Earning itself a reputation as the hardest of the Spring Classics, The Tour of Flanders kicks of this weekend as the forth race in the 2006 ProTour season.

Quick-Step

Plenty of talent to watch among Quick-Step

Dating back to 1913 the Belgian race is often compared to the cobbled Paris-Roubaix but includes a fair few harsh climbs including the notorius steep, narrow and cruelly cobbled Koppenberg hill. This round of the classics features climbs, climbing, and more climbs, which has seen riders walk as they loose momentum up the short sharp sections which pale the flat French course in comparison.

The first ascent, The Molenberg, comes at 145KM and from there, seventeen climbs follow in close succession over the next 100KM. This certainly sorts out the rankings and puts even the toughest riders through their paces, giving the race huge prestige.

All eyes will be on super sprinter, Tom Boonen, who took the win last year and seems to be going from strength to strength at the moment. Boonen will certainly be a strong contender this time round and there’s plenty of potential for success within his team, Quick-step, alone. With team mates like Filippo Pozzato and Paolo Bettini we can’t rule out individual results from the incredibly strong riders supporting Boonen.

Sadly, Swedish Liquigas-Bianchi professional cyclist Magnus Bäckstedt won’t be appearing in Flanders this year as he has been dealt a crushing blow to his 2006 season, being ordered by doctors to rest for a minimum of four weeks.

"Doctors have told me that the tendon behind my left knee has a split in it. My main hamstring muscle has been compensating for it and I was close to tearing this from the bone. Luckily we caught it in time and I now have a month of recuperation ahead of me"

Look out for more reports to follow...