Thankfully, the organizers have decided to drop the Oude-Kwaremont/Paterberg loop which made the finale rather predictable in the last two editions.
So what exactly has changed for 2014? An what remains the same?
For starters, the Koppenberg is a lot closer to the finish line with just 45 kilometres left to race and is followed by a string of 5 more cobbled climbs including the Taaienberg, where Boonen notoriously likes to do damage, and finishing with the 1-2 combo of the Oude-Kwaremont and Paterberg. Oude-Kwaremont stills feature 3 times and the Paterberg twice but with the second ascent of the Paterberg with 51 kilometres left to race and before the final flurry of climbs from the Koppenberg onwards.
On paper at least, the race seems set up for early attacks, more groups on the road and a situation where being smart will be as important as being strong. The finish of the last two years has been decided strongmen attacking a large peloton on the last climbs. Don’t be surprised if the winner this year puts in his initial attack as far out as the Koppenberg.
It’s not all change for the ‘Ronde’ however. The start is in Bruges as always, with the riders travelling straight to Roeselare in what is essentially the warm up part of the race. . After 109 kilometres, the race really starts as the Kwaremont is climbed for the first time. This 2.2 kilometre section will be climbed three times over the course of the day with the first time signalling the start of 17 climbs and 16 cobbled sections to be faced in this year’s Ronde.
The finish line is just outside Oudenaarde as it has been for the last two years.
Tom Boonen, for one, has endorsed the new route, claiming it to be harder than that of the last editions. The harder it is, the more selective it should be and we can expect to see Tommeke on the attack on April 6th.
Tour of Flanders 2014: Images and more!
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