Cycling - Event

Cobbles or Steep Slopes: What Makes the Tour of Flanders Unique

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The tour of Flanders is probably known to all professional cyclists. The event is so popular among the cycling fraternity that it is nicknamed ‘VlaanderensMooiste,’ which means ‘Flander’s Finest’. Naturally, this event features on the to-do list of all passionate cyclists from across the globe.

Brief History of Tour of Flanders

Tour of Flanders history
Tour of Flanders: Moments in history (source)

The Tour of Flanders, (Dutch: Ronde van Vlaanderen), also known as De Ronde ("The Tour") started in 1913 and was only interrupted during the First World War.

It has been organized continuously since 1919 as an annual cycling race, and in doing so, it has made the record for being the longest-running cycling event in the world.

The most important cycling race in Flanders, it is also a part of the UCI World Tour. It is counted among the five monuments of professional cycling races and is organized by the ‘Flanders Classics’.

It is also among the two cobbled classics, the other one being the Paris-Roubaix event.

Check out the Complete Guide for The Paris Roubaix Cycling Race: Take the Cobbled Route Challenge!

A women’s cycling race in the same event was started in 2004. Together, the two races have continued to attract professional cyclists from all over the globe, who want to test their limits and surpass their personal cycling goals.

Tour of Flanders 2018: Date and Route Map Details

The event in 2018 will mark the 102nd edition of the race and will comprise of the Tour of Flanders Sportive 2018 on 31st March 2018, and the Pro-cycling Race on 1st April 2018. The duration is for 3 to 4 days.

The sportive event offers a range of routes for cyclists to cover, depending on their cycling level.

Tour of Flanders 2018
Gear ON!

The route is a challenging mix of cobbled stretches and steep climbs, and this race tests the physical fitness as well as mental grit of the participants. This event allows the amateur cyclists to participate in the sportive version, which is typically held a day before the pro-race.

The sportive race has an option of race distances, and amateur cyclists may choose the distance they are most comfortable with.

However, regardless of the distance chosen, it is to be kept in mind that the route will pose some narrow roads and challenging climbs along with cobbled stretches that will make you sweat hard.

Tour of Flanders cobbled route
The Cobbled Stretches is Challenging Source

You may choose the 74 km or 138 km Tour of Flanders Sportive 2018 races, which begin from Oudenaarde; or 173 km or 232 km races, which begin from Antwerp.

Professional cyclists participate in the pro-race that spans over a distance of 230 km.

The long route (232 km) of the sportive event will be pretty much the same as that for the pro-cycling race.

The medium routes will include all classic climbs and cobbled stretches of the full route, and the small route will offer a rather compact cycling experience that gives just a taste of the challenges of the full route.

Tour of Flanders route
A cycling experience full of challenges (source)

The tour of flanders 2018 route will start from Antwerp and will comprise of its characteristic short and sudden steep climbs as it makes way to Muur van Geraardsbergen.

The route will have interspersed cobbled sections and will turn towards Oude Kwaremont and finally Paterberg.

This route is very similar to the Tour of Flanders 2017 route as shown in the map below:

Tour of Flanders 2017 route
The route map (source)

The major cobbled stretches that you will have to pass through are:

  • Molenberg and Zwalm, with a total climb of 32 m.
  • Oude Kwaremont,- Including Broekstraat, Kwaremontplein, Schilderstraat, and Kluisbergen, with a total elevation of 93 m.
  • Taainberg- Maarkedal- Etikhove, with a total elevation of 45 m.
  • Leberg- Brakel- Zegelsem, with a total elevation of 39 m.
  • Muur- Kapelmuur- Abdijstraat- Ouderbergstraat- Oudeberg, with a total elevation of 77 m.
  • Tenbosse- Olifantstraat- Brakel, with a total elevation of 28 m.

Aid stations will be arranged every 30 km to supply water, electrolyte drinks, and fruits such as orange and banana.

Race Timings

The 2018 event will have a rolling start for all routes of sportive and pro-race formats.

