This weekend the second monument classic of the season, Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), takes place.  While many eyes will be on the likes of Peter Sagan, Mathieu Van Der Poel, Zdenek Stybar in the men’s race or Chantal Blaak, Marianne Vos or Annemiek van Vleuten in the women’s, New Zealand has three riders to look out for at the end of one of the biggest week’s in cycling.

For many cycling fans it ranks as the best week of the year.  Cobblestones, short steep hills, unpredictable racing, aggression, attacks, it’s one of those races where although there’s a good core of riders who rank as favourites; literally just about anything could happen.  This year three New Zealanders will be lining up for the Ronde, with the men tackling 270km over 17 bergs and the women taking on 159km over 10 bergs.  Both races finish with the climbs of Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg with five extra cobbled sectors for the men and four for the women.

Here are our three (and a half) Kiwis for you to look out for at this year’s Tour of Flanders:

Jack Bauer was close to the front of the action late on in Dwars door Vlaanderen, as he was in Gent-Wevelgem, photo Sirotti

Jack Bauer – Mitchelton-SCOTT

At Gent-Wevelgem Jack Bauer came within 300m of making New Zealand history as winner of one of the biggest one-day classics on the calendar.  After patiently following the wheels in the chase group behind a breakaway that included teammate Matteo Trentin, Bauer’s late attack with some 6km to go was perfectly timed and very nearly went the distance; with just a little more cooperation between the late break arguably being the difference between a potential Kiwi win and Alexander Kristoff sprinting to the win instead.

Bauer’s found himself in Mitchelton-SCOTT and is a regular at the sharpest end of racing.  His positioning in the peloton is first rate and he knows how to hold his ground.  He will likely play a major support role for Matteo Trentin again on Sunday, but he’s certainly got the capability to step up in his stead as he showed in Gent-Wevelgem. 

Previous results:

Dwars door Vlaanderen – 25th

Gent-Wevelgem – 31st

E3 BinckBank Classic – 50th

Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne – 29th

Mikayla Harvey has loved living the dream of racing at the highest level in Europe with Bigla Pro Cycling, photo Sean Robinson/velofocus.com

Mikayla Harvey – Bigla Pro Cycling

One of our brand new additions to the professional peloton in 2019, Mikayla Harvey has loved every minute of it; mixing it amongst the biggest and best names in cycling and playing a strong support role in a number of Bigla’s biggest results this season.  At 20 years of age, Harvey will be one of the youngest debutants at the Tour of Flanders, and like Bauer, she comes to the culmination of the Belgian classics season with a good body of cobbled racing under the belt.

Harvey has ridden in support of teammates Leah Thomas and Cecile Ludwig in Spain, Belgium and Italy.  Uttrup scored a brilliant podium position in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, and the form is certainly there for a good result.  Bigla will go into the race as underdogs with the strength of CCC-Liv and Mitchelton-SCOTT likely to dominate for long stretches, but Harvey certainly has the capability of being part of a very strong result for the team.  A top 10 or even top 5 for Bigla is definitely possible.

Previous results:

Dwars door Vlaanderen – 97th

Strade Bianche – OTL (5th place for Cecile Ludwig)

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – 64th

Dion Smith and Tom Scully ride side by side up one of the cobbled climbs in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, photo Sirotti

Tom Scully – EF Education First

When we first started reporting and following New Zealand cycling we were struck by the influence Hayden Roulston had in the cobbled classics, his power and strength over several kilometres was one of the key features in the success of Fabian Cancellara as Roulston commanded the show in the peloton.  Tom Scully has a similar impact in races for EF Education First.

The team’s likely impact on this year’s Tour of Flanders is an uncertain one with Sep Vanmarcke – twice third in the pinnacle Belgian race on the calendar – not having finished a race since Tirreno-Adriatico.  On his day he could be the next Belgian winner of the race, but the team could easily look to the services of Sebastian Langeveld who has shown much greater form lately; particularly at the E3 BinckBank Classic.  Regardless of the choice of leadership for EF Education First, Scully is quickly coming to the fore as the team’s new super domestique.  Sensationally strong and powerful, Scully in a breakaway could be a very exciting prospect; but expect to see more of him in the peloton; like Bauer, perfectly positioning his leader for the crucial final kilometres.

Previous results:

Dwars door Vlaanderen – 70th

Gent-Wevelgem – 75th

E3 BinckBank Classic – 98th

Paris-Nice – 8th in stage 5 ITT

Robert Stannard took the overall race lead in Settimana Coppi e Bartali, photo Sirotti

Robert Stannard – Mitchelton-SCOTT

Robert Stannard’s rise into professional cycling has been rapid but entirely understandable.  He is a mature, race-smart head on a 20 year old frame and he’s already enjoyed plenty of top flight racing in 2019.  Stannard has already had his first monument experience at Milan-San Remo, but his approach to the Tour of Flanders has been slightly different to Bauer in that it has been largely Italian based.

Stannard’s biggest results so far were his first two days at Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, where he took 5th place in the opening stage and then won the team time trial with his Mitchelton-SCOTT teammates (including Sam Bewley) putting him in the leader’s jersey.  He’ll likely play a support role in Flanders like Bauer, but it’s ridiculously exciting watching New Zealand’s favourite Aussie continue to progress and take to World Tour racing like a duck to water.  Keep your eyes open!

Previous results:

Dwars door Vlaandere – 87th

Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali – 5th in stage 1a, 1st in stage 1b

Milan-San Remo – 120th

GP Industria & Artigianato – 29th

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