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The forgotten climbs of Flanders

Flanders 11
Josh Cunningham
27 Mar 2019

A guide to the lesser-known climbs of Flanders. Just because De Ronde skips them, doesn't mean you have to

Bike racing returns home this week as the Flemish one-day Cobbled Classics begin with the single-day Three days of De Panne. It also means plenty of us will be hopping over the channel to not only watch some bike racing but tackle the mythical cobbled bergs ourselves. 

The Kwaremont, Paterberg, Muur Van Geraardsbergen are well known by fans and riders and will be high on the list of riding priority but the extent of Belgium's riding opportunities doesn't end with these headline acts. 

We've selected some of the best climbs in the Vlaamse Ardennen of East Flanders, an area known for its prominence in the Tour of Flanders, and Heuvelland in West Flanders, which means 'Hill Country', and is used a lot by Gent-Wevelgem.

Some of our selections do appear in pro races from time to time, but we've tried to choose ones that they usually miss out. 

Wallonia is just across the linguistic-border from the Vlaamse Ardennen, and it is not at all uncommon for the Tour of Flanders to sneak into these French-speaking parts too, so we've included a few of the best climbs around the border regions.

Good luck finding them on your next trip to Flanders.

East Flanders

Muziekbos

It's not the hardest, but the Muziekbos is a lovely climb. Snaking up from the main westerly road into Brakel just along from the often-used Kanarieberg (which is on the Flanders route this year), the Muziekbos is a road that would struggle to fit a car onto it, and winds its way up to a cafe in a wood at the top. Charming. 

Scherpenberg

Scherp means 'sharp' in Dutch, and so it comes as no surprise that the Scherpenberg has ramps of up to 15% mid-way through. The road is tiny, and as it curves over the roots of nearby trees or past driveways, it would be no surprise if the gradients occasionally crept higher than 15 too.

Watermolenstraat

The Watermolenstraat cobbles are situated right between the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg, so rarely get a look in at major pro races, although they are used from time to time in U23 and amateur events. Valid excuses for skipping them on your next trip to Flanders: Zero. 

Varentberg

The Varentberg climbs up towards the N8, a backbone of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, from Maarke. It's not too brutal, but its a solid climb nonetheless, and comes with the added bonus of cobblestones at the top. Nice.

Berendries

It used to be a regular in Flandrian races, but after spending a few years out of the loop while it underwent extensive roadworks, the Berendries has fallen by the wayside a little. Worth a punt for those in the area though.

Berchemsteenweg

The Berchemsteenweg is usually used as a descent in pro races, being the main road over the hill range where most cobbled sectors are found. It's wide, open, arrow straight and mentally crushing to do in the other direction though.

West Flanders

Rodeberg

The Rodeberg and the Baneberg are almost synonymous, much like the Muur and Kappelmuur of Geraardsbergen. The climb can be tackled from both directions, but make sure you take a side-trip to the south at the summit, taking the small road up to the Molenhof restaurant, where the road really kicks up.

Zwarteberg

Ok, so the Zwarteberg is technically in France, and as such is also known as Mont Noir (Black Mountain) but it's just over the border from the Kemmel range of hills where the infamous Kemmelberg is located. Mont Noir has featured in Gent-Wevelgem a number of times, and takes its name from the black pine woods that surround it.

Wallonie

Arabie

Rue d'Arabie is probably one of the narrowest roads in Belgium, and despite an average grade of 6%, the Arabie has ramps that swing the needle beyond 15%. The small town it comes out in, Saint Saveur, has many other climbs surrounding it too.

Potteree

The Potteree climbs out of the village of Flobeq, and is a gradual drag that includes lots of points that appear as if they're the summit. They're not, and the climb seems to go on to infinity if tackled at full gas.

La Houppe

As far as climbs in the north of Belgium go, La Houppe is probably one of the most scenic. Gentle slopes ramp up to a smoothly surfaced, quiet upper section through tall deciduous trees, and there's an abundance of cafes at the top in which to stop for a brew.

Mont Saint Aubert

A little further into Wallonia, near the town of Tournai, Mont Saint Aubert is a regular in the end-of-season race, Franco Belge. An easy one to attach to a ride in the southern Flemish Ardennes, the climb is a little over a kilometre and a half and has slopes of up to 17%.