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Tour of Flanders
Ronde van Vlaanderen logo.png
Race details
Date Early April
Region Flanders, Belgium
Local name(s) Ronde van Vlaanderen (Dutch)
Nickname(s) De Ronde
Vlaanderens mooiste
Flanders' finest
Discipline Road
Competition UCI ProTour
Type Monument one-day race
History
First edition 1913
Editions 93 (as of 2009)
First winner Belgium Paul Deman
Most wins 3 times:

Belgium Achiel Buysse
Italy Fiorenzo Magni
Belgium Eric Leman
Belgium Johan Museeuw

Most recent Belgium Stijn Devolder

The Tour of Flanders (Dutch: Ronde van Vlaanderen, French: Tour des Flandres) is a road cycling race held in Flanders, Belgium. It is held every spring, a week before Paris-Roubaix. It is part of the UCI ProTour and one of the so-called monuments of the European professional calendar, and contributes to the UCI World Ranking points. It is the most important cycling race in Belgium and along with Paris-Roubaix the world's most important cycling race held on a single day. Its nickname is Vlaanderens mooiste (Dutch for "Flanders' finest").

Contents

History

German road racer Steffen Wesemann climbing the Muur van Geraardsbergen in the 2004 edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

The Tour of Flanders was conceived of in 1913 by Karel Van Wijnendaele, cofounder of the sportspaper 'Sportwereld'. In that era it was customary for publishers of newspapers and magazines to organise cycling races as a way of promoting circulation.

Before WWII the race was often held the same day as Milan-San Remo. Prominent Italian and French racers usually preferred the latter which explains why there was only a single non-Belgian winner before WWII. After WWII the race began to grow in importance among other because it became a part of the Challenge Desgrange-Colombo which was a precursor to today's UCI ProTour. The Tour of Flanders has been a part of the ProTour since its inception in 2005.

Record holders are the Belgians Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman and Johan Museeuw and the Italian Fiorenzo Magni, each with three victories.

The Ronde as regional symbol

Ronde van Vlaanderen monument at Paddestraat, Velzeke-Ruddershove, Zottegem, East Flanders

Cycling was in a poor state across Belgium at the start of the 20th century. Velodromes were closing and there were no longer national championships on the road or track[1][2]. The one big Belgian race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, was in the French-speaking south. As the gloom increased, Odile Defraye became the first Belgian to win the Tour de France, in 1912.[3] He was 20 years old and, even if he was riding for a French team, Alcyon, he symbolised a potential rise for Belgian cycling. His victory inspired August De Maeght, director of the Société Belge d'Imprimerie, to publish a weekly sports magazine called Sportwereld.[1][4]

Sportwereld 's most prominent cycling writer was Carolus ("Karel") Ludovicus Seyaert[5], who wrote as Karel van Wijnendaele, the name by which he became best known. [n 1][6][7] Van Wijnendaele was the fifth of 15 children of a family in the hamlet of Wijnendaele (Wijnendale)[8], near Torhout. His father, a flax worker, died when Karel was 18 months old.[6] He wrote in 1942: "Being born into a poor family, that was my strength. If you're brought up without frills [sober opgekweekt wordt] and you know what hunger is [door een mager leven gaat], it makes you hard enough to withstand bike races." He left school at 14 and worked for a baker, looked after cows, washed bottles and delivered parcels. He worked for French-speaking families in Brussels and Ostend and felt humiliated by the way they treated him.[5]

He tried cycle-racing, won a few prizes but made little impression. He turned instead to writing about cycling as regional correspondent, first for De Thourentenaer, his local paper, then from 1909 for Onze Kampioenen in Antwerp and Sportvriend in Izegem[9]. It was then that he adopted his pen-name.[5] That attracted the attention of De Maeght and his collaborator, the race organiser Len van de Haute, with whom van Wijnendaele had collaborated at Sportvriend[9]. The two travelled to Torhout and asked van Wijnendaele if he would join a new paper to be called Sportwereld. Van Wijnendaele said he replied "Could be [misschien wel]."[9] The first issue appeared in time for the Championship of Flanders on 12 September 1912. Van Wijnendaele became its editor on 1 January 1913. He said:

We thought there was a lot we could do in the area. We also wanted to publish a paper to speak to our own Flemish people in their own language and give them confidence as Flandrians. We conducted a 10-year war, for instance, with the French-speaking management of the national cycling federation in Brussels. And we won it.[10]

On 25 May the same year he organised the first Tour of Flanders, crossing Dutch-speaking Belgium because "all Flemish cities had to contribute to the liberation of the Flemish people".[5] It finished on the track at Mariakerke, now a suburb of Ghent, and ran through Sint-Niklaas, Aalst, Oudenaarde, Kortrijk, Veurne, Ostend, Torhout, Roeselare and Bruges[11]. It covered 330 km, all on bad roads with just the occasional cycle path. There were 27 riders.[2] The race finished on a wooden track that circled a lake in Mariakerke, where ticket sales covered only half the prizes.[2]

The first races

The first race (1913) was won by Paul Deman, a 25-year-old who went on to win Bordeaux-Paris in 1914. His career almost ended with the first world war. He joined Belgium's espionage service and smuggled documents by bike into the neutral Netherlands. After many trips he was arrested by the Germans and jailed in Leuven ready to be shot. The Armistice saved him.[n 2] He started racing again and won Paris-Roubaix in 1920 and Paris-Tours in 1923.[12].

The Ronde van Vlaanderen of 1913 had 27 riders, followed by five cars. In 1914 the field was 47. It disappointed van Wijnendaele. He said later:

Sportwereld was so young and so small for the big Ronde that we wanted. We had bitten off more than we could chew (verder springen dan zijn stok lang is). It was hard, seeing a band of second-class riders riding round Flanders, scraping up a handful of centimes to help cover the costs. The same happened in 1914. No van Hauwaert[n 3], no Masselis, no Defraeye [sic], no Mosson, no Mottiat, no van den Berghe, all forbidden to take part by their French bike companies.[2]

There were hints of the growing status of the race as a symbol of Flemish nationalism, however. Marcel Buysse insisted on taking part even though his Alcyon team ordered Belgian riders not to[13]. The race was interrupted by World War I[14] By the 1930s, there were 116 riders and seven times as many cars and motorbikes following them, said Het Nieuwsblad. The historian Fer Schroeders said:

In the previous years, De Ronde had been above all an affair for Flandrians. For a long time ridden on the same day as Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders had, until 1948, just one sole foreign winner, the Swiss Henri Suter. And so it wasn't until after the second world war that the race became international, the organiser changing the date to meet the needs of the new Challenge Desgrange-Colombo[n 4] That said, the Flandrians never stopped thinking that 'their' Ronde was a private affair, giving little chance to the foreign opposition to show itself.[15]

Above all, he said, the northern Belgians came into their own on the repeated hills and recovered quickly after them. He quoted the Walloon writer, Paul Beving, and his tribute to his northern countrymen's race:

La Ronde is as much part of the heritage of the Flemish people as the processions of Veurne and Bruges, the festival of cats at Ypres[n 5] or the ship blessing at Ostend. This cycle race is the most fabulous of all the Flemish festivals [kermesses]. No other race creates such an atmosphere, such a popular fervour.[15]

Prizes

Prizes for the first race came to 1,100 francs. They had grown by 1935 to 12,500 francs, with 2,500 for the winner down to 125 for the 19th, at a time when a newspaper cost 40 centimes.[16]. In 1938 there was a bonus of 100 francs for any rider who led by 30 minutes. Prizes in the war were whatever the organisers could find, including boxes of razors, a stove, bottles of wine and cycling equipment. There were 100 francs in 1948 "for the last rider to reach Eeklo. The last four riders in 1949 were given bottles of massage oil.

Conditions for riders

The Ronde in its first decades followed the general rule that the race was for individuals responsible for their own problems. Help from others was banned and riders carried spare tyres looped round their shoulders to cope with punctures. It could take two or three minutes to change and inflate a tyre, longer it if was cold or there were other problems. Tyres weighed around 500g, compared to around 200g now. A rim or any other part of the bike that broke spelled the end of the race but still left the rider with the problem of getting to the finish.

Conditions became easier in the 1930s and riders were allowed to accept a rain jacket, a spare tyre and a pump, but only in emergency and at the referees' discretion. A change of bike was allowed if a frame, wheel or handlebar broke but riders were still expected to ride with spare tyres and a pump. Riders in the 1940s were required to hand their bikes to officials the day before the race to have them identified with a lead seal, later with a ring similar to that fitted to racing pigeons. In that way the referees, or commissaires could see if a rider had illegally changed bikes.

The Ronde moved towards modern rules in 1951, with riders allowed limited help from team cars and to combine with others from the same team on the road. By 1955 they could accept a replacement bike from a team-mate but not from a car. The rules changed from year to year until they resembled those of today by the end of the 1950s.

Claims of collaboration

Van Wijnendaele's magazine, Sportwereld, merged with in 1939 with Het Nieuwsblad, a daily paper first published in 1918. It bought Sportwereld and turned it into the sports section of Het Nieuwsblad and its sister paper, De Standaard. War broke out that year and in May 1940 German troops occupied Belgium.[17] The government escaped to London and the king, Léopold III, was held under house arrest.[17] Het Nieuwsblad changed name to Het Algemeen Nieuws-Sportwereld and it continued to organise the Ronde.

The Ronde is the only classic to have been held on German-occupied territory during the second world war,[18] a decision taken with the agreement of the German command. The Germans, says the writer Gabe Konrad, "not only allowed and enjoyed the race but helped police the route as well."[19] That led to accusations of collaboration.[20][21] De Standaard and Het Algemeen Nieuws-Sportwereld were sequestered by the state when peace returned and several general journalists, although largely not sports reporters, were punished for collaboration.[22] Van Wijnendaele was forbidden to work as a journalist for the rest of his life, a ban lifted when he produced a letter of support from General Bernard Montgomery, confirming that van Wijnendaele had hidden downed British pilots in his house.[23]

A rival newspaper, Het Volk started a rival race in 1945, the Omloop van Vlaanderen, to point at what it saw as the Ronde's closeness to the Germans.[21] The Ronde's organisers protested that the name was too close to their own - in Dutch there is little difference between ronde and omloop - and the Belgian cycling federation told Het Volk to change name. That race became the Omloop Het Volk.[n 6]

Problems of success

Van Wijnendaele could count the spectators at the end of the first Rondes, and the same went for those along the road. By the 1930s things had changed enough that the writer, Stijn Streuvels[n 7], wrote to Sportwereld in 1937 that the Ronde as seen from his house in Ingooigem was "more a procession of cars than of riders." The historian Rik Vanwalleghem speaks of a "wild rodeo" of spectators driving behind the race and seeking short cuts across the course to see the race pass several times. He said the police estimated the crowd for early races at 500,000. They followed the race, overtook it when they could, or stood so thick by the roadside in villages and especially at control points that the riders sometimes had trouble passing.

Van Wijnendaele involved the gendarmerie in 1933 but to limited effect. The 1937 race was chaotic. On 30 March 1938, van Wijnendaele wrote in Sportwereld:

To control as far as possible the plague of race-followers and assure the dependable running of our races, we have sent an exceptional request to the roads ministry to have our race followed by several gendarmes on motorbikes... They will have the right to penalise anybody following the race without permission.

