Tour of Flanders - a course change gone wrong
Change isn't always for the best.
The centennial edition of the Tour of Flanders was powerfully won by Team RadioShack’s Fabian Cancellara. On the Paterberg climb Fabs had another gear and Peter Sagan (Cannondale), who was with him at that point, received a 404 Error from his legs - the power you want is not found.
With 13 kilometers remaining the Swiss rider tucked deep into his bars, lowered his back and time trialed to the victory in Ronde Van Vlaanderen 2013. Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol), who had been unceremoniously dropped on the same climb, caught Sagan on the descent. The duo held off the main peloton with Sagan taking the “sprint” for second as Roelandts pretended to start his sprint, discovered he no longer had the strength to support his body out of the saddle and settled for third.
While this sounds exciting - and yes, that strong attack by Fabs on the Paterberg was one that will be on his personal “sizzle-reel” for the rest of his life - it was a rather muted race. The reason? A change in the course that eliminated the Muur and the Bosberg, the final two climbs in previous editions of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
The Muur - AKA the Muur van Geraardsbergen, the Wall of Grammont, the Kapelmuur, Pagan Hill, or “the hill with the church at the summit that looks really cool in photos” - was the iconic showpiece of the race in previous years. The winning move was often made under the steeple as crazed fans screamed their lungs out while clinging to the sides of the embankment like mountain goats. The Lion of Flanders flags were so thick in that area it looked like a continuous yellow curtain alongside the road.
The facts and figures of the race-changing hill are as follows:
Length: 475 meters
Maximum percentage: 20%
Type of road: Cobbles
In past editions it was located at the 249 kilometer mark, the ideal platform to launch an attack to separate the pretenders from the contenders. Next up would be the Bosberg:
Length: 980 meters
Maximum percentage: 11%
Type of road: Starts with pavement and changes to cobbles
The Bosberg - AKA Kapellestraat and Geraardsbergen-Moerbeke - was at 252 kilometers, the place where the favorites twisted the knife a little more. The Bosberg is the elephant’s graveyard of broken dreams for those who thought a Flanders victory was possible.
However, race organizers removed both these climbs in favor of finishing in Oudenaarde, with three circuits which take in the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, with the latter being the final climb of the day before the finish line.
The reasoning for the move was that the circuits would be spectator friendly. It’s hard to set up a merchandising expo if your audience leaves after the peloton whizzes by. With circuits, fans hang out, buy frites, beer, and a heap load of cycling trinkets (Okay, that’s what I did when I was at Paris-Roubaix. I still have rider postcards, keychain, and pens).
Race organizers said this about the reason for the change, “The new