Yes, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem were interesting, but the cobbled season goes onto a new level on Sunday when the world's finest descend on Flanders for 259.5 kilometers of undulating, cobbled Flemish terrain.
It's set up to be a cracker, with Peter Sagan still the race favourite with the bookies, but Greg Van Avermaet the man in form following his hat-trick of victories already this year.
And Van Avermaet – whose Gent-Wevelgem triumph followed on from wins in the E3 Harelbeke and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – is feeling confident of taking the challenge to Sagan on home turf:
At the beginning of the season I said that Flanders is my biggest goal, and that still has to happen. But it will be nice to start Flanders with two nice victories already on my home soil. I'm heading to the start with great form, but I'm a level below Peter (Sagan). Peter is someone who wants to race. I'm not afraid to ride away together with Peter. If the good guys go on the attack, it's more fun to race and slightly better for me.
"The Tour of Flanders is more difficult (than E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem), you can't go so early. I have to wait for the Taaienberg, Koppenberg and Kwaremont. I can't cover every move. It's more tactical and it's up to me to take the right decisions."
WHEN IS THE RACE?
The 2017 edition of the Tour of Flanders is on Sunday April 2.
WHAT’S THE ROUTE?
The conclusion of the 2017 edition mirrors last year's race, with a second loop of the Oude Kwaremond and Paterberg climbs.
The race in total stretches 259.5km and takes in 18 climbs - including the daunting Muur-Kapelmuur, which makes a welcome return after a five-year absence.
Race director Wim Van Herreweghe said:
The last six slopes of the course are typical and unique Tour of Flanders climbs, all gradients on cobblestones. The now recognisable and intense rhythm of the race has given us haunting finales in recent years. Last year, at the anniversary edition, World Champion Peter Sagan held off Fabian Cancellara and masterfully triumphed. We just want to keep the rhythm of that final 75 kilometres. It should become a real tradition.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
The 'Ronde Van Vlaanderen' one of the great cobbled races and the list of podium finishers is a who’s who of the sport's legends.
Ridiculously steep cobbled climbs are the trademark of the race and it's set up perfectly to play to the strengths of Sagan and Van Avermaet - two of the most talented and entertaining cyclists around.
CAN I WATCH IT ON TV?
Eurosport, the home of cycling, will be covering the race live on Eurosport 1 and Eurosport Player.
TV Schedule for the Tour of Flanders
0915-1100 LIVE on Eurosport 1 1230-1600 LIVE on Eurosport 1
- Peter Sagan 2/1
- Greg Van Avermaet 7/2
- Philippe Gilbert 12/1
- Alexander Kristoff 14/1
- Michal Kwiatkowski 16/1
- John Degenkolb 22/1
- Geraint Thomas 25/1
- Niki Terpstra 25/1
- Zdenek Stybar 25/1
- Sep Vanmarcke 28/1
(Best odds at the time of writing)
Read the original article on Eurosport: Tour of Flanders preview: Bumps and bruises await Sagan and co.