The influence of spectators never ended. In 1963, Louis De Lentdecker wrote in Het Nieuwsblad:

In the last 100km of the race we were in the immediate area of the first riders. We barely saw them: there were so many people along the road and on the road that you had the impression of drowning in a tidal wave [te verdrinken in een orkaan]... In front of me, behind me and beside me I saw cars being driven crazily through orchards, on the sidewalks, along cycle paths, behind spectators, in front of spectators. I felt bumps and bangs on the back of our car. If there were no accidents it was only because our dear Lord and his guardian angels were the best men in the race.[24]

Course

Belgian Roger De Vlaeminck climbing the Koppenberg in the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Start and finish

The start was in Ghent until 1976, first from the Korenmarkt, then close to St-Pieters train station, when riders signed on at the Albert hotel in Clementinlaan. The race was neutralised as far as Mariakerke. A mass was held for riders before the start in the 1950s.

The race moved to the market square at Sint-Niklaas in 1977, mainly because it had more space for the growing number of spectators. Race briefings were held in the town hall. The square was administered by the chief of police, Roger Schepens. By 1988 the start had grown into a two-day affair with a spectacle presented by BRT television the previous night.

The contract with St-Niklaas ended in 1998 and the race moved to Bruges, where the mayor, Patrick Moenaert, saw the move as part of a campaign to bring life to the centre of the city. Bruges, or Brugge as it is known in the north, is a small city dependent on tourists attracted by its history and architecture; Moenaert wanted to make it less dependent on celebrating its past.[25][n 8]

The finish in 1913 was on a track around a lake in Mariakerke (see above). It moved in 1914 to the Deeske Porter velodrome at Evergem where, van Winendaele recounted, "there were a good 20 more spectators than the previous year."[2]

  • 1924-1927 Ghent - Ghent track
  • 1942-1944 Ghent - Ghent track
  • 1945-1961 Ghent - Wetteren
  • 1962-1972 Ghent - Gentbrugge

The route

The course has changed considerably. For the first 30 years it was a loop starting and ending in Ghent, although the finish moved every few years.

In 1913 the race at first went inland to St-Niklaas before turning a clockwise circle through Aalst, Kortrijk, out to the coast at Ostend and then back to Ghent with a detour to Roeselare. The course stayed the same in 1914 but without the leg to the coast.

In 1919 the direction turned to anticlockwise, turning south at Brugge. The route extended to the coast in 1920 and stayed that way until 1938, heading out through Eeklo and Brugge to reach the North Sea between Ostend and Blankenberge. Van Wijnendaele included the coast through his sentimental vision of Flanders.[26][n 9] The ride there was often into a strong wind that inhibited attacks but spelled the end for those left behind the shelter of the main field. Turning left at the sea meant the wind blew from the side, producing the diagonal line of riders, each sheltering the other, characteristic of the Ronde and other Belgian races.[n 10]

It changed with the outbreak of war because access to the coast was restricted. The wartime route was a circle within the heart of Flanders but the return of peace brought the race back to its route in 1946. It stayed much the same then until 1952, when the ride to the coast was abandoned and the route turned off in Brugge. The stretch to and along the coast came back in 1961 only to disappear again from 1964. From 1973 the race was no longer a loop. It started in Ghent and finished in Meerbeke, still not taking in the sea. Then Ghent was abandoned in 1977 and the start moved to the neighbouring city of Sint-Niklaas. The race now curved only around inland Flanders, going no further west than Eeklo or Roeselare. Only the move of the start to Bruges brought the race back along the North Sea, although avoiding almost all the long windy ride to get there. The move to Bruges brought criticism unrelated to the route change. Until then it had been a tradition that spectators could mix and meet with riders before the start. Fer Schroeder said:

St-Niklaas Town Hall

"On the Grote Markt at St-Niklaas, at the foot of the magnificent town hall, the start of the Ronde was always a privileged moment. The riders came there to sign their papers for the race before happily going to meet their fans, giving autographs, posing for a souvenir photograph with a young admirer. So far as that is concerned, times and customs have changed since 1998 and the five-year agreement with the city of Bruges. Now there are railings to hold back the public from mixing with the riders. The start of the Ronde van Vlaanderen has manifestly lost, in its new configuration, everything that made it charming."[27]

The strategic part of the race comes after it has turned back inland, running just north of the French border. The course goes into the only short, sharp hills in the otherwise flat Flanders countryside. The route twists and turns to ride as many as possible. Some of the hills are cobbled and one - the Koppenberg - has been dropped some years because of its danger and difficulty. It is hard for riders to take all the climb while still riding. A fall by one rider can bring down many others and, in turn, halt those behind. The stopped and fallen often have to continue to the top on foot. In 1984 only two riders - Phil Anderson and Jan Raas - got up without walking.

The Koppenberg returned in 2003 after its surface was improved. It was then dropped again in 2007, replaced by the Kluisberg and the Côte de Trieu, which had roadworks in previous years, and the first ascent of the Eikenmolen.[28] The Koppenberg came back in 2008 after the city of Oudenaarde renovated it.[29]

Cobbled hills

In post-war Belgium little more than the intercity roads were smooth. The Ronde had never set out to use bad roads - bad roads were all that were available if the race were to be long enough in a geographically small area. Belgium began picking itself up from devastation from the early 1950s and provinces began asphalting roads. For a while there were still bad roads and the race used them because increasing car traffic made them convenient. But alarms started when the first classic hills were surfaced. Van Wijnendaele could no longer draw a circle round Flanders and call that the course. He had to buy maps of tracks and footpaths. His staff talked in bars to men who knew the roads. "It was either that or risk the race ending in a mass sprint, and that's the last thing they wanted," said the historian Tom van Laere. Most back roads happened to be in the low hills between Ronse and Geraardsbergen. The mileage of cobbles decreased but the number of cobbled hills rose.

The short, sharp hills are a feature of the Ronde. The race has offered prizes to the first on many of them for more than half a century. There were 500 francs offered in 1940 for the first up the Kwaremont, Edelare and Kruisberg. A combined prize for performances on all the hills came in 1950, when Maurits Blomme won bedroom furniture as best climber. The prize at the top of the Kruisberg in 1953 was a washing machine. The first up the Wall of Geraardsbergen won 18,000 francs. In 1950 Fiorenzo Magni won 30,000 francs in primes during a long breakaway, enough to buy a house.[30][n 11]

In 2008, the 17 hills - hellingen in Dutch - were:[31]

Number Name Kilometer Pavement Length (in m) Average climb (%)
1 Kluisberg 99 asphalt 1250 5,3
2 Nokereberg 118 cobbles 375 5,9
3 Molenberg 157 cobbles/asphalt 463 7
4 Wolvenberg 167 asphalt 645 7,9
5 Oude Kwaremont 185 cobbles/asphalt 2200 4
6 Paterberg[n 12] 189 cobbles 360 12,9
7 Koppenberg 195 cobbles 600 11,6
8 Steenbeekdries 200 cobbles 700 5,3
9 Taaienberg 203 cobbles 530 6,6
Number Name Kilometer Pavement Length (in m) Average climb (%)
10 Berg Ter Stene 213 asphalt 1300 5
11 Leberg 216 asphalt 950 4,2
12 Berendries 222 asphalt 940 7
13 Valkenberg 227 asphalt 540 8,1
14 Tenbosse 233 asphalt 455 6,4
15 Eikenmolen 239 asphalt 610 5,9
16 Muur-Kapelmuur 249 cobbles 475 9,3
17 Bosberg 252 cobbles/asphalt 980 5,8

Kluisberg: Buissestraat, Bergstraat, Kluisbergen-Ruien. Climbs 66m from 27m to 93m. Maximum 11 per cent. First climbed 1955

Molenberg: Molenberg, Zwalm. Climbs 32m from 24m to 56m. Maximum 17 per cent. First climbed 1983.

Oude Kwaremont: Broekstraat, Kwaremontplein, Schilderstraat, Kluisbergen. Climbs 93m from 18m to 111m. Maximum 11 per cent. First climbed 1974.

Koppenberg: Steengat, Koppenberg, Oudenaarde-Melden. Climbs 64m from 13m to 77m; Maximum 25 per cent at inside of bend, otherwise 22 per cent. First climbed 1976.

Taaienberg: Taaienberg, Maarkedal-Etikhove. Climbs 45m from 37m to 82m. Maximum 18 per cent. First climbed 1974.

Berg ter Stene: Stene, Horebeke. Climbs 68m from 32m to 100m. Maximum 9 per cent. First climbed 1957

Leberg: Leberg, Brakel-Zegelsem. Climbs 39m from 60m to 9m. Maximum 15 per cent. First climbed 1977

Berendries: Berendries, Brakel-Sint-Maria-Oudenhove. Climbs 65m from 33m to 98m. Maximum 14 per cent. First climbed 1983

Valkenberg: Valkenbergstraat, Brakel-Nederbrakel. Climbs 53m from 45m to 98m. Maximum 15 per cent. First climbed 1959

Muur-Kapelmuur: Abdijstraat, Ouderbergstraat, Oudeberg, Gerardsbergen. Climbs 77m from 33m to 110m. Maximum 20 per cent. First climbed 1950

Bosberg: Kapellestraat, Geraardsbergen-Moerbeke. Climbs 40m from 65m to 105m. Maximum 11 per cent. First climbed 1975.

Tenbosse: Olifantstraat, Brakel. Climbs 28m from 45m to 73m. Maximum 14 per cent. First climbed 1997

Van Petegem says...

In 2008 the retired Belgian professional, Peter van Petegem, rode some of the course with a journalist and gave his reactions.[32]

The Molenberg: "Everyone wants to sit right at the front at the start of this hill. It's a real battle and then there's one big explosion. Those who don't manage to start the narrow climb smoothly risk getting blocked and having to put their foot down. In my prime, I did this climb three or four times in a row during training. That was the best way to train my legs for the explosion. [But] the Molenberg is only a test. It's far too early in the race to be decisive."

The Oude Kwaremont: "The run-up to this climb is a race within a race. It's nervous, and elbows and shoulders are the order of the day to secure the best spot at the front. You really need to be a nasty bastard to defend and keep your position, but I had no problem with that. I had guts. The Oude Kwaremont is not a climb where you just stretch your legs. It's very important to be in the first two rows in order to get in the right position. If you have to chase from the foot of the Oude Kwaremont, you've lost already."

The Paterberg: Out training, you can avoid the cobbles, but "this wouldn't be possible in the Tour of Flanders, since the gutter would be blocked with fences keeping the fans away from the road."

The Koppenberg: In 2006, "someone got his front wheel stuck in one of the grooves and it caused a chain reaction. Everyone had to climb on foot! The Koppenberg needed restoring again. They did a great job. The grooves are gone now, but if it rains, riders still have problems. It's incredibly steep and in wet conditions your rear wheel spins easily. Those kinds of hills spice up the race."

The Taaienberg: "I once saw Laurent Jalabert accelerating hard - really hard - on the Taaienberg. Right then, everyone thought the race was over, because Jalabert was like Superman. But on the Berendries, a few hills later, he completely collapsed. If you want to win the Tour of Flanders, you have to be cool, relaxed and attentive. The last thing you should do is throw your powers away too fast, too soon."

The Berg ter Stene replaces the Eikenberg. "It's a pity they've struck the Eikenberg from the course. It's a cobblestone climb and I'm in favour of leaving all those on the route.We don't have so many we should cherish the few we have. I like those kinds of climbs since they make the difference in the closing stages. It's possible for weaker riders to survive on a Tarmac climb, but not on a cobbled one. You get a far more nervous approach to the climb and only the fittest survive on the climb itself. The Berg ter Stene is a Formula One track compared to a cobbled hill."