The long route race at Antwerp will start between 7 am and 8 am, and the short and medium route sportive races at Oudenaarde will start between 7 am and 10 am, and between 7 am and 9 am, respectively.

Registration Details

Registration is open only for the first 16,000 participants.

Therefore, you are encouraged to register as soon as possible. We Ride Flanders 2018 is organizing the registration.

Here is the registration fee for various races in the event:

  • 74 km: 36 Euros
  • 138 km: 47 Euros
  • 173 km: 53 Euros
  • 232 km: 59 Euros

It should be noted that We Ride Flanders 2018 will take an additional 10 Euros from all registered participants in lieu of a framed metal plate that also has the tracking chip.

Upon completing the race, participants have to return this plate for a refund or for the official T-shirt of the event.

Tour de Flanders - Registration
It is definitely not going to be easy

Registration Package

Every registered participant of the Tour of Flanders 2018 will receive:

  • Insurance upon presenting their helmets
  • Technical assistance
  • Aid supply at every aid station
  • Informative signals throughout the route
  • Frame stickers for route information
  • Medical attention, if needed
  • Coffee before race start
  • Massage after race completion

Prize Money

Tour de Flanders Medal
The medal for Tour de Flanders

The winner of the Tour of Flanders event takes home 20,000 Euros, while the second and third finishers receive 10,000 and 5,000 Euros, respectively.

Top 20 finishers are given cash prize, with 500 Euros being the minimum.

The performance of pro-cyclists in this event gets them points that contribute to their world ranking.

Accommodation Options

If you are planning to take part in the short and medium sportive races, then it makes sense to book your accommodation in any of the good hotels at Oudenaarde. This is because the start and finish lines of these races will be from Oudenaarde. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about parking on race day or delay because of high traffic.

If you are participating in the long route of the Sportive or the pro race itself, then you must consider staying at Antwerp because these races start early in the morning and it might be a problem to reach Antwerp from another city at that hour.

Another alternative for people who are taking part in the short and medium races is to stay in Kortrijk, which is a much smaller town than Oudenaarde, but is close to the race venue and has cheaper options for accommodation.

Reaching the Venue

The ideal way to reach the venues for the event is by driving or taking a flight to Brussels, that is about an hour’s drive away.

Necessary Documents

You need to have a valid identity proof and a copy of your registration confirmation.

You will be able to collect the race packs for the short and medium route races on 30th March between 2 pm and 7 pm in Oudenaarde, de Qubus, Lindestraat.

For the long race sportive and the pro-race, race packets can be collected on race day at the Antwerp start line.

Weather Conditions

The weather is unpredictable, ranging from snow to bright sunshine. Therefore, it is advisable that you check the weather forecast a couple of days before the event and pack accordingly.

Expert Tips and Tricks 

Tour de flanders Belgium

Here is a compilation of tried and tested ways to ensure that you enjoy the Tour of Flanders and are well -prepared for it.

  • Prepare well in terms of endurance training and physical fitness. Because the route is challenging, your body and bicycle must in be in perfect coordination.
  • Practicing on the steepest slopes that you can find will help immensely.
  • Find out a cobbled road near your home or practice arena. If not, then try to make an artificial turf with cobbles and practice on it religiously.
  • Figure out the ideal speed to glide past the cobbles smoothly. Going too slow will make you bump up at every cobble.
  • Train yourself for cycling in extreme weather conditions.
  • Practice cycling close to other cyclists, because the route is very narrow.
  • Find some cycling mates and bring your family.
  • Presence of mind is an essential quality for every participant. Make smart decisions and learn to judge your strength.

If you are looking for testing your limits and experiencing the true thrill of cycling on one of the world’s most challenging terrains, then the Tour of Flanders should definitely be on your bucket list.

If you feel you are not ready for the 232 km race, then you should aim to participate in the shorter race in the sportive format to get a feel of the cobbles and steep climbs and target the longer route eventually. 

Enjoy the ride.

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