The Ronde van Vlaanderen was first held in 1913. It was the brainchild of Karel van Wijnendaele, a newspaper writer who was held in such esteem by his readers he was called “the Homer of races ('Homerus der koersen').
He was also aware that in the hotbed of European Poltics of the early 1900’s that Belgium needed to gather a national identity, and so he created a race that was to unite the nation and create true national champions.
His idea nearly faltered. The race was not initially a success. However the two invasions of the country over the next thirty years clarified the concept of the race in the nations hearts. And also turned the race into not only a National but also an International cycling event.
Tomorrows edition covers 259 kilometres, and the following 18 climbs –
Molenberg (km 134) : 463 mètres pavés à 7 %
Wolvenberg (km 144) : 645 mètres asphaltés à 7,9 %
Kluisberg (km 165) : 925 mètres asphaltés à 6,8 %
Knokteberg (km 173) : 1260 mètres asphaltés à 7,3 %
Vieux-Quarémont (km 180) : 2200 mètres pavés à 4,2 %
Paterberg (km 183) : 360 mètres pavés à 12,9 %
Kortekeer (km 188) : 1000 mètres asphaltés pavés à 6,4 %
Steenbeekdries (km 192) : 700 mètres pavés à 5,3 %
Taaienberg (km 194) : 530 mètres pavés à 6,6 %
Eikenberg (km 199) : 1000 mètres pavés à 6,2 %
Boigneberg (km 203) : 1050 mètres asphaltés à 5,1 %
Leberg (km 211) : 950 mètres asphaltés à 4,2 %
Berendries (km 215) : 940 mètres asphaltés à 7,0 %
Valkenberg (km 220) : 540 mètres asphaltés à 8,1 %
Tenbosse (km 226) : 455 mètres asphaltés à 6,4 %
Eikenmolen (km 232) : 610 mètres asphaltés à 5,9 %
Mur de Grammont (km 243) : 475 mètres pavés à 9,3 %
Bosberg (km 247) : 980 mètres pavés à 5,8 %
All of Belgian is looking to see in the new Lion of Flanders, Tom Boonen, can become the first man since Fiorenzo Magni did so in 1949, 50 and 51. Indeed if Boonen achieves his hat trick he will be the first Belgian ever to do so and further enhance his reputation.
The Quickstep team has a wealth of talent in this race Bettini, Steegmans and Van Petegem all start alongside Boonen and are all capable of victory. Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) are both in fine form , Stijn Devolder and Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel), Nick Nuyens, Kevin De Weert and Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Alessandro Ballan and Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital), Filippo Pozzato and Luca Paolini (Liquigas), Oscar Freire and Juan-Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Marcus Burghardt and Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto), Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Nico Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques-Tosport Vlaanderen) will all fancy their chances.
The weather is forecast to be good which means that the peloton may stay together longer than in cold wet conditions. Oscar Freire could be the main benefactor of Spanish tempretures in Belgium.
Daily Peloton Pick
The 2004 winner Steffen Wesemann could have had a few more Classics victories under his belt but for mechanical problems and other assorted bad luck. Now riding for Wiesenhof-Felt the smaller German Team has good support for their captain in this race, and they have already proven capable of mixing it with the big boys with Olaf Pollacks recent win.
Flashback Ronde van Vlaanderen 1927
106 riders enter, 96 start, 41 finish but there is only one winner. Gerarad Debaets.
This was the second time the flambouyant Belgian had won the race and he later went on to become a very popular 6 day racer.
Gerard Debaets, knew how to entertain a crowd and he would enliven the duller moments by riding around the track with a parasol, a bustle or false whiskers. He had great success in the very popular 6 Day Scene in the USA winning 15 , 6 day events before retiring in 1938.
He came from a family of cyclists with yonger brothers Cesar, Gaston and Michel all riding professionally.
He died in 1959. There is a race dedicated to his memory held in a place where he enjoyed success on the track – Car City, Detroit, USA.
To read an excellent article that captures the spirit and atmosphere of 6 Day Racing in 1933click here