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The Ronde plans its 100th edition

  • By Gregor Brown
  • Published Nov. 30, 2015
Alexander Kristoff won the 2015 edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. With the course relatively unchanged for 2016, he'll be a top favorite again next April. Photo: Iri Greco | BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

MILAN (VN) — Alexander Kristoff will be happy. Fabian Cancellara will be pleased as well. The Ronde van Vlaanderen, or the Tour of Flanders, will follow the same course for its 100th edition as it has for 2015 and 2014, when the two raced victoriously into Oudenaarde.

Organizer Flanders Classics will keep the fan-friendly loops around the city on the Schelde canal for the race, to be held April 3. The closing circuits take in the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs and offer the organizer a chance to sell space in its VIP tents. From there, fans may see the race pass two to three times.

The final covers the cobbled Kwaremont ramp and sector at top, before racing on a flat, descending, and climbing steep Paterberg slopes. The climb, after the final left turn at top, leaves 13 kilometers past the golf course and to the Minderbroerdersstraat, just shy of the Ronde museum.

Katusha’s Kristoff sprinted clear of Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick-Step) this April, and in 2014, Trek’s Cancellara blasted away from three Belgian companions on the same straight leading into the west side of Oudenaarde. The race finished here for the last four editions, but took different routes to do so. Prior to that, it ended with the much-loved finale over the Muur and Bosberg climbs before Meerbeke.

Flanders Classics is making some tweaks early on in its course after it leaves Bruges, but not many. One touch to make the special edition stand out is a detour into Aarsele, the hometown of Roger Decock, the race’s oldest surviving winner at 88. It also passes Kanegem, hometown of two-time winner Briek Schotte, who contested the race a record 20 times.

After the race passes Aarsele, Decock will travel to Oudenaarde where he and the rest of the surviving winners — or the “Heroes De Ronde” — will celebrate with the organizer.

The 256-kilometer course with 18 climbs and seven cobbled sectors should suit usual classics specialists, but as with the last editions, a rider with a strong sprint should raise his arms in celebration at the end.

Slovak Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Cancellara would be ideal winners for the organizer — the former will be racing in his world champion’s jersey and the latter, a three-time winner, will be racing his last Flanders.

If Cancellara or Belgian Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick-Step) wins, they would become the first riders to record four victories in the monument. They are currently on a list of three-time winners that includes former cyclists Johan Museeuw, Eric Leman, Fiorenzo Magni, and Achiel Buysse.

A solo victory is less likely, but Cancellara could repeat his 2013 performance, or perhaps someone like Belgian Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Czech Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step), or Brit Geraint Thomas (Sky) could ride alone to victory. As the race nears, with the E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem in the rear-view mirror, potential winners will be easier to name.

Flanders Classics also unveiled the Gent-Wevelgem parcours recently. The race, March 27, still ends in Wevelgem and climbs the famous Kemmelberg, but with a twist. Instead of going up the normal side with its 17-percent grades, the organizer will climb another road with 23-percent steeps.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown

Bikes kept Gregor Brown out of trouble growing up in Oklahoma — BMX, freestyle and then watching Greg LeMond's Tour de France wins on CBS television's weekend highlights shows. The drama of the 1998 Tour, however, truly drew him into the fold. With a growing curiosity in European races and lifestyle, he followed his heart and established camp on Lake Como's shores in 2004. Brown has been following the Giro, the Tour and every major race in Europe since 2006. He will tell you it is about the "race within the race" – punching out the news and running to finish – but he loves a proper dinner, un piatto tipico ed un vino della zona.

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