5 weeks left until Flander’s biggest cycling classic – The Tour of Flanders!
The Ronde van Vlaanderen or Tour of Flanders, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year in April! Flanders’ biggest cycling classic kicks off on the 3rd of April 2016, and don’t think the event is confined to hardcore cyclists – there’s a huge festival taking place alongside the course as well, as well as an amateur official Cyclosportive that takes place a day before.
The Tour of Flanders is a one-day race that traditionally takes place on a Sunday. Every year, one million cycle fans climb up the hills on the East of Flanders to cheer for their favorite cyclists. Half of Flanders is either lined up alongside the course or sitting at home with their family, watching television and enjoying traditional Belgian food, like Belgian fries with mayonnaise and Filet Americain (beef stew).
It’s a bit like the Belgian version of the Super Bowl, except with cyclists and waffles added – so obviously it’s much better!
All over the world, 50 million people follow the famous Ronde van Vlaanderen/Tour of Flanders on television. But wouldn’t it be amazing to see Cancellara or Boonen flash by in person? If you are a cycle or travel enthusiast, the event is definitely worth a trip to Belgium’s most beautiful cycling course, which is just 50 km – or a 20 minute train ride – away from iconic medieval cities like Ghent and Bruges.
Cycling The Course As An Amateur
Let’s have a look at the best options if you are thinking about taking the challenge yourself. Proving yourself against the pros on the cobble stone course isn’t for everyone, but for those that are keen, planning starts today!
Taking a tent will be the cheapest. You can book a camping spot at The Outsider, for example, for just 10 euro a night per tent or camper (toilet and washing facilities are complimentary). It’s one of the most beautiful camping spots on the course, situated right next to Flanders’ Vlaamse Ardennen lake.
For those who prefer their mod cons, hotel rooms are available within walking distance from the Tour, starting at just 40 euros a night. If you are planning on cycling in the amateur event and you have to fly, you may want to save some money by booking a cheaper hostel or B&B. Carrying a bike on a plane will cost you between 100 and 200 dollars extra (depending on the airline), so save that money by staying at a cheaper Belgian bed and breakfasts away from touristy Bruges.
The amateur official “Cyclosportive” takes place exactly a day before the professional event. Here’s why you should go for it:
- First of all, it’s an actual race with lots of other cycling enthusiasts from all over the world.
- Second of all, you will get a bag full of amazing Tour of Flanders gifts, like a bike light, posters, vouchers for cycle gear, special edition gadgets from the cycling teams, and so on.
- Finally, if you buy a ticket for the amateur event for around 35 euros, you can get a reduction on your Brussels Airlines flight and take your bike for free! Make note of this website, where from October 2016 you can buy tickets and save on flights for next year’s event. The amateur cycling tour is always the day before, so it’s very convenient.
Where Does the Tour of Flanders Course Take You?
The anniversary edition of this course is no different from other years. The Tour of Flanders starts from Bruges, which has been the host for the Flemish festival since 1988.
“De Ronde” is 256 kilometers long and has 18 slopes and 7 cobbled sections. The last 150 kilometers of this great trial is always the most exciting. There are about 12 kilometers of cobbled slope where the attackers always try to get ahead. Sport journalists and bookmakers like to say you should bet on the winner of the Tour de France after watching this stage. The cyclists who dominate at this point are likely to be at the front of the Tour de France pack! The Tour of Flanders is considered one of the biggest professional cycling events before the French one, so you should keep an eye of the winners here.
Although every year the winner of the Tour of Flanders seems to be a surprise, mainly due to all the hard climbing sections:
Old Kwaremont (travelled three times) and the Paterberg (twice) are always the main challenges along the route. Also be sure to look out for the Koppenberg (45 km), the Steenbeekdries (at 39km), Taaienberg (37 km) Calvary (27 km), Oude Kwaremont (17 km) and The Paterberg (at 13 km before the finish). With that last one, fireworks are nearly guaranteed.
You can check out the fully detailed track route of the Tour of Flanders here.
See you in Flanders for the bike race of your life! Watching or participating, the Tour of Flanders is an unforgettable experience. Gear up to do it this year – or put it on your bucket list and do it next year!
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