Although their efforts did not yield a victory or even a podium place, it was their attacks that helped reduce the field to just a small group, and both riders finished inside the top 10, with Mackaij in 6th and Lippert in 8th.

They will likely be riding in support of Van Vleuten this weekend, but if a late-race breakaway sticks, watch for them to be part of the action.

Kasia Niewiadoma

Kasia Niewiadoma of Canyon-SRAM
Kasia Niewiadoma of Canyon-SRAM

Our outsider pick is Kasia Niewiadoma of Canyon-SRAM, who hasn't had the best start to her season compared to previous years, but who could undoubtedly turn things around at a race as hard as the Tour of Flanders.

She showed promising signs of good form with a 6th place at Strade Bianche, and races like Tour of Flanders, along with the upcoming Ardennes Classics; Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège are more in her wheelhouse.

She is just the type of rider, like Elisa Longo Borghini, who races on instinct and opportunity, knowing that sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't.

She has finished in the top 10 five times, with her best finish in 6th place the year that Marta Bastianelli won in 2019.

The team also has a number of strong riders with Shari Bossuyt, who was fifth at Classic Brugge-De Panne, Elise Chabbey, Soraya Paladin, who was fifth at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka and Maike van der Duin, who finished third in both Ronde van Drenthe and Gent-Wevelgem.

In a race as unpredictable as the Tour of Flanders, it would be hard to discount Niewiadoma as a contender for the win.