The Tour of Flander sets off from Antwerp and the riders get a first taste of cobbles after 85 kilometres. The pavé on the Lippenhovenstraat and Paddestraat appear on the trot, but, to be frank, the first half of the race is nothing special. The eager anticipation of what’s in store gives the race its edge as this stage.
The cobbled climb up Oude Kwaremont makes its first appearance after almost 120 kilometres. This sets a different tone and the route continues onto the Kortekeer, Eikenberg and Wolvenberg before the pavé of the Holleweg and Haaghoek gives way to climbs up the Leberg, Berendries and Tenbosse. Then, with 100 kilometres to go, the Flemish cycling fans are treated when their beloved ‘Ronde’ hits the Wall of Geraardsbergen. The cobbled climb of 475 metres has a legendary status with its 20% gradients leading up to the iconic chapel at the top.
After the Wall the Flemings have some time to control their emotions. It takes almost 30 kilometres before the riders tackle the Kanarieberg and another 16 kilometres later the Oude Kwaremont makes its second appearance, shortly followed by the Paterberg. This is an important preview, as this cobbled duo will be back in the finale.
With the first Oude Kwaremont-Paterberg combo the Tour of Flanders enters an exciting phase. After cresting the Koppenberg (600 metres at 11.6%) the race continues onto the pavé of the Mariaborrestraat (2,000 metres) before going back to climbing again on Steenbeekdries (700 metres at 5.3%) and Taaienberg (530 metres at 6.6%, cobbled). All within 8 kilometres.
The riders tackle Kruisberg/Hotond (2,500 metres at 5%) with 26.5 kilometres remaining and after 10 kilometres on the flat the Oude Kwaremont makes its last appearance. The cobbled climb is 2,200 metres long and averages 4%, while the Paterberg is quite the opposite. Only 360 metres long, but definitely a killer with its average gradient of 12.9% and steepest ramp of 20.3%.
The last 13.2 kilometres of the ‘Ronde’ are played out on the flat.
The Tour of Flanders starts at 10.30 and the race is expected to finish around 17.07 – both are local times.