The Leberg: "From the Leberg on, after the 2km cobblestone section of the Haaghoek, you can't afford to be outside the first 10 riders. That's the 200km mark. From that moment on, once you're in Brakel you need to be aware that it can happen at any time. This where the best of the race come forward."

Epic races

1919

Gabe Konrad writes: "The 1919 winner, van Lerberghe, showed up on the line in full racing attire but, for some reason, without a bike. He borrowed one from the brother-in-law of another competitor and, prior to the starting gun, threatened the pack that he was going to drop them all at their own front doors on the way to victory. Van Lerberghe hadn't had, and would never have, an impressive career, and all the cyclists laughed as he pulled away immediately - never to be caught. Just prior to entering the velodrome for the finish, van Lerberghe stopped off at a pub to take in a few beers. His manager, worrying that he would miss a chance at victory, had to track him down and get him back on the bike. After he had crossed the line and done his lap of honour, van Lerberghe stood in front of the crowd and, in all seriousness, told them 'to go home; I'm half a day ahead of the field.'"[19][n 13]

1939

Karel Kaers, the youngest man to win the world road championship, also won the Ronde in 1939 - without intending to. For him, it was training for Paris-Roubaix[33]. He drove to the Kwaremont hill near Kluisbergen, parked his car, then rode 40 km to the start in Ghent. His plan was to ride round the course with his usual training partner, stop when he got to his car, then drive home[34]. Knowing he wasn't riding the whole distance, Kaers jumped clear of the field - again as training - and rode up the Kwaremont with a minute's lead. But his car wasn't there. He pressed on instead and won the race. His manager had driven the car away to save Kaers from temptation.

1944

Rik van Steenbergen said: "When I turned pro, I couldn't ride it straight away. There were three categories of rider: road-riders A, road-riders B, and track riders. I was registered with the federation as a track rider. At first they wouldn't let me ride the national championship. But Jean van Buggenhout, the manager, got me reclassified on the Wednesday before the race. I won it and became an 'A' rider. Then I could start the year in the Tour of Flanders. I was 19 and I'll probably stay the youngest person ever to win." Van Steenbergen was in the break when several riders fell on the cinder track to the track in Ghent. Van Steenbergen rode round the fallen and won. Next year he decided not to ride. Van Wijnendaele was offended. But Van Steenbergen had realised why he'd turned pro: to make a living. "I could probably win more money elsewhere," he said. "The Tour of Flanders didn't have the attraction that it does now, especially not internationally."

1946

Van Steenbergen returned in 1946 and won again. He said: "That was one of my best wins ever. I could do whatever I liked, ride better than anyone. In the end I was with Briek Schotte and Enkel Thiétard. They were happy just to follow me. We made an agreement. I said that they could stay with me until we got to Kwatrecht. I wouldn't drop them provided they'd do their best to work with me. They were happy with that. They didn't have a choice. Under the bridge at Kwatrecht I just got rid of them."

1951

Fiorenzo Magni, a rare Italian in Belgian classics, won so many intermediate prizes during his long solo flight that they would have bought him a house (see above). He was one of nine to escape the field at Ingelmunster. The others cracked one by one until Magni was alone by Strijpen - the point where he made his winning move the previous year. He rode the last 75 km alone to win the Ronde for the third successive year. Magni won by almost eight minutes and the first five finishers were foreigners.

1961

Such a gale blew in 1961 that the banner over the finish line blew down. The British rider Tom Simpson was clear with the better-known Italian champion, Nino Defilippis. Simpson, the weaker sprinter, accelerated for the line with a kilometre to go. It was too far and Defilipis came past him as he weakened. Simpson struggled to stay with him and was delighted when the Italian began freewheeling just before the finish. Defilippis said he didn't know where the finish was because the banner had blown down, but the two riders had already covered two previous laps of the finishing circuit. For the same reason, the Italian protest that the line on the road wasn't clearly marked also failed. Defilippis asked Simpson to agree to a tie, saying no Italian had won a classic since 1953. Simpson said:

"I replied that an Englishman had not won one since 1896!"[35]

1969

Eddy Merckx dominated world racing in both classics and stage races but couldn't win the Ronde. By 1969 he had not only frustration to contend with but rising resentment of other riders unhappy that he won so many races. He attacked early and half the field never saw him again. The other half was reduced with each successive attack until he got clear alone. The chase was furious but ineffective and Merckx won by more than five and a half minutes over Felice Gimondi and more than eight minutes on the rest. The Ronde remained an unhappy race for him; it was another six years before he won again.

1985

Bad weather has often hit the Ronde. In 1985, a storm broke in the second half of the race. The weather was so bad that only 24 made it to the finish. The race historian, Rik Vanwalleghem, said: "It was a legendary Ronde, one which wrote Sport with a capital S. It was as cold as Siberia all day and the rain fell in torrents [regende het pijpenstelen]. Of the 173 starters only 24 were counted in at the finish. In this apocalytpic background Eric Vanderaerden got back to the front after looking beaten to ride 20km at the head of the race alone. Impressive."[36]

1987

The danger of the Ronde's narrow and badly surfaced hills came close to tragedy when the Danish rider, Jesper Skibby, lost his balance and fell on to a roadside bank, still strapped into his pedals. He fell with a race official's car between him and a field of riders. The driver of the car cotinued moving forward and ran over Skibby's back wheel, narrowly missing his leg[32][37]. The hill was judged too dangerous and did not return until the surface had been improved in 2002. The race official continued driving to the finish, where he was met by mud, stones and cups thrown by spectators.[38] The incident overshadowed victory by the French-speaking Belgian, Claude Criquielion.

Ronde van Vlaanderen Museum at Oudenarde

Museum

The town of Oudenaarde, through which the Ronde passes, has a museum - the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen - dedicated to the race. The curator is Freddy Maertens.

Comments

  • "Only those who are in top condition can say that the Ronde is not hard. For everyone else, it's the Way of the Cross." -Andrea Tafi[39]
  • "I told the organisers it wasn't a race but a war game. It's hard to explain what the Koppenberg means to a racing cyclist. Instead of being a race, it's a lottery. Only the first five or six riders have any chance: the rest fall off or scramble up as best they can. What on earth have we done to send us to hell now?" - Bernard Hinault
  • "Looking back, you get a bit nostalgic, but from a competitive point of view, Flanders was one of the most horrible races to ride but one of the greatest races to win." - Sean Kelly [41]
  • "Many great names of Flemish cycling live on the route of the race. This closeness doesn't exist in any other country. That's what gives our identity." - Nico Mattan[42]
  • "These days, you see all the riders, their life is well known. Before, you saw only the last two hours on television. Now, the direct coverage starts before the race has started and the legend that surrounded riders, created in people's imagination, no longer exists. When everything is too realistic, you lose the legend." Marc Sergeant[42]

Tour of Flanders for Women

The women's race takes the hill at Geraardsbergen

The women’s Tour of Flanders (Dutch: Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen) has been held every spring since 2004 on the same day as the men's race. It is part of the UCI Women's Road World Cup. The race runs over a course that follows the last 55 km of the men's race to finish in Meerbeke. In 2008, the race featured three long flat cobbled sections: Paddestraat (2400m), Mater-Kerkgate (3000m) and Haaghoek (2000m), and 10 hills including the Molenberg, Eikenmolen, Muur-Kapelmuur and Bosberg.[43]

Winners

Rider Team
1913 Belgium Deman, PaulPaul Deman (BEL)
1914 Belgium Buysse, MarcelMarcel Buysse (BEL)
1915 No race
1916 No race
1917 No race
1918 No race
1919 Belgium van Lerberghe, HenriHenri van Lerberghe (BEL)
1920 Belgium Van Hevel, JulesJules Van Hevel (BEL)
1921 Belgium Vermandel, RenéRené Vermandel (BEL)
1922 Belgium De Vos, LeonLéon De Vos (BEL)
1923 Switzerland Suter, HeiriHeiri Suter (SUI)
1924 Belgium Debaets, GerardGérard Debaets (BEL)
1925 Belgium Delbecque, JulienJulien Delbecque (BEL)
1926 Belgium Verschueren, DenisDenis Verschueren (BEL)
1927 Belgium Debaets, GerardGérard Debaets (BEL)
1928 Belgium Mertens, JanJan Mertens (BEL)
1929 Belgium Dervaes, JefJef Dervaes (BEL)
1930 Belgium Bonduel, FransFrans Bonduel (BEL)
1931 Belgium Gijssels, RomainRomain Gijssels (BEL)
1932 Belgium Gijssels, RomainRomain Gijssels (BEL)
1933 Belgium Schepers, AlfonsAlfons Schepers (BEL)
1934 Belgium Rebry, GastonGaston Rebry (BEL)
1935 Belgium Duerloo, LouisLouis Duerloo (BEL)
1936 Belgium Hardiquest, LouisLouis Hardiquest (BEL)
1937 Belgium D'Hooghe, MichelMichel D'Hooghe (BEL)
1938 Belgium De Caluwe, EdgardEdgard de Caluwé (BEL)
1939 Belgium Kaers, KarelKarel Kaers (BEL)
1940 Belgium Buysse, AchielAchiel Buysse (BEL)
1941 Belgium Buysse, AchielAchiel Buysse (BEL)
1942 Belgium Schotte, BriekBriek Schotte (BEL)
1943 Belgium Buysse, AchielAchiel Buysse (BEL)
1944 Belgium Van Steenbergen, RikRik Van Steenbergen (BEL)
1945 Belgium Grysolle, SylvainSylvain Grysolle (BEL)
1946 Belgium Van Steenbergen, RikRik Van Steenbergen (BEL)
1947 Belgium Faignaert, EmielEmiel Faignaert (BEL)
1948 Belgium Schotte, BriekBriek Schotte (BEL)
1949 Italy Magni, FiorenzoFiorenzo Magni (ITA)
1950 Italy Magni, FiorenzoFiorenzo Magni (ITA)
1951 Italy Magni, FiorenzoFiorenzo Magni (ITA)
1952 Belgium Decock, RogerRoger Decock (BEL)
1953 Netherlands van Est, WimWim van Est (NED)
1954 Belgium Impanis, RaymondRaymond Impanis (BEL)
1955 France Bobet, LouisonLouison Bobet (FRA)
1956 France Forestier, JeanJean Forestier (FRA)
1957 Belgium De Bruyne, FredFred De Bruyne (BEL)
1958 Belgium Derijcke, GermainGermain Derijcke (BEL)
1959 Belgium van Looy, RikRik van Looy (BEL)
1960 Belgium De Cabooter, ArthurArthur De Cabooter (BEL)
1961 United Kingdom Simpson, TomTom Simpson (GBR)
1962 Belgium van Looy, RikRik van Looy (BEL)
1963 Belgium Fore, NoelNoel Foré (BEL)
1964 Germany Altig, RudiRudi Altig (GER)
1965 Netherlands De Roo, JoJo De Roo (NED) Televizier
1966 Belgium Sels, EdwardEdward Sels (BEL) Solo Superia
1967 Italy Zandegù, DinoDino Zandegù (ITA) Salvarani
1968 Belgium Godefroot, WalterWalter Godefroot (BEL) Flandria
1969 Belgium Merckx, EddyEddy Merckx (BEL) Faema
1970 Belgium Leman, EricEric Leman (BEL) Flandria-Mars
1971 Netherlands Dolman, EvertEvert Dolman (NED) Flandria
1972 Belgium Leman, EricEric Leman (BEL) Bic
1973 Belgium Leman, EricEric Leman (BEL) Peugeot (cycling team)
1974 Netherlands Bal, KeesKees Bal (NED) Gan Mercier
1975 Belgium Merckx, EddyEddy Merckx (BEL) Molteni
1976 Belgium Planckaert, WalterWalter Planckaert (BEL) Mars Pils
1977 Belgium De Vlaeminck, RogerRoger De Vlaeminck (BEL) Brooklyn
1978 Belgium Godefroot, WalterWalter Godefroot (BEL) Ijsboerke
1979 Netherlands Raas, JanJan Raas (NED) TI-Raleigh
1980 Belgium Pollentier, MichelMichel Pollentier (BEL) Splendor Admiral
1981 Netherlands Kuiper, HennieHennie Kuiper (NED) DAF Trucks
1982 Belgium Martens, ReneRené Martens (BEL) DAF Trucks
1983 Netherlands Raas, JanJan Raas (NED) TI Raleigh
1984 Netherlands Lammerts, JohanJohan Lammerts (NED) Panasonic Raleigh
1985 Belgium Vanderaerden, EricEric Vanderaerden (BEL) Panasonic-Raleigh
1986 Netherlands van der Poel, AdriAdri van der Poel (NED) Kwantum
1987 Belgium Criquielion, ClaudeClaude Criquielion (BEL) Hitachi Marc Rossin
1988 Belgium Planckaert, EddyEddy Planckaert (BEL) AD Renting
1989 Belgium van Hooydonck, EdwigEdwig van Hooydonck (BEL) Superconflex
1990 Italy Argentin, MorenoMoreno Argentin (ITA) Ariostea
1991 Belgium van Hooydonck, EdwigEdwig van Hooydonck (BEL) Buckler Colnago
1992 France Durand, JackyJacky Durand (FRA) Castorama
1993 Belgium Museeuw, JohanJohan Museeuw (BEL) GB-MG Maglificio
1994 Italy Bugno, GianniGianni Bugno (ITA) Team Polti-Vaporetto
1995 Belgium Museeuw, JohanJohan Museeuw (BEL) Mapei-GB-Latexco
1996 Italy Bartoli, MicheleMichele Bartoli (ITA) MG Maglificio-Technogym
1997 Denmark Sorensen, RolfRolf Sørensen (DEN) Rabobank
1998 Belgium Museeuw, JohanJohan Museeuw (BEL) Mapei-Bricobi
1999 Belgium van Petegem, PeterPeter van Petegem (BEL) TVM-Farm Frites
2000 Belgium Tchmil, AndreiAndrei Tchmil (BEL) Lotto-Adecco
2001 Italy Bortolami, GianlucaGianluca Bortolami (ITA) Vini Caldirola
2002 Italy Tafi, AndreaAndrea Tafi (ITA) Mapei (cycling team)
2003 Belgium van Petegem, PeterPeter van Petegem (BEL) Lotto-Domo
2004 Germany Wesemann, SteffenSteffen Wesemann (GER) T-Mobile Team
2005 Belgium Boonen, TomTom Boonen (BEL) Quick Step-Innergetic
2006 Belgium Boonen, TomTom Boonen (BEL) Quick Step-Innergetic
2007 Italy Ballan, AlessandroAlessandro Ballan (ITA) Lampre-Fondital
2008 Belgium Devolder, StijnStijn Devolder (BEL) Quick Step
2009 Belgium Devolder, StijnStijn Devolder (BEL) Quick Step

