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Tour de Flanders - A Preview: Updated
By Anita van Crey
Date: 4/4/2003
Tour de Flanders - A Preview: Updated

By Anita van Crey and podofdonny

 'Vlaanderens Mooiste', (Flanders most beautiful) is the all saying petname for the next leg of this seasons world cup. The Tour de Flanders is one high upon everyone's wishlist to win. Just good legs are not enough; most, not to say everything is about tactics. That and being able to manoeuvre around nicely and swiftly, routine, smartness, luck, attentioness, best form and a large portion of guts for the narrow steep climbs. When it will rain on Sunday those hills will be even more difficult because of the slippery cobbles.

How it all began
The Tour of Flanders is the brain child of Karel Van Wynendaele. He was an unsuccessful race cyclist and abig fan of Cyriel Hauwaert. He earned his living by writing articles for local papers. He was impressed by the bicycle races: Paris-Bruxelles and Paris-Roubaix. In 1912 he was asked to cooperate on the creation of the newspaper "Sportwereld". Although cycling was rather in a dark period, Karel had a good eye in it. Publishing a national paper gave him the possibility to organize a bicycle race himself. Henri Desgrange, the man of the Tour of France, was his great example and they met regularly.1913 was the historic year of the first Tour of Flanders. It was a devilish tour of 330 kilometres. In those days such a large distance was common, not to mention the bad condition of the roads. Van Wynendaele was rather an emotional man and wanted his tour to pass in all the beautiful places of Belgium; Gent, Brugge, the cost and the heart of Flanders.

The first tour was not at all a success. Only 37 race cyclists participated. One year later there were only 10 left. During the first worldwar it was impossible to organise the race and so it should be said that there was no future left for this young born child. But in 1919 Van Wynendaele came back. The circuit was more or less the same but for the first time the Kwaremont was included in the race. But again it failed. The sponsors stayed away. But the next year they did come, these French bicycle constructors and so the international sympathy started to grow. In 1923, Heiri Sutter, a Swiss, was the first foreign winner of the tour.During this period, other cycling races were held in Belgium, without no fame. Although the Tour of Flanders survived thanks to the perseverance of its organizers.In the years 1920, 1930, the Tour of Flanders became very famous, even in other countries. In the beginning the Tour of Flanders took place 14 days before Easter. This was often the same day as Milan-San Remo and so a lot of good Italian and French cyclists preferred Italy. Later on the Tour of Flanders was organized one week later, just before Paris-Roubaix. In 1939 "Sportwereld" and "Het Nieuwsblad" merged and so "Het Nieuwsblad" obtained all the rights for the organization of the Tour of Flanders.

After worldwar II "Het Nieuwsblad-Sportwereld" did no longer exist. During this war, the paper was named "Het Algemeen Nieuws-Sportwereld" and some people accused them of collaboration. Because the Germans let Van Wynendaele organize his tour, the suspicion of collaboration became even stronger. Besides all this Het Volk started the "Omloop van Vlaanderen" and concurred the Tour. But Van Wynendaele took revenge. He even convinced the cyclists' union to change the name "Omloop van Vlaanderen" into "Omloop Het Volk" because of the strong resemblance to the name of the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen). A few years later Het Nieuwsblad-Sportwereld was republished and the Tour of Flanders was born again. Even more famous than the first time and with international interest ! In 1947 the organizers of one-day bicycle races joined hands and the Desgrange-Colombo trophy was created. This was done not only out of self protection but also to put some pressure on the top cyclists to have them participate in all races. This trophy was really successful from the beginning on. As Paris-Roubais, the Tour of Flanders became the brick paved classic of the North.

Eyes on the climbs
The Kluisberg is asphalted since 1970. The climb is 1.100 metres, is at some parts 15% steep and sometimes is the in between finishline for those with less power and form. Further on the Knokteberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg are situated between the 170 and 180 kilometre. The finale slowly starts developing.The Knokteberg is a 1.100 meter long narrow asphaltroad, 8% steep, and the warming up for the other two. After this the riders have some k.'s to reorganise. The Oude Kwaremont starts off with 600 meter asphalt, followed bij the 1600 meteres cobbles to the top. There will be hardly time to recatch breath, the Patersberg is soon the next to be conquered. At this 350 meter 12,5% steep narrow cobblesroad form of all in the bunch show clearly.

