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88th Ronde van Vlaanderen Preview: Race Overview
By Staff
Date: 4/2/2004
88th Ronde van Vlaanderen Preview: Race Overview


The 88th edition of the Tour of Flanders kicks off Sunday April 4th. This is the men’s second World Cup event, and the race will depart from Bruges at about 10am local time. The premiere running of the women’s World Cup #3 Tour of Flanders will depart from Ooudenaarde at noon, following the men’s route across the final nine climbs to Ninove. The ladies Tour of Flanders preview can be found here.

Flanders is one of the oldest and most prestigious races of the Classics. Starting inauspiciously in 1913, the race has run every year since 1919, gaining in popularity and stature along the way. It is perhaps the penultimate Belgian race, replete with bone-jarring cobble stone sections, brutally steep climbs, and typically bad weather.

Weather Forecast

Friday weather forecasts for Sunday predict a 50-80% chance of showers (morning showers in the western end of the race) with temperatures ranging from a low of 9C to a high of 14C (47F-54F). Winds are expected to be from the west southwest at 9-17 miles per hour (14-27 km/h).

The Race Route

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The Course

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The 256 kilometer Ronde van Vlaanderen is truly a hard man's race. The riders won’t hit the first of the hills until after three hours of racing and from there until the finish line there is no rest for the weary as they are pummeled by climb after vicious climb.

In all the men will tackle eighteen legendary, brutal climbs in the last 120 kilometers of the race. The riders will race over the all but unrideable 22% grade on the Koppenberg, and the viciously steep cobbles of the Mur de Grammont. These cobbles had become so worn and dangerous that they were lifted this past winter, the roadbed relaid and the cobbles carefully replaced, using as many of the originals as possible.

It has been said that some of the “sting” of the Koppenberg climb disappeared after 2002 when the cobbles there were replaced, however there is more than enough suffering to spare, as nine of the eighteen climbs include cobbled sections.

A dry Paterberg climb in 2002. Courtesy Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Hill Specifications

For more detailed specifications on the hills, see The Hills of Ronde van Vlaanderen Part One and Part Two.

Hill #: Name km from finish; length, grade
Hill 1: Grotenberg 119; 875m – Avg 3.8% - Max 7%
Hill 2: Rekelberg 107; 800m – Avg 4% - Max 9%
Hill 3: Molenberg 103; 325m - Avg 9.8% - Max 17%
Hill 4: Wolvenberg 94; 800m – Avg 6.3% - Max 19%
Hill 5: Oude-Kwaremont 75; 2,200m – Avg 4.2% - Max 11%
Hill 6: Paterberg 71; 400 m - Avg. 12,5% - Max. 20% - 400 m
Hill 7: Koppenberg 65; 600 m - Avg. 11,6% - Max. 22% - 600 m
Hill 8: Steenbeekdries 60; 700 m - Avg. 5,3% - Max. 6,7% - ( 700 m )
Hill 9: Taaienberg 57; 500 m - Avg. 9,5% - Max. 18% - 500 m
Hill 10: Eikenberg 52; 1000 m - Avg. 5,5% - Max. 11% - 1000 m
Hill 11: Boigneberg 49; 1000 m - Avg. 5,8% - Max. 15%
Hill 12: Foreest 42; 950 m - Avg. 6,8% - Max. 10%
Hill 13: Steenberg 40; 825 m - Avg. 7,3% - Max. 17%
Hill 14: Leberg 34; 850 m - Avg. 4,6% - Max. 16%
Hill 15: Berendries 30; 900 m - Avg. 4,7% - Max. 14%
Hill 16: Tenbosse 25; 250 m - Avg. 11% - Max. 14%
Hill 17: Muur - Kapelmuur 14; 825 m - Avg. 9,3% - Max. 20% - 700 m
Hill 18: Bosberg 11; 475 m - Avg. 8,4% - Max. 11% - 400 m

Mrs. Van Petegem in 2003. Courtesy Ronde van Vlaanderen.

RVV Facts

  • "Vlaanderens Mooiste" (Flanders most beautiful) is the pet name for the Tour of Flanders.