Victories per country

# Country Victories
1. Flag of Belgium.svg Belgium 66
2. Flag of Italy.svg Italy 10
3. Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands 9
4. Flag of France.svg France 3
5. Flag of Germany.svg Germany 2
6. Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark 1
6. Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom 1
6. Flag of Switzerland.svg Switzerland 1

Winners of Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix in the same year

Winners of Paris-Roubaix and
Ronde van Vlaanderen
Rider Country Year
Henri Suter  Switzerland 1923
Romain Gijssels  Belgium 1932
Gaston Rebry  Belgium 1934
Raymond Impanis  Belgium 1954
Fred De Bruyne  Belgium 1957
Rik Van Looy  Belgium 1962
Roger De Vlaeminck  Belgium 1977
Peter van Petegem  Belgium 2003
Tom Boonen  Belgium 2005

Records

  • The fastest Tour of Flanders was in 2001, won by Italian Gianluca Bortolami: 43.6 km/h.
  • Four men share the record for victories, with three each: Italian Fiorenzo Magni and three Belgians: Achiel Buysse, won three times in the 1940s, Eric Leman, won at the beginning of the 1970s and, more recently, Johan Museeuw won the race in 1993, 1995 and 1998.[7]
  • The nation with most victories is Belgium (65).
  • Only six riders have won two years in a row.[7]
  • The oldest winner was Andrei Tchmil in 2000 at 37 years 2 months and 11 days.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Carolus ("Karel") Ludovicus Seyaert, who wrote as Karel van Wijnendaele, was born in Torhout, Belgium, 16 November 1882, and died Deinze, Belgium, 20 December 1961. His name, which translates in English as Charles, was properly pronounced "Carol". Among acquaintances he was called Koarle, pronounced "koala". His monument is at the top of the Kwaremont climb near Kluisbergen, in Ronde van Vlaanderenstraat. It was placed there in 1964.
  2. ^ The American writer, Gabe Konrad, recounts that Paul Deman "was highly decorated, receiving medals from Belgium, France and England for bravery. During a mission to Holland, he was caputured by enemy forces and sentenced to death. Luckily, the war ended just in time to save his life and send him home." Konrad, Gabor and Melanie (2000), Bikelore, On The Wheel Publications (USA),ISBN 1-892495-32-5, p100
  3. ^ Cyril van Hauwaert had become a hero through rising above humble origins to achieve relative prosperity as a cyclist, "the man who had made it thanks to the bike," as Rik Vanwalleghem put it
  4. ^ The Desgrange-Colombo, named after the organisers of the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia, was cycling's first international season-long points competition. It was succeeded by the Pernod and Super Pernod competitions and eventually by the World Cup. Above all in an era when travel was difficult, the Desgrange-Colombo couldn't have two qualifying rounds on the same day and so the Ronde van Vlaanderen, as the newer race, changed date to avoid Milan-Sanremo.
  5. ^ The kattestoet is an Ypres tradition from the Middle Ages in which cats were thrown from the belfry of the Cloth Hall, perhaps through the association of cats with witchcraft. The original kattestoet involved live cats. In this more moderate age, the ceremony is conducted with toy cats. It is usually only a mock witch that is burned afterwards.
  6. ^ A consequence of the enforced decision to change the name of the 'upstart' rival race to Omloop Het Volk was that rival papers, including Het Nieuwsblad when it reappeared, were reluctant to mention the name of a rival (Het Volk) when discussing the race. Unable to use the old name, papers called it Ghent-Ghent, a description of its route. What made this odder was that Ghent-Ghent was just what the Ronde van Vlaanderen had been until the end of the war.
  7. ^ Stijn Streuvels, b. Heule, Belgium, 3 October 1871, d. 15 August 1969, was the pen-name of Frank Lateur of the Van Nu en Straks (Now and Soon) literary group in Flanders. He and van Wijnendaele became friends. Streuvels wrote when he was 97: "Karel made cycling what it is and the riders what they are."
  8. ^ Bruges' campaign to bring the city to life, and not rely solely on historic tourism, went beyond cycling; in 2000 it attracted the European soccer championship and in 2002 was named the cultural capital of Europe for the year. Moenaert said he was delighted by the Ronde, which brought 15,000 people to Bruges, he said, and was broadcast to 16 countries by Eurovision, with an audience estimated at 50 million.
  9. ^ Sentiment for the North Sea as a feature of Belgium is a familiar theme. The Belgian singer Jacques Brel (8 April 1929 – 9 October 1978) sang of "The Flat Country" in both French and Dutch. In French, the words refer to the vagues (waves) that mark the start of his vague (flat, merging with the sea) Belgium. For van Wijnendaele the North Sea had extra significance because the whole of Belgium's coast is in Flanders.
  10. ^ In English the formation is known as an echelon. Despite that being a French word, the French term is bordure. The Dutch is waaier. Riders spread across the road in a staggered line, the rider most exposed to the wind riding there for a while to shelter the rest before crossing the road to join the other end of the line. In that way every rider takes a share of sheltering the others. There is great competition and often physical force to get into any echelon, but especially the front one in which the main contenders are likely to be riding.
  11. ^ The primes, or intermediate bonuses, were of particular importance until the late 1960s, in an era when few professionals were paid by their team. Their expenses were often paid and they were given a bike but their income, in the absence of winning the race, depended on what they could pick up along the way. The result was that the hills acquired a financial and consequently a strategic importance which they have kept ever since.
  12. ^ The Paterberg is a road built expressly for the race. A farmer jealous of a friend who lived beside the Koppenberg and saw the race pass at close quarters built a cobbled road in front of his house. He said in 1984 that he wanted the Ronde to cross his front yard. The road was finished in time for 1986.
  13. ^ Ritten van Lerberghe's victory speech was reported in dialect, presumably to reflect his manner of speech, as "Gaat nu ollemoale nar huz weijje. En komt morgen achternoene were, 'k lig nen halven dag vorut." Van Wijnendaele wrote occasionally in dialect and frequently in a distinctive style of Dutch that emphasised his peasant origins and the way the language had developed differently from in the neighbouring Netherlands.

References

  1. ^ a b Schroeders, Fer (1999), Les Classique du 20ème Siècle, De Eeclonaar, Belgium, ISBN 90-74128-58-0, p145
  2. ^ a b c d e Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p65-66
  3. ^ Velo 101, Route
  4. ^ Sportwereld still exists
  5. ^ a b c d Karel van Wijnnendaele,
  6. ^ a b Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p18
  7. ^ a b c Karel Wijnendaele
  8. ^ Brussels Onderwijs Punt, Vgc Wablieft
  9. ^ a b c DBNL, Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlaandse letteren. Het rijke Vlaamsche wielerleven, Karel Van Wijnendaele, p101, De stichting van ‘Sportwereld’
  10. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p20
  11. ^ Ronde van Vlaaaanderen, History, Koarle
  12. ^ Schroeders, Fer (1999), Les Classiques du 20ème Siècle, De Eeclonaar, Belgium, ISBN 90-74128-58-0, p146
  13. ^ Schroeders, Fer (1999), Les Classiques du 20ème Siècle, De Eeclonaar, Belgium, ISBN 90-74128-58-0, p147
  14. ^ Tour of Flanders (De Ronde Van Vlaanderen) 2008
  15. ^ a b Schroeders, Fer (1999), Les Classiques du 20ème Siècle, De Eeclonaar, Belgium, ISBN 90-74128-58-0, p149
  16. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p74
  17. ^ a b United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Belgium
  18. ^ Bicycling, USA, undated cutting
  19. ^ a b Konrad, Gabe and Melanie (200), Bikelore, On The Wheel Publications (USA), ISBN 1-892495-32-5, p101
  20. ^ SBR, Stay the Course, Tour de Flanders, April 7th, 2007 by Christophe Vandaele
  21. ^ a b Daily Peloton, Pro Cycling News, Tour de Flanders - A Preview: by Anita van Crey 4/4/2003
  22. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p69
  23. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p72
  24. ^ Cited Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p84
  25. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p54
  26. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p35
  27. ^ Schroeder, Fer (1999), Les Classiques du 20ème Siècle, De Eeclonaar, Belgium, ISBN 90-74128-58-0, p157
  28. ^ Cycling News, March 2006, No couperen please
  29. ^ Cycling News, February 2005, Koppenberg back in Ronde van Vlaanderen
  30. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p75
  31. ^ "The hills of the Tour 2008". www.rvv.be. 2008. http://www.rvv.be/2008/eng/parcours/hellingen.html. Retrieved 25 March 2008. 
  32. ^ a b Procycling, UK, April 2008
  33. ^ DBNL, Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlaandse letteren. Het rijke Vlaamsche wielerleven, Karel Van Wijnendaele, p361, De Oorlog
  34. ^ Cycling Weekly, UK, undated cutting
  35. ^ Simpson, Tom (1966), Cycling is My Life, Stanley Paul, UK
  36. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik (1998), Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-07, p134
  37. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik (1998), Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p227
  38. ^ Konrad, Gabor and Melanie (2000), Bikelore, On The Wheel Publications (USA),ISBN 1-892495-32-5, p103
  39. ^ Tafi still not right - Cycling News, April 2, 2003
  40. ^ Cited Cycling Weekly, UK, March 2002
  41. ^ Procycling, UK, undated cutting
  42. ^ a b L'Équipe, 3 April 2004
  43. ^ Cycling News, April 2008, 5th Women's Ronde van Vlaanderen - CDM Belgium