The legendary Koppenberg got his comeback in the course last year. Because of the increasing crowds the opganisors for several year thought it was to dangerous. After the bad fall Jesper Skibby suffered in 1987 on the climb (Skibbys rearwheel was hit by a jury-car which was unable to pass by on the narrowed road) the Koppenberg disappeared from the Tour de Flanders. In the year 2002 the cobbles where re-installated, the crowds kept behind fences and after a tryout last year, where all went ok, also this year the climb has to be overcome by the bunch.

The Berendries, with 223 k, gone under the wheels in Brakel is the home-climb of former winner Peter van Petegem. Few miles to go in Geraardsbergen the hardest climb of the day, the Muur awaits the riders. After this years Tour the cobbles will be replaces, cobbles now to be find only in the last half a k. The one to go over the top of the Bosberg most of the times too is one to be on one of the steps of the podium. The climb gave two times winner Edwig van Hooijdonk his nickname. In his two victory years (1989 and 1991) Eddy Bosberg defeated his opponents in advance at this hill. After the Bosberg it is only less than ten kilometer over flat roads to the freeing finishline in Meerbeke.

The weather
Nevertheless it is a misunderstanding that 75 percent of the circuit were cobblestones. Until the end of the fifties, half of the distance was cycle track or gravel. It was not at all a comfortable road but it was much better than the cobblestones beside. These cobblestoned roads were so different from the cobblestones we know nowadays. They were cut coarsely, laid unequally and centimetres apart. Before the second worldwar, only the more important roads improved. But during the economic redevelopment, the local governments changed almost every road into asphalt. The amount of cobblestones that at first seemed to be inexhaustible, alarmed the organizers as some important inclines were asphalted . They needed topographical cards and local people to help them find small country roads. It was primordial not to let the race end into a mass sprint. By searching cobblestones to have a typical circuit, the number of inclines in the tour grew. By this the Flemish Ardennes became the heart of the Tour of Flandres.

The Tour of Flanders has always been associated with terrible weather. It must be freezing or raining cats and dogs. It's great fun (for the spectators) if there is some melting snow or a hailstorm. The bad weather conditions were actually responsible for the identity of the Tour of Flanders.But you never can tell what it is going to be. The last years it has been nice and sunny. Only 30 percent of all tours were ridden in bad weather. Although it were these who made history! The most famous tours were won by Forenzo Magni in 1950 and 1951. The weather conditions were terrible. The performance of Eddy Merckx in 1969, riding 70 km in attack was even more legendary due to the bad weather. And in 1985 Eric Vanderaerden won and merely 24 cyclists arrived. Remember also Edwig Van Hooydonck as the last one to face bad weather in 1989 with his breakaway at the Bosberg.

Sunday, April 6, 2003 the 87nd edition of the Tour of Flanders starts in Bruges at 10 o'clock. More info is to be found on the website of the race .


Team CSC: 1. Andrea Tafi (Ita); 2. Geert Van Bondt; 3. Julian Dean (N-Z); 4. Tristan Hoffman (P-B); 5. Paul Van Hyfte; 6. Nicolas Jalabert (Fra); 7. Thomas Bruun Eriksen (Dan); 8. Arvis Piziks (Let);

Saeco: 11. Giosue Bonomi (Ita); 12. Mirko Celestino (Ita); 13. Salvatore Commesso (Ita); 14. Paolo Fornaciari (Ita); 15. Jorg Ludewig (All); 16. Dario Pieri (Ita); 17. Fabio Sacchi (Ita); 18. Stefano Zanini (Ita);

Fassa Bortolo: 21. Michele Bartoli (Ita); 22. Serguei Ivanov (Rus); 23. Fabian Cancellara (Ita); 24. Marco Zanotti (Ita); 25. Roberto Petito (Ita); 26. Filippo Pozzato (Ita); 27. Matteo Tosatto (Ita); 28. Guido Trenti (USA); 31. Baden Cooke (Aus); 32. David Derepas (Fra); 33. Jacky Durand (Fra); 34. Bernhard Eisel (Aut); 35. Philippe Gilbert; 36. Frédéric Guesdon (Fra); 37. Christophe Mengin (Fra); 38. Matthew Wilson (Aus);