  • The first year's race, in 1913, was 330 kilometers. There were 37 participants.

  • The Tour was originally organized to take in what organizer Karel Van Wynendaele considered the most beautiful places in Belgium - Gent, Brugge, the coast and the heart of Flanders.

  • Between 1920 and 1930, the Tour of Flanders sometimes coincided with the running of Milan-Sanremo. Many riders chose to ride the Italian race instead.

  • In 1947 some of the organizers of one-day bicycle races joined forces to create the Desgrange-Colombo Challenge points competition. The original races were the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Tours, Giro d'Italia, Milano-Sanremo, Giro di Lombardia, Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Fleche Wallonne and Paris-Bruxelles. There were joined by the Tour de Suisse in 1949 and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 1951. In the final year, 1958, the Vuelta a Espana was also included.

  • It is a misunderstanding that 75 percent of the circuit was cobblestones in the early years of the race. Until the end of the 1950's, half of the distance was cycle track or gravel. It was not easy riding, but was better than the cobblestones. These cobblestoned roads were quite different than the cobblestones we know today. They were cut coarsely, laid unequally and centimetres apart.

  • Before the second World War, only the more important Belgian roads had been improved - the smaller local roads were in very bad shape. But during the economic redevelopment, local governments changed almost every road into asphalt. The amount of cobblestones that had at first seemed to be inexhaustible, were now disappearing, particularly some of the important ascents, which alarmed the organizers. The organizers searched out as many cobblestoned roads as they could for inclusion in the race, to prevent mass sprint finishes. This accounts for the number of hills in the Tour (18).