External links


Ronde van Vlaanderen
Race details
Date Early April
Region Flanders, Belgium
English name Tour of Flanders
Local name(s) Ronde van Vlaanderen (Dutch)
Nickname(s) De Ronde
Vlaanderens mooiste
Flanders' finest
Discipline Road
Competition UCI ProTour
Type Monument one-day race
History
First edition 1913
Editions 93 (as of 2009)
First winner File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Paul Deman
Most wins 3 times:

File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Achiel Buysse
Fiorenzo Magni
File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Eric Leman
File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Johan Museeuw

Most recent File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Stijn Devolder

The Ronde van Vlaanderen (French: Tour des Flandres, English: Tour of Flanders) is a road cycling race held in Flanders, Belgium. It is held every spring, a week before Paris-Roubaix. It is part of the UCI ProTour and one of the so-called monuments of the European professional calendar, and contributes to the UCI World Ranking points. It is the most important cycling race in Belgium and along with Paris-Roubaix the world's most important cycling race held on a single day. Its nickname is Vlaanderens mooiste (Dutch for "Flanders' finest").

Contents

History

Steffen Wesemann climbing the Muur van Geraardsbergen in the 2004 edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.]]

The Tour of Flanders was conceived of in 1913 by Karel Van Wijnendaele, cofounder of the sportspaper 'Sportwereld'. In that era it was customary for publishers of newspapers and magazines to organise cycling races as a way of promoting circulation.

Before WWII the race was often held the same day as Milan-San Remo. Prominent Italian and French racers usually prefered the latter which explains why there was only a single non-Belgian winner before WWII. After WWII the race began to grow in importance amongst other because it became a part of the Challenge Desgrange-Colombo which was a precursor to todays UCI ProTour. The Tour of Flanders has been a part of the ProTour since its inception in 2005.

Record holders are the Belgians Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman and Johan Museeuw and the Italian Fiorenzo Magni, each with three victories to their name.

The Ronde as regional symbol

, East Flanders]] Cycling was in a poor state across Belgium at the start of the 20th century. Velodromes were closing and there were no longer national championships on the road or track[1][2]. The one big Belgian race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, was in the French-speaking south. As the gloom increased, Odile Defraye became the first Belgian to win the Tour de France, in 1912.[3] He was 20 years old and, even if he was riding for a French team, Alcyon, he symbolised a potential rise for Belgian cycling. His victory inspired August De Maeght, director of the Société Belge d'Imprimerie, to publish a weekly sports magazine called Sportwereld.[1][4]

Sportwereld 's most prominent cycling writer was Carolus ("Karel") Ludovicus Seyaert[5], who wrote as Karel van Wijnendaele, the name by which he became best known. [n 1][6][7] Van Wijnendaele was the fifth of 15 children of a family in the hamlet of Wijnendaele (Wijnendale)[8], near Torhout. His father, a flax worker, died when Karel was 18 months old.[6] He wrote in 1942: "Being born into a poor family, that was my strength. If you're brought up without frills [sober opgekweekt wordt] and you know what hunger is [door een mager leven gaat], it makes you hard enough to withstand bike races." He left school at 14 and worked for a baker, looked after cows, washed bottles and delivered parcels. He worked for French-speaking families in Brussels and Ostend and felt humiliated by the way they treated him.[5]

He tried cycle-racing, won a few prizes but made little impression. He turned instead to writing about cycling as regional correspondent, first for De Thourentenaer, his local paper, then from 1909 for Onze Kampioenen in Antwerp and Sportvriend in Izegem[9]. It was then that he adopted his pen-name.[5] That attracted the attention of De Maeght and his collaborator, the race organiser Len van de Haute, with whom van Wijnendaele had collaborated at Sportvriend[9]. The two travelled to Torhout and asked van Wijnendaele if he would join a new paper to be called Sportwereld. Van Wijnendaele said he replied "Could be [misschien wel]."[9] The first issue appeared in time for the Championship of Flanders on 12 September 1912. Van Wijnendaele became its editor on 1 January 1913. He said:

We thought there was a lot we could do in the area. We also wanted to publish a paper to speak to our own Flemish people in their own language and give them confidence as Flandrians. We conducted a 10-year war, for instance, with the French-speaking management of the national cycling federation in Brussels. And we won it.[10]

On 25 May the same year he organised the first Tour of Flanders, crossing Dutch-speaking Belgium because "all Flemish cities had to contribute to the liberation of the Flemish people".[5] It finished on the track at Mariakerke, now a suburb of Ghent, and ran through Sint-Niklaas, Aalst, Oudenaarde, Kortrijk, Veurne, Ostend, Torhout, Roeselare and Bruges[11]. It covered 330 km, all on bad roads with just the occasional cycle path. There were 27 riders.[2] The race finished on a wooden track that circled a lake in Mariakerke, where ticket sales covered only half the prizes.[2]

The first races

The first race (1913) was won by Paul Deman, a 25-year-old who went on to win Bordeaux-Paris in 1914. His career almost ended with the first world war. He joined Belgium's espionage service and smuggled documents by bike into neutral Holland. After many trips he was arrested by the Germans and jailed in Leuven ready to be shot. The Armistice saved him.[n 2] He started racing again and won Paris-Roubaix in 1920 and Paris-Tours in 1923.[12].

The Ronde van Vlaanderen of 1913 had 27 riders, followed by five cars. In 1914 the field was 47. It disappointed van Wijnendaele. He said later:

Sportwereld was so young and so small for the big Ronde that we wanted. We had bitten off more than we could chew (verder springen dan zijn stok lang is). It was hard, seeing a band of second-class riders riding round Flanders, scraping up a handful of centimes to help cover the costs. The same happened in 1914. No van Hauwaert[n 3], no Masselis, no Defraeye [sic], no Mosson, no Mottiat, no van den Berghe, all forbidden to take part by their French bike companies.[2]

There were hints of the growing status of the race as a symbol of Flemish nationalism, however. Marcel Buysse insisted on taking part even though his Alcyon team ordered Belgian riders not to[13]. The race was interrupted by World War I[14] By the 1930s, there were 116 riders and seven times as many cars and motorbikes following them, said Het Nieuwsblad. The historian Fer Schroeders said:

In the previous years, De Ronde had been above all an affair for Flandrians. For a long time ridden on the same day as Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders had, until 1948, just one sole foreign winner, the Swiss Henri Suter. And so it wasn't until after the second world war that the race became international, the organiser changing the date to meet the needs of the new Challenge Desgrange-Colombo[n 4] That said, the Flandrians never stopped thinking that 'their' Ronde was a private affair, giving little chance to the foreign opposition to show itself.[15]

Above all, he said, the northern Belgians came into their own on the repeated hills and recovered quickly after them. He quoted the Walloon writer, Paul Beving, and his tribute to his northern countrymen's race:

La Ronde is as much part of the heritage of the Flemish people as the processions of Veurne and Bruges, the festival of cats at Ypres[n 5] or the ship blessing at Ostend. This cycle race is the most fabulous of all the Flemish festivals [kermesses]. No other race creates such an atmosphere, such a popular fervour.[15]

Prizes

Prizes for the first race came to 1,100 francs. They had grown by 1935 to 12,500 francs, with 2,500 for the winner down to 125 for the 19th, at a time when a newspaper cost 40 centimes.[16]. In 1938 there was a bonus of 100 francs for any rider who led by 30 minutes. Prizes in the war were whatever the organisers could find, including boxes of razors, a stove, bottles of wine and cycling equipment. There was 100 francs in 1948 "for the last rider to reach Eeklo. The last four riders in 1949 were given bottles of massage oil.

Conditions for riders

The Ronde in its first decades followed the general rule that the race was for individuals responsible for their own problems. Help from others was banned and riders carried spare tyres looped round their shoulders to cope with punctures. It could take two or three minutes to change and inflate a tyre, longer it if was cold or there were other problems. Tyres weighed around 500gm, compared to around 200 now. A rim or any other part of the bike that broke spelled the end of the race but still left the rider with the problem of getting to the finish.

Conditions became easier in the 1930s and riders were allowed to accept a rain jacket, a spare tyre and a pump, but only in emergency and at the referees' discretion. A change of bike was allowed if a frame, wheel or handlebar broke but riders were still expected to ride with spare tyres and a pump. Riders in the 1940s were required to hand their bikes to officials the day before the race to have them identified with a lead seal, later with a ring similar to that fitted to racing pigeons. In that way the referees, or commissaires could see if a rider had illegally changed bikes.

The Ronde moved towards modern rules in 1951, with riders allowed limited help from team cars and to combine with others from the same team on the road. By 1955 they could accept a replacement bike from a team-mate but not from a car. The rules changed from year to year until they resembled those of today by the end of the 1950s.

Claims of collaboration

Van Wijnendaele's magazine, Sportwereld, merged with in 1939 with Het Nieuwsblad, a daily paper first published in 1918. It bought Sportwereld and turned it into the sports section of Het Nieuwsblad and its sister paper, De Standaard. War broke out that year and in May 1940 German troops occupied Belgium.[17] The government escaped to London and the king, Léopold III, was held under house arrest.[17] Het Nieuwsblad changed name to Het Algemeen Nieuws-Sportwereld and it continued to organise the Ronde.

The Ronde is the only classic to have been held on German-occupied territory during the second world war,[18] a decision taken with the agreement of the German command. The Germans, says the writer Gabe Konrad, "not only allowed and enjoyed the race but helped police the route as well."[19] That led to accusations of collaboration.[20][21] De Standaard and Het Algemeen Nieuws-Sportwereld were sequestered by the state when peace returned and several general journalists, although largely not sports reporters, were punished for collaboration.[22] Van Wijnendaele was forbidden to work as a journalist for the rest of his life, a ban lifted when he produced a letter of support from General Bernard Montgomery, confirming that van Wijnendaele had hidden downed British pilots in his house.[23]

A rival newspaper, Het Volk started a rival race in 1945, the Omloop van Vlaanderen, to point at what it saw as the Ronde's closeness to the Germans.[21] The Ronde's organisers protested that the name was too close to their own - in Dutch there is little difference between ronde and omloop - and the Belgian cycling federation told Het Volk to change name. That race became the Omloop Het Volk.[n 6]

Problems of success

Van Wijnendaele could count the spectators at the end of the first Rondes, and the same went for those along the road. By the 1930s things had changed enough that the writer, Stijn Streuvels[n 7], wrote to Sportwereld in 1937 that the Ronde as seen from his house in Ingooigem was "more a procession of cars than of riders." The historian Rik Vanwalleghem speaks of a "wild rodeo" of spectators driving behind the race and seeking short cuts across the course to see the race pass several times. He said the police estimated the crowd for early races at 500,000. They followed the race, overtook it when they could, or stood so thick by the roadside in villages and especially at control points that the riders sometimes had trouble passing.