Rabobank: 41. Michael Boogerd (P-B); 42. Jan Boven (P-B); 43. Steven De Jongh (P-B); 44. Oscar Freire Gomez (Esp); 45. Robert Hunter (AfS); 46. Mathew Hayman (Aus); 47. Karsten Kroon (P-B); 48. Marc Wauters;

Quick.Step-Davitamon: 51. Paolo Bettini (Ita); 52. Tom Boonen; 53. Wilfried Cretskens; 54. Davide Bramati (Ita); 55. Luca Paolini (Ita); 56. Servais Knaven (P-B); 57. Johan Museeuw; 58. Frank Vandenbroucke;

Lampre: 61. Rubens Bertogliati (Sui); 62. Alessandro Cortinovis (Ita); 63. Gabriele Missaglia (Ita); 64. Manuel Quinziato (Ita); 65. Marco Serpellini (Ita); 66. Maximilian Sciandri (G-B); 67. Zbigniew Spruch (Pol); 68. Luciano Pagliarini (Bré);

Alessio: 71. Fabio Baldato (Ita); 72. Andrea Brognara (Ita); 73. Stefano Casagranda (Ita); 74. Davide Casarotto (Ita); 75. Enrico Cassani (Ita); 76. Andrea Ferrigato (Ita); 77. Ruggero Marzoli (Ita); 78. Alberto Vinale (Ita);

Vini Caldirola-Sidermec: 81. Massimo Apollonio (Ita); 82. Gabriele Balducci (Ita); 83. Gianluca Bortolami (Ita); 84. Mauro Gerosa (Ita); 85. Marco Milesi (Ita); 86. Fred Rodriguez (USA); 87. Gianluca Sironi (Ita); 88. Romans Vainsteins (Let);

Domina Vacanze-Elitron: 91. Mario Cipollini (Ita); 92. Daniele Bennati (Ita); 93. Gabriele Colombo (Ita); 94. Martin Derganc (Slo); 95. Giovanni Lombardi (Ita); 96. Alberto Ongarato (Ita); 97. Mario Scirea (Ita); 98. Gianpaolo Mondini (Ita);

Phonak: 101. Michael Albasini (Sui); 102. Roger Beuchat (P-B); 103. Oscar Camenzind (P-B); 104. Martin Elmiger (P-B); 105. Bert Grabsch (All); 106. Stefan Kupfernagel (All); 107. Gregory Rast (All); 108. Alexandre Usov (Bul);

Lotto-Domo: 111. Peter Van Petegem; 112. Aart Vierhouten (P-B); 113. Kevin Van Impe; 114. Leif Hoste; 115. Leon Van Bon (P-B); 116. Glenn D'Hollander; 117. Serge Baguet; 118. Wim Vansevenant;

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago: 121. Ludo Dierckxsens; 122. Johan Verstrepen; 123. Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita); 124. Tony Bracke; 125. Ludovic Capelle; 126. Bert De Waele; 127. Kurt Van Landeghem; 128. Yuri Mitlushenko (Ukr);

Palmans-Collstrop: 131. Andy De Smet; 132. Fabien De Waele; 133. Roger Hammond (G-B); 134. Bert Roesems; 135. Kristof Trouvé; 136. Erwin Thijs; 137. Hendrik Van Dyck; 138. Michel Vanhaecke;

Cofidis: 141. Peter Farazijn; 142. Tom Flammang (Lux); 143. Philippe Gaumont (Fra); 144. Robert Hayles (G-B); 145. Nico Mattan; 146. Chris Peers; 147. Jo Planckaert; 148. Robert Sassone (Fra);

Crédit Agricole: 151. Stephane Auge (Fra); 152. Yohann Charpenteau (Fra); 153. Mads Kaggestad (Nor); 154. Thor Hushovd (Nor); 155. Christopher Jenner (Fra); 156. Marcus Ljunqvist (Suè); 157. Stuart O'Grady (Aus); 158. Corey Sweet (Aus);

Team Telekom: 161. Rolf Aldag (All); 162. Jan Schaffrath (All); 163. Danilo Hondo (All); 164. Kai Hundertmarck (All); 165. Andreas Klier (All); 166. Daniele Nardello (Ita); 167. Steffen Wesemann (All); 168. Erik Zabel (All);