Previous Results

Year - First place - Second place - Third place
1913 P. Deman J. Van Daele V. Doms
1914 M. Buysse H. Van Lerberghe P. Vandevelde
1919 H. Van Lerberghe L. Buysse J. Van Hevel
1920 J. Van Hevel A. De Jonghe A. Van Hecke
1921 R. Vermandel J. Van Hevel L. Budts
1922 L. De Vos J. Brunier (Fra) Fr. Pelissier (Fra)
1923 H. Suter (Swi) C. Deruyter A. De Jonghe
1924 G. Debaets R. Vermandel F.Sellier
1925 J. Delbecque J. Pé H. Martin
1926 D. Verschueren G. Van Slembroeck M. Decorte
1927 G. Debaets G. Van Slembroeck M. Dewaele
1928 J. Mertens A. Mortelmans L. Delannoy
1929 J. Dervaes G. Ronsse A. Haemerlinck
1930 F. Bonduel A. Dossche E. Joly
1931 R. Gijssels C. Bogaert (Hol) J. Aerts
1932 R. Gijssels A. Deloor A. Haemerlick
1933 A. Schepers L. Tommies R. Gijssels
1934 G. Rebry A. Schepers F. Vervaecke
1935 L. Duerloo E. Meulenbergh C. Leemans
1936 L. Hardiquest D. De Caluwé F. Neuville
1937 M.D'Hooghe H. Deltour L. Hardiquest
1938 E. De Caluwé R. Maes M. Kint
1939 K. Kaers S. Maes E. Vissers
1940 A. Buysse G. Christiaens A. Schotte
1941 A. Buysse V. Van Overloop O. V.d. Meerschaut
1942 A. Schotte G. Claes R. Van Eenaeme
1943 A. Buysse A. Sercu C. Beeckman
1944 R. Van Steenbergen A. Schotte J. Moerenhout
1945 S. Grysolle A. Sercu J. Moerenhout
1946 R. Van Steenbergen L. Thiétard (Fra) A. Schotte
1947 E. Faignaert, R. Desmet, R. Renders
1948 A. Schotte, A. Ramon, M. Rijckaert
1949 F. Magni (Ita), V. Ollivier, A. Schotte
1950 F. Magni (Ita), A. Schotte, L. Caput (Fra)
1951 F. Magni (Ita), B. Gauthier (Fra), A. Redolfi (Ita)
1952 R. Decock, L. Petrucci (Ita), A. Schotte
1953 W. Van Est (Hol), D. Keteleer, B. Gauthier (Fra)
1954 R. Impanis, F. Mahé (Fra), A. V.d. Brande
1955 L. Bobet (Fra), H. Koblet (Swi), R. Van Steenbergen
1956 J. Forestier (Fra), S. Ockers, L. Van Daele
1957 A. De Bruyne, J. Planckaert, N. Kerkhove
1958 G. Derijcke, W. Truye, A. Conterno (Ita)
1959 R. Van Looy, F. Schoubben, G. Desmet
1960 A. Decabooter, J. Graczyk (Fra), R. Van Looy
1961 T. Simpson (GB), N. Deffilipis (Ita), J. De Haan (Hol)
1962 R. Van Looy, M. Van Aerde, N. Kerkhove
1963 N. Foré, F. Melckenbeeck, T. Simpson (GB)
1964 R. Altig (Ger), B. Beheyt, J. De Roo (Hol)
1965 J. De Roo (Hol), W. Sels, G. Vanconingsloo
1966 W. Sels, A. Durante (Ita), G. Van den Berghe
1967 D. Zandegu (Ita), N. Foré, E. Merckx
1968 W. Godefroot, R. Altig (Ger), J. Janssen (Hol)
1969 E. Merckx, F. Gimondi (Ita), M. Basso (Ita)
1970 E. Leman ,W. Godefroot, E. Merckx
1971 E. Dolman (Hol), F. Kerremans, C. Guimard (Fra)
1972 E. Leman, A. Dierickx, F. Verbeeck
1973 E. Leman, F. Maertens, E. Merckx
1974 C. Bal (Hol), F. Verbeeck X
1975 E. Merckx, F. Verbeeck, M. Demeyer
1976 W. Planckaert, F. Moser (Ita), M. Demeyer
1977 R. De Vlaeminck, X X
1978 W. Godefroot, M. Pollentier, G. Braun (Ger)
1979 J. Raas (Hol), M. Demeyer, D. Willems
1980 M. Pollentier, F. Moser (Ita), J. Raas (Hol)
1981 H. Kuiper (Hol), F. Pirard (Hol), J. Raas (Hol)
1982 R. Martens, E. Planckaert, R. Pevenage
1983 J. Raas (Hol), L. Peeters, M. Sergeant
1984 J. Lammerts (Hol), S. Kelly (Irl), J.-L. Vandenbroucke
1985 E. Vanderaerden, Ph. Anderson (Aus), H. Kuiper (Hol)
1986 A. Van Der Poel (Hol), S. Kelly (Irl), F. Vandenbrande
1987 C. Criquielion, S. Kelly (Irl), E. Vanderaerden
1988 E. Planckaert, Ph. Anderson (Aus), A. Van Der Poel (Hol)
1989 E. Van Hooydonck, H. Frison, D.O. Lauritzen (Nor)
1990 M. Argentin (Ita), R. Dhaenens, J. Talen (Hol)
1991 E. Van Hooydonck, J. Museeuw, R. Sörensen (Den)
1992 J. Durand (Fra), T. Wegmüller (Swi), E. Van Hooydonck
1993 J. Museeuw, F. Maassen (Hol), D. Bottaro (Ita)
1994 G. Bugno (Ita), J. Museeuw, A. Tsjmil (Mol)
1995 J. Museeuw, F. Baldato (Ita), A. Tsjmil (Ouk)
1996 M. Bartoli (Ita), F. Baldato (Ita), J. Museeuw
1997 R. Sorensen (Den), F. Moncassin (Fra), F. Ballerini (Ita)
1998 J. Museeuw (Bel), S. Zanini (Ita), A. Tsjmil (Bel)
1999 P. Van Petegem (Bel), F. Vandenbroucke (Bel), J. Museeuw (Bel)
2000 A. Tchmil (Bel), D. Pieri (Ita), R. Vainsteins (Let)
2001 G. Bortolami (Ita), E. Dekker (Hol), D. Zanette (Ita)
2002 A. Tafi (Ita), J. Museeuw (Bel), P. Van Petegem (Bel)
2003 P. Van Petegem (Bel), F. Vandenbroucke (Bel), S. O'Grady (Aus)

Graphics courtesy Ronde van Vlaanderen.

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