The 102nd Tour of Flanders promises to be another epic, with 18 cobbled climbs for the peloton to tackle as they bid to win the second Monument of the year.

Vincenzo Nibali kicked off the season by winning Milan-San Remo, and the Classics specialists will be keen not to miss out again this time round - Niki Terpstra (QuickStep Floors) won E3 Harelbeke and Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) was Gent-Wevelgem to prove their form.

Add defending champion Philippe Gilbert (QuickStep Floors), Strade Bianche winner Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) and Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) to the mix, to name just three, and you have all the ingredients for a Classic in every sense of the word.

As ever, the route has been back-loaded with climbs - the 267km race features its first cobbled climb - the first ascent of the iconic Oude Kwaremont - after 121km, but from there the bergs of Flanders come thick and fast.

Short, steep climbs are the order of the day at the Tour of Flanders (pic: Sirotti)

Stripping the peloton to size, and providing the platform for attacks, the Flandrian bergs have hosted plenty of memorable action during the race's long history. It's the unique terrain and cobbled roads of Flanders that has made the Ronde one of the highlights of the professional cycling calendar.

Here's our guide to the climbs of the Tour of Flanders: what they're like to ride, their history and their strategic importance in the race, including those most likely to be key in deciding who tops the podium come Sunday afternoon.

Oude Kwaremont

  • Distance from the finish: 146km
  • Surface: Cobbles
  • Length: 2.2km
  • Average gradient: 4.2 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 12 per cent

First included in 1974, the Oude Kwaremont has become an integral part of the Tour of Flanders and is now one of the race's key climbs.

Oude Kwaremont features three times on the Tour of Flanders route, and, alongside being the first climb the peloton will tackle once again in 2018, it has been the launch pad for plenty of big attacks in the past.

Oude Kwaremont, Tour of Flanders, pic: ©Stefano Sirotti

It's strategic importance was laid bare once again last year, when Philippe Gilbert (QuickStep Floors) attacked on the second ascent of the climb before soloing to victory, while defending champion Peter Sagan's chase was ended on the third ascent of the climb when he clipped a roadside barrier and crashed.

First time around on Sunday, however, it will likely just be be an early test of the riders' legs.

Kortekeer

  • Distance from the finish: 135km
  • Surface: Asphalt
  • Length: 1km
  • Average gradient: 6.4 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 17.1 per cent

Kortekeer was originally introduced to the Tour of Flanders in 1988 when the Koppenberg was removed, having been deemed too dangerous.

The climb starts gently but gets tougher as it winds its way through the woods - reaching is maximum gradient of 17.1 per cent.

While the climb is asphalted, and doesn't have any cobbles, mud and gravel can still make the surface tricky - especially when rain hits the Tour of Flanders.

Edelare

  • Distance from the finish: 130km
  • Surface: Asphalt
  • Length: 1.5km
  • Average gradient: 4.2 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: seven per cent

The very oldest Tour of Flanders fans will remember the Edelareberg as one of the rough cobbled ascents, along with the Kwaremont and Kruisberg, which characterised early editions of the race.

Featuring a sharp hairpin turn towards the summit and a steep gradient, it was a classic Flandrien climb and featured 35 times at the Ronde in total.

Then, however, it was asphalted and the hairpin and steep final gradient levelled out, and cut from the Tour of Flanders in 1973.

It returns this year - and has featured at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and the Three Days of De Panne in the past - but it is no longer the thigh-numbing brute it once was.

Wolvenberg

  • Distance from the finish: 125km
  • Surface: Asphalt
  • Length: 600m
  • Average gradient: 6.8 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 17.3 per cent

One of the lesser known hills in the Flemish Ardennes, the Wolvenberg is short, steep but otherwise unspectacular because of how early it features in the race.

Nevertheless, it does hold some importance with a nasty sting in its tail thanks to the 17.3 per cent gradient and the fact it leads immediately onto the flat cobbled Ruitersstraat sector.

Leberg

  • Distance from the finish: 116km
  • Surface: Asphalt
  • Length: 700m
  • Average gradient: 6.1 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 14 per cent

The Leberg is a regular across the Flemish Classics, and peaking at 99m is actually one of the highest hills in the region.

It starts tough, with the maximum 14 per cent gradient coming on a right-hand bend shortly after the riders hit the paved ascent, but it eases out towards the summit where exposed roads mean wind is a bigger issue than gradient.