Gerolsteiner: 171. Daniele Contrini (Ita); 172. Volker Ordowski (All); 173. Sebastien Lang (All); 174. Olaf Pollack (All); 175. Torsten Schmidt (All); 176. Steffen Weigold (All); 177. Michael Rich (All); 178. Marcus Zberg (P-B);

Team Coast: 181. Daniel Becke (All); 182. Bekim Christensen (Dan); 183. Thorsten Rund (All); 184. Thomas Liese (All); 185. Andre Korff (All); 186. Raphael Schweda (All); 187. Sven Teutenberg (All);

US Postal which is presented by Berry Floor: 191. Antonio Cruz (USA); 192. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus); 193. Benoit Joachim (Lux); 194. Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus); 195. Pavel Padrnos (Tch); 196. Christian Vandevelde (USA); 197. Max Van Heeswijk (P-B); 198. Victor Hugo Pena (Col); 201. Juan Antonio Flecha (Esp); 202. Jose Vicente Garcia (Esp); 203. Pablo Lastras (Esp); 204. Jose Antonio Lopez (Esp); 205. Rafael Mateos (Esp); 206. Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Esp); 207. Ruben Plaza (Esp); 208. Xabier Zandio (Esp);

ONCE-Eroski: 211. Gorka Beloki (Esp); 212. Allan Davis (Aus); 213. Rafael Diaz (Esp); 214. Xavier Florencio (Esp); 215. Alvaro Gonzalez (Esp); 216. Jan Hruska (Tch); 217. Isidro Nozal (Esp); 218. Mikel Pradera (Esp);

Bankgiroloterij-Batavus: 221. Remco Van Der Ven (P-B); 222. Jans Koerts (P-B); 223. Jeroen Blijlevens (P-B); 224. Matthé Pronk (P-B); 225. Bram Schmitz (P-B); 226. Bart Voskamp (P-B); 227. Vincent Van Der Kooij (P-B); 228. Gerben Löwik (P-B);

Vlaanderen-T-Interim: 231. Geoffrey Demeyere; 232. Stijn Devolder; 233. Steven Kleynen; 234. Jan Kuyckx; 235. James Vanlandschoot; 236. Jurgen Van De Walle; 237. Frederik Willems; 238. Jan Verstraeten;

Marlux-Wincor-Nixdorf: 241. Raivis Belohvosciks (Let); 242. Dave Bruylandts; 243. Johan Dekkers; 244. Steven De Neef; 245. Saulius Ruskys (Lit); 246. Christophe Stevens; 247. Jean-Michel Tessier (Fra); 248. Geert Verheyen.

The parcours

255 kilomètres

Official start time from Bruges 9h50 local time. Arrive in Meerbeke around 16h20 local time. 19 climbs starting from Km 89. Major difficulties: Vieux Quaremont (Km 177), the Koppenberg (Km 187), the Taaienberg (Km 195) and the Mur of Grammont (Km 239). Final climb at Km 242 (Bosberg). To view the profile on the RVV site, click here.


25 Teams: Fassa Bortolo, US Postal, Lotto, Cofidis, ONCE, Coast,, Rabobank, CSC, Gerolsteiner, Telekom, Alessio, Sidermec, Saeco, Lampre, Phonak, Domina Vacanze, Quick Step, Landbouwkrediet, Palmans, Crédit Agricole, Marlux, Vlaanderen,, Bankgiroloterij


The event has been held 86 times since its start in 1913. 61 Belgium victories, 9 Italian and Netherlands , 3 French .

Record Wins : 3 for Achille Buysse (BEL) between 1940 and 1943, Fiorenzo Magni (ITA) between 1949 and 1951, Eric Leman (BEL) between 1970 and 1973, Johan Museeuw (BEL) between 1993 and 1998.

To read “Third Time Still a Charm” about Eric Leman, click here.

Recent Winners

1993: Johan Museeuw (BEL)

1994: Gianni Bugno (ITA)

1995: Johan Museeuw (BEL)

1996: Michele Bartoli (ITA)

1997: Rolf Soerensen (DAN)

1998: Johan Museeuw (BEL)

1999: Peter Van Petegem (BEL)

2000: Andrei Tchmil (BEL)

2001: Gianluca Bortolami (ITA)

2002: Andrea Tafi (ITA)

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