Tour of Flanders
|Local name(s)||Ronde van Vlaanderen (Dutch)|
|Nickname(s)||De Ronde (Dutch)
Vlaanderens Mooiste (Dutch)
Flanders' Finest (English)
|Competition||UCI World Tour|
|Race director||Wim Van Herreweghe|
|Editions||99 (as of 2015)|
|First winner||Paul Deman (BEL)|
|Most wins|| Achiel Buysse (BEL)
Fiorenzo Magni (ITA)
Eric Leman (BEL)
Johan Museeuw (BEL)
Tom Boonen (BEL)
Fabian Cancellara (SUI)
|Most recent||Alexander Kristoff (NOR)|
The Tour of Flanders (Dutch: Ronde van Vlaanderen), also known as De Ronde ("The Tour"), is an annual road cycling race held in Belgium every Spring. It is part of the UCI World Tour and organized by Flanders Classics. It is the most important cycling race in Flanders. Its nickname is Vlaanderens mooiste (Dutch for "Flanders' finest").
Together with Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Lombardy, it is one of the five Monuments of cycling. It is one of the two major Cobbled classics together with Parix-Roubaix, which is on the calendar one week after the Tour of Flanders.
- 1 History
- 2 The pioneering days
- 3 War years
- 4 Problems of success
- 5 Course
- 6 Epic races
- 7 Experience center
- 8 Comments
- 9 Tour of Flanders for Women
- 10 Winners
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 External links
The Tour of Flanders was conceived in 1913 by Karel Van Wijnendaele, co-founder of the sportspaper Sportwereld. In the era it was customary for publishers of newspapers and magazines to organize cycling races as a means of promoting circulation.
Before the second World War, the race was usually held on the same day as Milan–San Remo, the most important classic race in Italy. Prominent Italian and French racers preferred the latter which explains why there was only a single non-Belgian winner before the war. After the War the race grew in importance when it became part of the Challenge Desgrange-Colombo, a precursor of today's UCI World Tour, of which it is now a major event. The Ronde is unique among the major classics in having six record holders. Belgians Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman, Johan Museeuw and Tom Boonen, Italian Fiorenzo Magni and Swiss Fabian Cancellara each have three victories.
The Ronde as a cultural symbol
Cycling was in a poor state across Belgium by the beginning of the 20th century. Velodromes were closing and national championships on the road or track were no longer organized. 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. He was 20 years old and, even though 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.
Sportwereld's most prominent cycling writer was Carolus ("Karel") Ludovicus Steyaert, who wrote by his pseudonym Karel van Wijnendaele, the name by which he was best known. [n 1] Van Wijnendaele was the fifth of 15 children of a family in the hamlet of Wijnendaele (Wijnendale), near Torhout. His father, a flax worker, died when Karel was 18 months old. 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.
The Ronde and Flemish nationalism
Van Wijnendaele tried cycle-racing, won a few lesser prizes but made little impression. Instead, he turned to writing about cycling as a regional correspondent, first for De Torhoutenaer, his local paper, then from 1909 for Onze Kampioenen in Antwerp and Sportvriend in Izegem. It was then that he adopted his pen-name. This attracted the attention of De Maeght and his collaborator, the race organiser Len van de Haute, with whom van Wijnendaele had collaborated at Sportvriend. 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]." 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.
On 25 May of that very year he organized the first Tour of Flanders, crossing Dutch-speaking Belgium because "all Flemish cities had to contribute to the liberation of the Flemish people". 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. It covered 330 km, all on bad roads with just the occasional cycle path. There were 37 riders. The race finished on a wooden track that circled a lake in Mariakerke, where ticket sales covered only half the prizes.
The pioneering days
The first races
The first race in 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 underground war effort and smuggled documents into the neutral Netherlands by bike. After many trips he was arrested by the Germans, jailed in Leuven and held for execution. The Armistice of 1918 saved his life.[n 2] He started racing again and won Paris–Roubaix in 1920 and Paris–Tours in 1923.
The Ronde van Vlaanderen of 1913 consisted of 37 riders, followed by five assistance cars. In 1914 the field was 47. A disappointed van Wijnendaele later said:
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.