Van Wijnendaele involved the gendarmerie in 1933 but to limited effect. The 1937 race was chaotic. On 30 March 1938, van Wijnendaele wrote in Sportwereld:

To control as far as possible the plague of race-followers and assure the dependable running of our races, we have sent an exceptional request to the roads ministry to have our race followed by several gendarmes on motorbikes... They will have the right to penalise anybody following the race without permission.

The influence of spectators never ended. In 1963, Louis De Lentdecker wrote in Het Nieuwsblad:

In the last 100km of the race we were in the immediate area of the first riders. We barely saw them: there were so many people along the road and on the road that you had the impression of drowning in a tidal wave [te verdrinken in een orkaan]... In front of me, behind me and beside me I saw cars being driven crazily through orchards, on the sidewalks, along cycle paths, behind spectators, in front of spectators. I felt bumps and bangs on the back of our car. If there were no accidents it was only because our dear Lord and his guardian angels were the best men in the race.[24]

Course

Roger De Vlaeminck climbing the Koppenberg in the Ronde van Vlaanderen.]] 

Start and finish

The start was in Ghent until 1976, first from the Korenmarkt, then close to St-Pieters train station, when riders signed on at the Albert hotel in Clementinlaan. The race was neutralised as far as Mariakerke. A mass was held for riders before the start in the 1950s.

The race moved to the market square at St-Niklaas in 1977, mainly because it had more space for the growing number of spectators. Race briefings were held in the town hall. The square was administered by the chief of police, Roger Schepens. By 1988 the start had grown into a two-day affair with a spectacle presented by BRT television the previous night.

The contract with St-Niklaas ended in 1998 and the race moved to Bruges, where the mayor, Patrick Moenaert, saw the move as part of a campaign to bring life to the centre of the city. Bruges, or Brugge as it is known in the north, is a small city dependent on tourists attracted by its history and architecture; Moenaert wanted to make it less dependent on celebrating its past.[25][n 8]

The finish in 1913 was on a track around a lake in Mariakerke (see above). It moved in 1914 to the Deeske Porter velodrome at Evergem where, van Winendaele recounted, "there were a good 20 more spectators than the previous year."[2]

  • 1924-1927 Ghent - Ghent track
  • 1942-1944 Ghent - Ghent track
  • 1945-1961 Ghent - Wetteren
  • 1962-1972 Ghent - Gentbrugge

The route

The course has changed considerably. For the first 30 years it was a loop starting and ending in Ghent, although the finish moved every few years.

In 1913 the race at first went inland to St-Niklaas before turning a clockwise circle through Aalst, Kortrijk, out to the coast at Ostend and then back to Ghent with a detour to Roeselare. The course stayed the same in 1914 but without the leg to the coast.

In 1919 the direction turned to anticlockwise, turning south at Brugge. The route extended to the coast in 1920 and stayed that way until 1938, heading out through Eeklo and Brugge to reach the North Sea between Ostend and Blankenberge. Van Wijnendaele included the coast through his sentimental vision of Flanders. [26][n 9] The ride there was often into a strong wind that inhibited attacks but spelled the end for those left behind the shelter of the main field. Turning left at the sea meant the wind blew from the side, producing the diagonal line of riders, each sheltering the other, characteristic of the Ronde and other Belgian races.[n 10]

It changed with the outbreak of war because access to the coast was restricted. The wartime route was a circle within the heart of Flanders but the return of peace brought the race back to its route in 1946. It stayed much the same then until 1952, when the ride to the coast was abandoned and the route turned off in Brugge. The stretch to and along the coast came back in 1961 only to disappear again from 1964. From 1973 the race was no longer a loop. It started in Ghent and finished in Meerbeke, still not taking in the sea. Then Ghent was abandoned in 1977 and the start moved to the neighbouring city of Sint-Niklaas. The race now curved only around inland Flanders, going no further west than Eeklo or Roeselare. Only the move of the start to Bruges brought the race back along the North Sea, although avoiding almost all the long windy ride to get there. The move to Bruges brought criticism unrelated to the route change. Until then it had been a tradition that spectators could mix and meet with riders before the start. Fer Schroeder said:

"On the Grote Markt at St-Niklaas, at the foot of the magnificent town hall, the start of the Ronde was always a privileged moment. The riders came their to sign their papers for the race before happily going to meet their fans, giving autographs, posing for a souvenir photograph with a young admirer. So far as that is concerned, times and customs have changed since 1998 and the five-year agreement with the city of Bruges. Now there are railings to hold back the public from mixing with the riders. The start of the Ronde van Vlaanderen has manifestly lost, in its new configuration, everything that made it charming."[27]

The strategic part of the race comes after it has turned back inland, running just north of the French border. The course goes into the only short, sharp hills in the otherwise flat Flanders countryside. The route twists and turns to ride as many as possible. Some of the hills are cobbled and one - the Koppenberg - has been dropped some years because of its danger and difficulty. It is hard for riders to take all the climb while still riding. A fall by one rider can bring down many others and, in turn, halt those behind. The stopped and fallen often have to continue to the top on foot. In 1984 only two riders - Phil Anderson and Jan Raas - got up without walking.

The Koppenberg returned in 2003 after its surface was improved. It was then dropped again in 2007, replaced by the Kluisberg and the Côte de Trieu, which had roadworks in previous years, and the first ascent of the Eikenmolen.[28] The Koppenberg came back in 2008 after the city of Oudenaarde renovated it.[29]

Cobbled hills

In post-war Belgium little more than the intercity roads were smooth. The Ronde had never set out to use bad roads - bad roads were all that were available if the race were to be long enough in a geographically small area. Belgium began picking itself up from devastation from the early 1950s and provinces began asphalting roads. For a while there were still bad roads and the race used them because increasing car traffic made them convenient. But alarms started when the first classic hills were surfaced. Van Wijnendaele could no longer draw a circle round Flanders and call that the course. He had to buy maps of tracks and footpaths. His staff talked in bars to men who knew the roads. "It was either that or risk the race ending in a mass sprint, and that's the last thing they wanted," said the historian Tom van Laere. Most back roads happened to be in the low hills between Ronse and Geraardsbergen. The mileage of cobbles decreased but the number of cobbled hills rose.

The short, sharp hills are a feature of the Ronde. The race has offered prizes to the first on many of them for more than half a century. There were 500 francs offered in 1940 for the first up the Kwaremont, Edelare and Kruisberg. A combined prize for performances on all the hills came in 1950, when Maurits Blomme won bedroom furniture as best climber. The prize at the top of the Kruisberg in 1953 was a washing machine. The first up the Muur de Grammont at Geraardsbergen won 18,000 francs. In 1950 Fiorenzo Magni won 30,000 francs in primes during a long breakaway, enough to buy a house.[30][n 11]

In 2008, the 17 hills - hellingen in Dutch - were:[31]

Number Name Kilometer Pavement Length (in m) Average climb (%)
1 Kluisberg 99 asphalt 1250 5,3
2 Nokereberg 118 cobbles 375 5,9
3 Molenberg 157 cobbles/asphalt 463 7
4 Wolvenberg 167 asphalt 645 7,9
5 Oude Kwaremont 185 cobbles/asphalt 2200 4
6 Paterberg[n 12] 189 cobbles 360 12,9
7 Koppenberg 195 cobbles 600 11,6
8 Steenbeekdries 200 cobbles 700 5,3
9 Taaienberg 203 cobbles 530 6,6
Number Name Kilometer Pavement Length (in m) Average climb (%)
10 Berg Ter Stene 213 asphalt 1300 5
11 Leberg 216 asphalt 950 4,2
12 Berendries 222 asphalt 940 7
13 Valkenberg 227 asphalt 540 8,1
14 Tenbosse 233 asphalt 455 6,4
15 Eikenmolen 239 asphalt 610 5,9
16 Muur-Kapelmuur 249 cobbles 475 9,3
17 Bosberg 252 cobbles/asphalt 980 5,8

Kluisberg: Buissestraat, Bergstraat, Kluisbergen-Ruien. Climbs 66m from 27m to 93m. Maximum 11 per cent. First climbed 1955

Molenberg: Molenberg, Zwalm. Climbs 32m from 24m to 56m. Maximum 17 per cent. First climbed 1983.

Oude Kwaremont: Broekstraat, Kwaremontplein, Schilderstraat, Kluisbergen. Climbs 93m from 18m to 111m. Maximum 11 per cent. First climbed 1974.

Koppenberg: Steengat, Koppenberg, Oudenaarde-Melden. Climbs 64m from 13m to 77m; Maximum 25 per cent at inside of bend, otherwise 22 per cent. First climbed 1976.

Taaienberg: Taaienberg, Maarkedal-Etikhove. Climbs 45m from 37m to 82m. Maximum 18 per cent. First climbed 1974.

Berg ter Stene: Stene, Horebeke. Climbs 68m from 32m to 100m. Maximum 9 per cent. First climbed 1957

Leberg: Leberg, Brakel-Zegelsem. Climbs 39m from 60m to 9m. Maximum 15 per cent. First climbed 1977

Berendries: Berendries, Brakel-Sint-Maria-Oudenhove. Climbs 65m from 33m to 98m. Maximum 14 per cent. First climbed 1983

Valkenberg: Valkenbergstraat, Brakel-Nederbrakel. Climbs 53m from 45m to 98m. Maximum 15 per cent. First climbed 1959

Muur-Kapelmuur: Abdijstraat, Ouderbergstraat, Oudeberg, Gerardsbergen. Climbs 77m from 33m to 110m. Maximum 20 per cent. First climbed 1950

Bosberg: Kapellestraat, Geraardsbergen-Moerbeke. Climbs 40m from 65m to 105m. Maximum 11 per cent. First climbed 1975.

Tenbosse: Olifantstraat, Brakel. Climbs 28m from 45m to 73m. Maximum 14 per cent. First climbed 1997

Van Petegem says...

In 2008 the retired Belgian professional, Peter van Petegem, rode some of the course with a journalist and gave his reactions.[32]

The Molenberg: "Everyone wants to sit right at the front at the start of this hill. It's a real battle and then there's one big explosion. Those who don't manage to start the narrow climb smoothly risk getting blocked and having to put their foot down. In my prime, I did this climb three or four times in a row during training. That was the best way to train my legs for the explosion. [But] the Molenberg is only a test. It's far too early in the race to be decisive."

The Oude Kwaremont: "The run-up to this climb is a race within a race. It's nervous, and elbows and shoulders are the order of the day to secure the best spot at the front. You really need to be a nasty bastard to defend and keep your position, but I had no problem with that. I had guts. The Oude Kwaremont is not a climb where you just stretch your legs. It's very important to be in the first two rows in order to get in the right position. If you have to chase from the foot of the Oude Kwaremont, you've lost already."