Berendries

  • Distance from the finish: 112km
  • Surface: Asphalt
  • Length: 940m
  • Average gradient: 7.1 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 12.4 per cent

Berendries used to be a hugely important climb in the race, featuring just before the Muur van Geraardsbergen.

Berendries, Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Vlaanderen

With its steepest section in the middle, it holds much less strategic importance now but is one of a number of short, steep climbs building up to the Muur this time out.

Tenbosse

  • Distance from the finish: 107km
  • Surface: Asphalt
  • Length: 450m
  • Average gradient: 6.9 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 14 per cent

The short, asphalted Tenbosse climb has appeared infrequently at the Tour of Flanders, having only made its debut as late as 1997.

As with all of the asphalted climbs in the Tour of Flanders, it is short and pretty steep, ramping up about halfway up with a maximum gradient of 14 per cent.

Muur van Geraardsbergen

  • Distance from the finish: 97km
  • Surface: Cobbles
  • Length: 1km
  • Average gradient: 9.2 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 19.8 per cent

The Muur has played host to some of the most iconic moments in Tour of Flanders history, with the steep, twisting cobbled climb previously the penultimate climb of the race and therefore the platform for many a race-winning attack.

Fabian Cancellara, Muur, Tour of Flanders, 2010, cobbles, climb, pic - Sirotti

It returned to the route last year, and though not expected to be as strategically important it was still the scene of the first major selection to shake up the general classification.

With the gradient reaching 20 per cent in parts it is a chance to up the ante and trim the leading group down a little. Expect to see plenty of fans lining the iconic climb.

Pottelberg

  • Distance from the finish: 78km
  • Surface: Asphalt
  • Length: 1.3km
  • Average gradient: 6.5 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 8 per cent

Last year's revised route meant a new paved climb to tackle, with the Pottelberg the longest of the fully asphalted climbs on the route.

An average gradient of 6.5 per cent should not trouble the leading group, however, particularly after a good 19km to spin the legs out and recover from the Muur.

Kanarieberg

  • Distance from the finish: 70.5km
  • Surface: Asphalt
  • Length: 1km
  • Average gradient: 7.7 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 14 per cent

Another relatively new addition to the race, 2018 will be just the fifth time 'Canary Hill' has featured in the Tour of Flanders.

The last of several paved climbs packed into the route, the road starts at a gentle gradient but winds its way up and gets steeper towards the summit.

After the detour to the Muur, Kanarieberg marks the point where the route matches back up with that used in the 2016 race.

Oude Kwaremont (second ascent)

  • Distance from the finish: 56km
  • Surface: Cobbles
  • Length: 2.2km
  • Average gradient: 4.2 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 12 per cent

The second ascent of Oude Kwaremont could well be the springboard for a long-range attack, with 56km to go to the finish.

Philippe Gilbert used it for that exact same reason last year, and the Belgian champion was not seen by the peloton again as he soloed to a stunning victory.

Peter Sagan, Tinkoff, world champion, Oude Kwaremont, Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Vlaanderen, 2016, pic - Sirotti

At the very least, you can expect the peloton to be whittled down on the ascent, where the fight for position will be hugely important because of its narrow opening section.

The first 500m of cobbles are the toughest, and while the average gradient is only 4.2 per cent, the climb's 2.2km length mean it's the perfect platform for a group to get away.

Paterberg (first ascent)

  • Distance from the finish: 53km
  • Surface: Cobbles
  • Length: 400m
  • Average gradient: 12.5 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 20 per cent

Originally a paved road, a local farmer reportedly paved the Paterberg so the Tour of Flanders would pass closer to his house - and in doing so created one of the race's toughest, most iconic climbs.

Paterberg, Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Vlaanderen, cobbled climb, pic - Sirotti -

Featured every year since its 1986 debut, the road is only 400m long but comes with a fierce average gradient of 12.5 per cent, and at least a quarter of the climb is nearer the 20 per cent maximum gradient.

The climb's position on the modern race route means the Paterberg is now one of the most decisive ascents, with both the first and second ascents offering perfect opportunity to attack or cement a move previously made on the Kwaremont.