However, there were hints of the growing status of the race as a symbol of Flemish nationalism. Marcel Buysse insisted on taking part, even though his Alcyon team had ordered Belgian riders not to participate. The race was interrupted by World War I By the 1930s, there were 116 riders and seven times as many cars and motorbikes in the race caravan following them, said Het Nieuwsblad. 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 – San Remo, 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.
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.
Prizes for the first race came to 1,100 Belgians francs. By 1935 they had grown to 12,500 francs, with 2,500 for the winner down to 125 francs for the 19th place finisher (at a time when a newspaper cost 40 centimes). In 1938 there was a bonus of 100 francs for any rider who had a lead of 30 minutes. Prizes during the war years 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 the finish in 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 each racer was responsible for his 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 if it was cold or there were other problems. Tyres weighed around 500g (compared to currently around 200g). A rim or any other part of the bike that broke spelled the end of the race and 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 an emergency and at the judges' discretion. A change of bike was allowed only if a frame, wheel or handlebar broke, but riders were still expected to ride with spare tyres and a pump. Riders in the 1940s had 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 being allowed limited help from team cars and to combine with others from the same team on the road. By 1955 it was possible to 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.
Van Wijnendaele's magazine, Sportwereld, merged, in 1939, with Het Nieuwsblad, a daily newspaper first published in 1918. Sportwereld was turned 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. The government escaped to London and the king, Léopold III, was held under house arrest. Het Nieuwsblad changed its 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, in agreement with the German command. The Germans, says the writer Gabe Konrad, "not only allowed and enjoyed the race but helped police the route as well." That led to accusations of collaboration. 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. Van Wijnendaele was forbidden to work as a journalist for life, a ban lifted when he produced a letter of support from General Montgomery, confirming that van Wijnendaele had hidden downed British pilots in his house.
A rival newspaper, Het Volk started a rival race in 1945, the Omloop van Vlaanderen, in contrast to what it saw as the Ronde's closeness to the Germans. 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 their name. That race became the Omloop Het Volk, nowadays the opening race of the Belgian cycling season.[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 tsunami [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.
Start and finish
The start was in Ghent until 1976, first from the Korenmarkt, then close to St-Pieters railway 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.[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."
- 1913 Ghent – Mariakerke
- 1914 Ghent – Evergem
- 1919–1923 Ghent – Gentbrugge (Arsenal)
- 1924–1927 Ghent – Ghent track
- 1928–1941 Ghent – Wetteren
- 1942–1944 Ghent – Ghent track
- 1945–1961 Ghent – Wetteren
- 1962–1972 Ghent – Gentbrugge
- 1973–1976 Ghent – Meerbeke
- 1977–1997 Sint-Niklaas – Meerbeke
- 1998–2011 Bruges – Meerbeke
- 2012- Bruges – Oudenaarde
On Sep 16, 2011, it was announced that Oudenaarde signed a contract to organize the finish for the next two years.
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 counter-clockwise, 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.[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 pre-War route in 1946. It stayed much the same 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 in 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 was 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 from Sint-Niklaas 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 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."
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. The Koppenberg came back in 2008 after the city of Oudenaarde renovated it.
In post-war Belgium only the intercity roads were smooth. The Ronde had never set out to use poor roads – cobblestoned 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. But for a while bad roads existed 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 local 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 defining 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 rider 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 the 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.[n 11]
In 2008, the 17 hills – hellingen in Dutch – were:
|Number||Name||Kilometer Marker||Pavement||Length (in m)||Average climb (%)|
|10||Berg Ter Stene||213||asphalt||1300||5|
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, Geraardsbergen. 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
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.'"[n 13]
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. 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. 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.
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."
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."
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.
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!"||”|
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.
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 apocalyptic background Eric Vanderaerden got back to the front after looking beaten to ride 20km at the head of the race alone. Impressive."
The danger of the Ronde's narrow and badly surfaced hills came close to tragedy when the Danish rider, Jesper Skibby, was bumped by an official's car and fell onto a roadside bank, still strapped into his pedals. The official's car then tried to pass him and ran over Skibby's back wheel, narrowly missing his leg. 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. The incident overshadowed the victory of Claude Criquielion, to date the only French-speaking Belgian winner of the Tour of Flanders.
The Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders Center) is an interactive experience center and museum in Oudenaarde dedicated to the Tour of Flanders. It opened in 2003 with an extensive array of material from old television and radio broadcasts. Visitors are able to experience a ride on a cobbled road or experience the Kwaremont climb, in a virtual contest with stars like Peter Van Petegem. There is also a brasserie and a museum shop. The center's director is ancient sports journalist and writer Rik Van Walleghem; the museum curator is ancient cycling icon Freddy Maertens, who provides guided tours.
The Center is located on Oudenaarde's city square, close to the finish of the Tour of Flanders, relocated to Oudenaarde in 2012.
- "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
- "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
- "As a Belgian, winning Flanders for the first time is far more important than wearing the maillot jaune in the Tour" – Johan Museeuw.
- "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 
- "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
- "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
- "The Tour of Flanders is unlike any other bike race in the world. It is, without question, the hardest one-day bike race ever created. What seems like a million corners, combined with twenty to thirty steep pitches and narrow roads, none of which go the same direction for more than a mile, all mix together to make it war on a bike. There isn’t a race in North America that compares. Flanders may as well be a different sport." – George Hincapie.
Tour of Flanders for Women
The Women’s Tour of Flanders (Dutch: Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen) is a cycling event, 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. From 2004 to 2011 the race ran over a course that followed 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. Since 2011 the race starts and finishes in Oudenaarde. It is 145 km and has a similar finale as the men's Tour of Flanders, with many of the same hills, except for the Koppenberg.
Active riders are in italics
|3||Achiel Buysse||Belgium||1940, 1941, 1943|
|Fiorenzo Magni||Italy||1949, 1950, 1951|
|Eric Leman||Belgium||1970, 1972, 1973|
|Johan Museeuw||Belgium||1993, 1995, 1998|
|Tom Boonen||Belgium||2005, 2006, 2012|
|Fabian Cancellara||Switzerland||2010, 2013, 2014|
|2||Gerard Debaets||Belgium||1924, 1927|
|Romain Gijssels||Belgium||1931, 1932|
|Briek Schotte||Belgium||1942, 1948|
|Rik Van Steenbergen||Belgium||1944, 1946|
|Rik Van Looy||Belgium||1959, 1962|
|Walter Godefroot||Belgium||1968, 1978|
|Eddy Merckx||Belgium||1969, 1975|
|Jan Raas||Netherlands||1979, 1983|
|Edwig Van Hooydonck||Belgium||1989, 1991|
|Peter Van Petegem||Belgium||1999, 2003|
|Stijn Devolder||Belgium||2008, 2009|
Wins per country
|1||Denmark, Norway, United Kingdom|
Winners of the Cobbled Classics Double
|Fred De Bruyne||Belgium||1957|
|Rik Van Looy||Belgium||1962|
|Roger De Vlaeminck||Belgium||1977|
|Peter van Petegem||Belgium||2003|
|Tom Boonen (2)||Belgium||2012|
|Fabian Cancellara (2)||Switzerland||2013|
- The fastest Tour of Flanders was in 2001, won by Italian Gianluca Bortolami: 43.6 km/h.
- Six men share the record for victories, with three each: Achiel Buysse won in 1940, 1941 and 1943; Italian Fiorenzo Magni won in 1949, 1950, 1951; Eric Leman won in 1970, 1972 and 1973; Johan Museeuw won the race in 1993, 1995 and 1998; Tom Boonen won in 2005, 2006 and 2012, and Swiss Fabian Cancellara, who won in 2010, 2013 and 2014.
- The nation with the most victories is Belgium (68).
- Seven riders have won two years in a row. Only one (Fiorenzo Magni) managed to win three consecutive victories.
- The youngest winner was Rik Van Steenbergen in 1944 at 19 years and 206 days.
- The oldest winner was Andrei Tchmil in 2000 at 37 years and 71 days.
- Carolus ("Karel") Ludovicus Steyaert, 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.
- 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 captured 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
- 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
- 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 its date to avoid Milan – San Remo.
- 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.
- 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 even more odd was that Ghent-Ghent was the same route as what the Ronde van Vlaanderen had been until the end of the war.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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- Cycling News, March 2006, No couperen please
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- "The hills of the Tour 2008". www.rvv.be. 2008. Retrieved 25 March 2008.
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- "Spring Classics: How to win cycling's hardest one-day races". BBC Sport. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
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