The Paterberg: Out training, you can avoid the cobbles, but "this wouldn't be possible in the Tour of Flanders, since the gutter would be blocked with fences keeping the fans away from the road."

The Koppenberg: In 2006, "someone got his front wheel stuck in one of the grooves and it caused a chain reaction. Everyone had to climb on foot! The Koppenberg needed restoring again. They did a great job. The grooves are gone now, but if it rains, riders still have problems. It's incredibly steep and in wet conditions your rear wheel spins easily. Those kinds of hills spice up the race."

The Taaienberg: "I once saw Laurent Jalabert accelerating hard - really hard - on the Taaienberg. Right then, everyone thought the race was over, because Jalabert was like Superman. But on the Berendries, a few hills later, he completely collapsed. If you want to win the Tour of Flanders, you have to be cool, relaxed and attentive. The last thing you should do is throw your powers away too fast, too soon."

The Berg ter Stene replaces the Eikenberg. "It's a pity they've struck the Eikenberg from the course. It's a cobblestone climb and I'm in favour of leaving all those on the route.We don't have so many we should cherish the few we have. I like those kinds of climbs since they make the difference in the closing stages. It's possible for weaker riders to survive on a Tarmac climb, but not on a cobbled one. You get a far more nervous approach to the climb and only the fittest survive on the climb itself. The Berg ter Stene is a Formula One track compared to a cobbled hill."

The Leberg: "From the Leberg on, after the 2km cobblestone section of the Haaghoek, you can't afford to be outside the first 10 riders. That's the 200km mark. From that moment on, once you're in Brakel you need to be aware that it can happen at any time. This where the best of the race come forward."

Epic races

1919

Gabe Konrad writes: "The 1919 winner, van Lerberghe, showed up on the line in full racing attire but, for some reason, without a bike. He borrowed one from the brother-in-law of another competitor and, prior to the starting gun, threatened the pack that he was going to drop them all at their own front doors on the way to victory. Van Lerbergh hadn't had, and would never have, an impressive career, and all the cyclists laughed as he pulled away immediately - never to be caught. Just prior to entering the velodrome for the finish, van Lerbergh stopped off at a pub to take in a few beers. His manager, worrying that he would miss a chance at victory, had to track him down and get him back on the bike. After he had crossed the line and done his lap of honour, van Lerberghe stood in front of the crowd and, in all seriousness, told them 'to go home; I'm a day and a half ahead of the field.'"[19][n 13]

1939

Karel Kaers, the youngest man to win the world road championship, also won the Ronde in 1939 - without intending to. For him, it was training for Paris-Roubaix[33]. He drove to the Kwaremont hill near Kluisbergen, parked his car, then rode 40 km to the start in Ghent. His plan was to ride round the course with his usual training partner, stop when he got to his car, then drive home[34]. Knowing he wasn't riding the whole distance, Kaers jumped clear of the field - again as training - and rode up the Kwaremont with a minute's lead. But his car wasn't there. He pressed on instead and won the race. His manager had driven the car away to save Kaers from temptation.

1944

Rik van Steenbergen said: "When I turned pro, I couldn't ride it straight away. There were three categories of rider: road-riders A, road-riders B, and track riders. I was registered with the federation as a track rider. At first they wouldn't let me ride the national championship. But Jean van Buggenhout, the manager, got me reclassified on the Wednesday before the race. I won it and became an 'A' rider. Then I could start the year in the Tour of Flanders. I was 19 and I'll probably stay the youngest person ever to win." Van Steenbergen was in the break when several riders fell on the cinder track to the track in Ghent. Van Steenbergen rode round the fallen and won. Next year he decided not to ride. Van Wijnendaele was offended. But Van Steenbergen had realised why he'd turned pro: to make a living. "I could probably win more money elsewhere," he said. "The Tour of Flanders didn't have the attraction that it does now, especially not internationally."

1946

Van Steenbergen returned in 1946 and won again. He said: "That was one of my best wins ever. I could do whatever I liked, ride better than anyone. In the end I was with Briek Schotte and Enkel Thiétard. They were happy just to follow me. We made an agreement. I said that they could stay with me until we got to Kwatrecht. I wouldn't drop them provided they'd do their best to work with me. They were happy with that. They didn't have a choice. Under the bridge at Kwatrecht I just got rid of them."

1951

Fiorenzo Magni, a rare Italian in Belgian classics, won so many intermediate prizes during his long solo flight that they would have bought him a house (see above). He was one of nine to escape the field at Ingelmunster. The others cracked one by one until Magni was alone by Strijpen - the point where he made his winning move the previous year. He rode the last 75 km alone to win the Ronde for the third successive year. Magni won by almost eight minutes and the first five finishers were foreigners.

1961

Such a gale blew in 1961 that the banner over the finish line blew down. The British rider Tom Simpson was clear with the better-known Italian champion, Nino Defilippis. Simpson, the weaker sprinter, accelerated for the line with a kilometre to go. It was too far and Defillipis came past him as he weakened. Simpson struggled to stay with him and was delighted when the Italian began freewheeling just before the finish. Defilippis said he didn't know where the finish was because the banner had blown down, but the two riders had already covered two previous laps of the finishing circuit. For the same reason, the Italian protest that the line on the road wasn't clearly marked also failed. Defilippis asked Simpson to agree to a tie, saying no Italian had won a classic since 1953. Simpson said:

"I replied that an Englishman had not won one since 1896!"[35]

1969

Eddy Merckx dominated world racing in both classics and stage races but couldn't win the Ronde. By 1969 he had not only frustration to contend with but rising resentment of other riders unhappy that he won so many races. He attacked early and half the field never saw him again. The other half was reduced with each successive attack until he got clear alone. The chase was furious but ineffective and Merckx won by more than five and a half minutes over Felice Gimondi and more than eight minutes on the rest. The Ronde remained an unhappy race for him; it was another six years before he won again.

1985

Bad weather has often hit the Ronde. In 1985, a storm broke in the second half of the race. The weather was so bad that only 24 made it to the finish. The race historian, Rik Vanwalleghem, said: "It was a legendary Ronde, one which wrote Sport with a capital S. It was as cold as Siberia all day and the rain fell in torrents [regende het pijpenstelen]. Of the 173 starters only 24 were counted in at the finish. In this apocalytpic background Eric Vanderaerden got back to the front after looking beaten to ride 20km at the head of the race alone. Impressive."[36]

1987

The danger of the Ronde's narrow and badly surfaced hills came close to tragedy when the Danish rider, Jesper Skibby, lost his balance and fell on to a roadside bank, still strapped into his pedals. He fell with a race official's car between him and a field of riders. The driver of the car cotinued moving forward and ran over Skibby's back wheel, narrowly missing his leg[37][38]. The hill was judged too dangerous and did not return until the surface had been improved in 2002. The race official continued driving to the finish, where he was met by mud, stones and cups thrown by spectators.[39] The incident overshadowed victory by the French-speaking Belgian, Claude Criquielion.

Museum

The town of Oudenaarde, through which the Ronde passes, has a museum - the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen - dedicated to the race. The curator is Freddy Maertens.

Comments

  • "Only those who are in top condition can say that the Ronde is not hard. For everyone else, it's the Way of the Cross." -Andrea Tafi[40]
  • "I told the organisers it wasn't a race but a war game. It's hard to explain what the Koppenberg means to a racing cyclist. Instead of being a race, it's a lottery. Only the first five or six riders have any chance: the rest fall off or scramble up as best they can. What on earth have we done to send us to hell now?" - Bernard Hinault
  • "Looking back, you get a bit nostalgic, but from a competitive point of view, Flanders was one of the most horrible races to ride but one of the greatest races to win." - Sean Kelly [42]
  • "Many great names of Flemish cycling live on the route of the race. This closeness doesn't exist in any other country. That's what gives our identity." - Nico Mattan[43]
  • "These days, you see all the riders, their life is well known. Before, you saw only the last two hours on television. Now, the direct coverage starts before the race has started and the legend that surrounded riders, created in people's imagination, no longer exists. When everything is too realistic, you lose the legend." Marc Sergeant[43]

Tour of Flanders for Women


The women’s Tour of Flanders (Dutch: Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen) has been held every spring since 2004 on the same day as the men's race. It is part of the UCI Women's Road World Cup. The race runs over a course that follows the last 55km of the men's race to finish in Meerbeke. In 2008, the race featured three long flat cobbled sections: Paddestraat (2400m), Mater-Kerkgate (3000m) and Haaghoek (2000m), and 10 hills including the Molenberg, Eikenmolen, Muur-Kapelmuur and Bosberg.[44]

Winners

Rider Team
1913 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Paul Deman (BEL)
1914 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Marcel Buysse (BEL)
1915 No race
1916 No race
1917 No race
1918 No race
1919 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Henri van Lerberghe (BEL)
1920 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Jules van Hevel (BEL)
1921 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg René Vermandel (BEL)
1922 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Léon De Vos (BEL)
1923 Heiri Suter (SUI)
1924 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Gérard Debaets (BEL)
1925 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Julien Delbecque (BEL)
1926 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Denis Verschueren (BEL)
1927 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Gérard Debaets (BEL)
1928 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Jan Mertens (BEL)
1929 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Jef Dervaes (BEL)
1930 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Frans Bonduel (BEL)
1931 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Romain Gijssels (BEL)
1932 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Romain Gijssels (BEL)
1933 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Alfons Schepers (BEL)
1934 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Gaston Rebry (BEL)
1935 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Louis Duerloo (BEL)
1936 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Louis Hardiquest (BEL)
1937 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Michel D'Hooghe (BEL)
1938 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Edgard de Caluwé (BEL)
1939 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Karel Kaers (BEL)
1940 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Achiel Buysse (BEL)
1941 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Achiel Buysse (BEL)
1942 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Briek Schotte (BEL)
1943 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Achiel Buysse (BEL)
1944 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Rik van Steenbergen (BEL)
1945 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Sylvain Grysolle (BEL)
1946 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Rik van Steenbergen (BEL)
1947 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Emiel Faignaert (BEL)
1948 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Briek Schotte (BEL)
1949 Fiorenzo Magni (ITA)
1950 Fiorenzo Magni (ITA)
1951 Fiorenzo Magni (ITA)
1952 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Roger Decock (BEL)
1953 Wim van Est (NED)
1954 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Raymond Impanis (BEL)
1955 Louison Bobet (FRA)
1956 Jean Forestier (FRA)
1957 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Fred De Bruyne (BEL)
1958 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Germain Derijcke (BEL)
1959 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Rik van Looy (BEL)
1960 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Arthur De Cabooter (BEL)
1961 Tom Simpson (GBR)
1962 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Rik van Looy (BEL)
Rider Team
1963 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Noel Foré (BEL)
1964 Rudi Altig (GER)
1965 Jo De Roo (NED) Televizier
1966 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Edward Sels (BEL) Solo Superia
1967 Dino Zandegu (ITA) Salvarani
1968 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Walter Godefroot (BEL) Flandria
1969 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Eddy Merckx (BEL) Faema
1970 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Eric Leman (BEL) Flandria-Mars
1971 Evert Dolman (NED) Flandria
1972 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Eric Leman (BEL) Bic
1973 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Eric Leman (BEL) Peugeot (cycling team)
1974 Kees Bal (NED) Gan Mercier
1975 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Eddy Merckx (BEL) Molteni
1976 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Walter Planckaert (BEL) Mars Pils
1977 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Roger De Vlaeminck (BEL) Brooklyn
1978 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Walter Godefroot (BEL) Ijsboerke
1979 Jan Raas (NED) TI-Raleigh
1980 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Michel Pollentier (BEL) Splendor Admiral
1981 Hennie Kuiper (NED) DAF Trucks
1982 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg René Martens (BEL) DAF Trucks
1983 Jan Raas (NED) TI Raleigh
1984 Johan Lammerts (NED) Panasonic Raleigh
1985 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Eric Vanderaerden (BEL) Panasonic-Raleigh
1986 Adri van der Poel (NED) Kwantum
1987 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Claude Criquielion (BEL) Hitachi Marc Rossin
1988 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Eddy Planckaert (BEL) AD Renting
1989 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Edwig van Hooydonck (BEL) Superconflex
1990 Moreno Argentin (ITA) Ariostea
1991 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Edwig van Hooydonck (BEL) Buckler Colnago
1992 Jacky Durand (FRA) Castorama
1993 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Johan Museeuw (BEL) GB-MG
1994 Gianni Bugno (ITA) Team Polti
1995 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Johan Museeuw (BEL) Mapei (cycling team)
1996 Michele Bartoli (ITA) MG Maglifico
1997 Rolf Sørensen (DEN) Rabobank
1998 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Johan Museeuw (BEL) Mapei (cycling team)
1999 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Peter van Petegem (BEL) TVM Farm Frites
2000 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Andrei Tchmil (BEL) Lotto-Adecco
2001 Gianluca Bortolami (ITA) Vini Caldirola
2002 Andrea Tafi (ITA) Mapei (cycling team)
2003 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Peter van Petegem (BEL) Lotto-Domo
2004 Steffen Wesemann (GER) T-Mobile Team
2005 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Tom Boonen (BEL) Quick Step
2006 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Tom Boonen (BEL) Quick Step-Innergetic
2007 Alessandro Ballan (ITA) Lampre-Fondital
2008 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Stijn Devolder (BEL) Quick Step
2009 File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Stijn Devolder (BEL) Quick Step

