Last weekend Matt and I were extremely lucky to experience the Tour of Flanders for the very first time in Belgium soaking up the sun, drinking beer, cheering on the cyclists and generally taking in the amazing atmosphere which this race brings! I’ll be sharing with you our time there in a blog post next week but I thought it would be useful to tell you a little bit about the race beforehand. As I must admit I didn’t know a lot & Matt made me do my homework. So here’s a little guide…
Otherwise known as Ronde Van Vlaanderen (try say that after a few beers) the Tour of Flanders is a one day road cycling race in Belgium. Famous for its steep hills and cobbled climbs this race forms part of the cobbled classics (clue’s in the name) and is one of the five monuments of cycling. Monuments are one day races typically held in March and April and are regarded as some of the most prestigious races amongst the peloton.
The first race held in 1913 organised by a fella called Karel van Wijnendaele covered 330 km! Interrupted by World War 1 the race started again in 1919 and has run every year since! To celebrate the 100th edition this year ‘amateurs’ were given the opportunity to tackle the route by participating in a fan ride.
The event comprises of both a men’s and women’s race over slightly different routes. The men’s race this year was 255km starting in the picturesque town of Bruges, travelling across the Belgian countryside and finishing in the town of Oudenaarde, East Flanders. The race involved 18 categorised climbs which are split into cobbles and asphalt (tarmac to me and you) with the maximum gradient being 22% on the Koppenburg! I would definitely not make that…Only one Brit has won the men’s race and this dates back to 1961 and Tom Simpson. This year Slovakian born Peter Sagan of Team Tinkoff claimed victory in 6 hours, 10 minutes and 42 seconds.
The women’s race which was introduced in 2004 involves many of the same climbs except for the Koppenburg and both begins and finishes in Oudenaarde as the route is shorter with a distance of 141km. British Lizzie Armistead (local Leeds girl woohoo) won this year following in the footsteps of fellow Brit Nicole Cooke who won in 2007 making that two British female winners in under 10 years. YUSSS.
Check back next week to see photos of our trip and read about my experience on the Kwaremont!