Koppenberg

  • Distance from the finish: 46km
  • Surface: Cobbles
  • Length: 600m
  • Average gradient: 11.6 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 22 per cent

Mention the climbs of the Tour of Flanders, and the Koppenberg will be the first many people think of - and for good reason.

Koppenberg, Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Vlaanderen, cobbled climb, pic - Sirotti - 2

The steepest of the race's climbs, with an maximum gradient of 22 per cent, the unforgiving cobbled climb has been known to make even the hardiest of riders get off and push.

Since the race route was re-worked in 2012, the climb is more importantly strategically too, coming much closer to the finish than in the past.

Steenbeekdries

  • Distance from the finish: 41km
  • Surface: Cobbles
  • Length: 820m
  • Average gradient: 7.6 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 12.8 per cent

Steenbeekdries is next up after the Koppenberg, with the cobbles coming thick and fast on this part of the second circuit.

Tour of Flanders, cobbled climb, Steenbeekdries, pic - Sirotti

Immediately before the 800m climb is a 2km stretch of cobbles on the Mariaborrestraat, before the climb kicks up at an average gradient of 7.6 per cent.

Taaienberg

  • Distance from the finish: 38km
  • Surface: Cobbles
  • Length: 800m
  • Average gradient: 7.1 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 18 per cent

Locals have become rather fond of the Taaienberg thanks to Tom Boonen's exploits on its cobbles in recent years.

Tom Boonen, Taaienberg, attack, Tour of Flanders, cobbled climb, pic - Sirotti

At E3 Harelbeke it was the climb on which he broke clear for four of his five career victories and he made a habit of accelerating on the ascent at Flanders too.

And his former team-mates at QuickStep Floors look to be keen to replicate Boonen's successes - this year, at E3 Harelbeke, Niki Terpstra and Yves Lampaert opened a gap on the climb before the former ultimately went on to claim a solo victory.

Taaienberg, Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Vlaanderen, cobbled climb, pic - Sirotti - 2

And with Boonen Hill much closer to the finish, there will be no shortage of big-name riders looking to replicate his feats at this year's Tour of Flanders. Look out for QuickStep Floors in particular on the ascent, if they don't already have somebody up the road.

Kruisberg-Hotond

  • Distance from the finish: 27km
  • Surface: Cobbles/asphalt
  • Length: 2.5km
  • Average gradient: 5 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 9 per cent

A full kilometre of cobbles introduce the Kruisberg, with the steepest section towards the top of the cobbled part.

Kruisberg, Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Vlaanderen, cobbled climb, pic - Sirotti - 1

This is followed by a more gently rising paved road, giving the climb a total distance of 2.5km and an average gradient of five per cent.

Oude Kwaremont (third ascent)

  • Distance from the finish: 17km
  • Surface: Cobbles
  • Length: 2.2km
  • Average gradient: 4.2 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 11 per cent

The third and final climb of Oude Kwaremont is also the most important of the three ascents, and was the platform for Fabian Cancellara's back-to-back victories in 2013 and 2014.

Oude Kwaremont, Fabian Cancellara, Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Vlaanderen, cobbled climb, pic - Sirotti -

In 2015 Alexander Kristoff and Niki Terpstra bolted clear on the ascent, while it has also been a platform for plenty of attacks at E3 Harelbeke too.

Positioning is absolutely vital during the Tour of Flanders, not least here, and the steep, narrow opening section demands riders be at the front if they want to be in the final selection. Could this be where Sunday's decisive move goes?

Paterberg (second ascent)

  • Distance from the finish: 14km
  • Surface: Cobbles
  • Length: 400m
  • Average gradient: 12.5 per cent
  • Maximum gradient: 20 per cent

Any attack on Oude Kwaremont must be consolidated on the Paterberg - as proved by 2016 winner, world champion Peter Sagan.

Peter Sagan, world champion, Tinkoff, Tour of Flanders, 2016, Paterberg, pic - Sirotti

Hitting the climb with only Sep Vanmarcke for company, Sagan dropped the hammer on the ascent and bolted clear of his rivals to claim victory - in doing so, banishing the memory of 2013 when Fabian Cancellara did the same to him.

The old adage of 'you can't win the race here, but you can lose it' rings true for many of the Tour of Flanders' cobbled climbs, but the Paterberg is different. This is the one. Lead over the top of the cobbled climb and you have just 14km between you and a Monument win.