Victories per country

# Country Victories
1. Belgium 66
2. Italy 10
3. Netherlands 9
4. France 3
5. Germany 2
6. Denmark 1
6. United Kingdom 1
6. Switzerland 1

Winners of Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix

Winners of Paris-Roubaix and
Ronde van Vlaanderen
Rider Country Year
Henri Suter  Switzerland 1923
Romain Gijssels File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium 1932
Gaston Rebry File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium 1934
Raymond Impanis File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium 1954
Fred De Bruyne File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium 1957
Rik Van Looy File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium 1962
Roger De Vlaeminck File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium 1977
Peter van Petegem File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium 2003
Tom Boonen File:Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium 2005

Records

  • The fastest Tour of Flanders was in 2001, won by Italian Gianluca Bortolami: 43.6 km/h.
  • Four men share the record for victories, with three each: Italian Fiorenzo Magni and three Belgians: Achiel Buysse, won three times in the 1940s, Eric Leman, won at the beginning of the 1970s and, more recently, Johan Museeuw won the race in 1993, 1995 and 1998.[7]
  • The nation with most victories is Belgium (65).
  • Only six riders have won two years in a row.[7]
  • The oldest winner was Andrei Tchmil in 2000 at 37 years 2 months and 11 days.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Carolus ("Karel") Ludovicus Seyaert, who wrote as Karel van Wijnendaele, was born in Torhout, Belgium, 16 November 1882, and died Deinze, Belgium, 20 December 1961. His name, which translates in English as Charles, was properly pronounced "Carol". Among acquaintances he was called Koarle, pronounced "koala". His monument is at the top of the Kwaremont climb near Kluisbergen, in Ronde van Vlaanderenstraat. It was placed there in 1964.
  2. ^ The American writer, Gabe Konrad, recounts that Paul Deman "was highly decorated, receiving medals from Belgium, France and England for bravery. During a mission to Holland, he was caputured by enemy forces and sentenced to death. Luckily, the war ended just in time to save his life and send him home." Konrad, Gabor and Melanie (2000), Bikelore, On The Wheel Publications (USA),ISBN 1-892495-32-5, p100
  3. ^ Cyril van Hauwaert had become a hero through rising above humble origins to achieve relative prosperity as a cyclist, "the man who had made it thanks to the bike," as Rik Vanwalleghem put it
  4. ^ The Desgrange-Colombo, named after the organisers of the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia, was cycling's first international season-long points competition. It was succeeded by the Pernod and Super Pernod competitions and eventually by the World Cup. Above all in an era when travel was difficult, the Desgrange-Colombo couldn't have two qualifying rounds on the same day and so the Ronde van Vlaanderen, as the newer race, changed date to avoid Milan-Sanremo.
  5. ^ The kattestoet is an Ypres tradition from the Middle Ages in which cats were thrown from the belfry of the Cloth Hall, perhaps through the association of cats with witchcraft. The original kattestoet involved live cats. In this more moderate age, the ceremony is conducted with toy cats. It is usually only a mock witch that is burned afterwards.
  6. ^ A consequence of the enforced decision to change the name of the 'upstart' rival race to Omloop Het Volk was that rival papers, including Het Nieuwsblad when it reappeared, were reluctant to mention the name of a rival (Het Volk) when discussing the race. Unable to use the old name, papers called it Ghent-Ghent, a description of its route. What made this odder was that Ghent-Ghent was just what the Ronde van Vlaanderen had been until the end of the war.
  7. ^ Stijn Streuvels, b. Heule, Belgium, 3 October 1871, d. 15 August 1969, was the pen-name of Frank Lateur of the Van Nu en Straks (Now and Soon) literary group in Flanders. He and van Wijnendaele became friends. Streuvels wrote when he was 97: "Karel made cycling what it is and the riders what they are."
  8. ^ Bruges' campaign to bring the city to life, and not rely solely on historic tourism, went beyond cycling; in 2000 it attracted the European soccer championship and in 2002 was named the cultural capital of Europe for the year. Moenaert said he was delighted by the Ronde, which brought 15,000 people to Bruges, he said, and was broadcast to 16 countries by Eurovision, with an audience estimated at 50 million.
  9. ^ Sentiment for the North Sea as a feature of Belgium is a familiar theme. The Belgian singer Jacques Brel (8 April 1929 – 9 October 1978) sang of "The Flat Country" in both French and Dutch. In French, the words refer to the vagues (waves) that mark the start of his vague (flat, merging with the sea) Belgium. For van Wijnendaele the North Sea had extra significance because the whole of Belgium's coast is in Flanders.
  10. ^ In English the formation is known as an echelon. Despite that being a French word, the French term is bordure. The Dutch is waaier. Riders spread across the road in a staggered line, the rider most exposed to the wind riding there for a while to shelter the rest before crossing the road to join the other end of the line. In that way every rider takes a share of sheltering the others. There is great competition and often physical force to get into any echelon, but especially the front one in which the main contenders are likely to be riding.
  11. ^ The primes, or intermediate bonuses, were of particular importance until the late 1960s, in an era when few professionals were paid by their team. Their expenses were often paid and they were given a bike but their income, in the absence of winning the race, depended on what they could pick up along the way. The result was that the hills acquired a financial and consequently a strategic importance which they have kept ever since.
  12. ^ The Paterberg is a road built expressly for the race. A farmer jealous of a friend who lived beside the Koppenberg and saw the race pass at close quarters built a cobbled road in front of his house. He said in 1984 that he wanted the Ronde to cross his front yard. The road was finished in time for 1986.
  13. ^ Ritten van Lerberghe's victory speech was reported in dialect, presumably to reflect his manner of speech, as "Gaat nu ollemoale nar huz weijje. En komt morgen achternoene were, 'k ben meer dan nen halven dag vorut." Van Wijnendaele wrote occasionally in dialect and frequently in a distinctive style of Dutch that emphasised his peasant origins and the way the language had developed differently from in the neighbouring Netherlands.

References

  1. ^ a b Schroeders, Fer (1999), Les Classique du 20ème Siècle, De Eeclonaar, Belgium, ISBN 90-74128-58-0, p145
  2. ^ a b c d e Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p65-66
  3. ^ Velo 101, Route
  4. ^ Sportwereld still exists
  5. ^ a b c d Karel van Wijnnendaele,
  6. ^ a b Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p18
  7. ^ a b c Karel Wijnendaele
  8. ^ Brussels Onderwijs Punt, Vgc Wablieft
  9. ^ a b c DBNL, Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlaandse letteren. Het rijke Vlaamsche wielerleven, Karel Van Wijnendaele, p101, De stichting van ‘Sportwereld’
  10. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p20
  11. ^ Ronde van Vlaaaanderen, History, Koarle
  12. ^ Schroeders, Fer (1999), Les Classiques du 20ème Siècle, De Eeclonaar, Belgium, ISBN 90-74128-58-0, p146
  13. ^ Schroeders, Fer (1999), Les Classiques du 20ème Siècle, De Eeclonaar, Belgium, ISBN 90-74128-58-0, p147
  14. ^ Tour of Flanders (De Ronde Van Vlaanderen) 2008
  15. ^ a b Schroeders, Fer (1999), Les Classiques du 20ème Siècle, De Eeclonaar, Belgium, ISBN 90-74128-58-0, p149
  16. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p74
  17. ^ a b United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Belgium
  18. ^ Bicycling, USA, undated cutting
  19. ^ a b Konrad, Gabe and Melanie (200), Bikelore, On The Wheel Publications (USA), ISBN 1-892495-32-5, p101
  20. ^ SBR, Stay the Course, Tour de Flanders, April 7th, 2007 by Christophe Vandaele
  21. ^ a b Daily Peloton, Pro Cycling News, Tour de Flanders - A Preview: by Anita van Crey 4/4/2003
  22. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p69
  23. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p72
  24. ^ Cited Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p84
  25. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p54
  26. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p35
  27. ^ Schroeder, Fer (1999), Les Classiques du 20ème Siècle, De Eeclonaar, Belgium, ISBN 90-74128-58-0, p157
  28. ^ Cycling News, March 2006, No couperen please
  29. ^ Cycling News, February 2005, Koppenberg back in Ronde van Vlaanderen
  30. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik, Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p75
  31. ^ "The hills of the Tour 2008". www.rvv.be. 2008. http://www.rvv.be/2008/eng/parcours/hellingen.html. Retrieved on 25 March 2008. 
  32. ^ Procycling, UK, April 2008
  33. ^ DBNL, Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlaandse letteren. Het rijke Vlaamsche wielerleven, Karel Van Wijnendaele, p361, De Oorlog
  34. ^ Cycling Weekly, UK, undated cutting
  35. ^ Simpson, Tom (1966), Cycling is My Life, Stanley Paul, UK
  36. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik (1998), Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-07, p134
  37. ^ Procycling, UK, April 2008
  38. ^ Vanwalleghem, Rik (1998), Het Wonder van Vlaanderen, Pinguin, Belgium, ISBN 90-73322-09-7, p227
  39. ^ Konrad, Gabor and Melanie (2000), Bikelore, On The Wheel Publications (USA),ISBN 1-892495-32-5, p103
  40. ^ Tafi still not right - Cycling News, April 2, 2003
  41. ^ Cited Cycling Weekly, UK, March 2002
  42. ^ Procycling, UK, undated cutting
  43. ^ a b L'Équipe, 3 April 2004
  44. ^ Cycling News, April 2008, 5th Women's Ronde van Vlaanderen - CDM Belgium

External links








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