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Tour of Flanders 2021: Route, start list, sportive and all you need to know

Cyclist magazine
1 Apr 2021

Key information about the men's and women's 2021 Tour of Flanders, including route, riders, live TV guide and key climbs

Tour of Flanders: All you need to know

Page 1: Essential guide and key climbs  
Page 2: History of the race  
Page 3: Top five editions  
Page 4: Sportive ride report  

Tour of Flanders: History

The Tour of Flanders, or Ronde van Vlaanderen, the second of five Monuments in the professional racing calendar, can trace its history back to 1913. Most classic races were started to create headlines for a newspaper, and the Tour of Flanders is no different.

The race was first conceived by Léon van den Haute, who wrote for Sportwereld, as a celebration of the Flemish region as the other major Belgian race, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, was held in the French-speaking region of Belgium.

The first edition of De Ronde left Ghent at 6 am on the 25th of May 1913 and wound its way to a wooden velodrome in Mariakerke through 330km of badly kept roads. The first winner was Paul Deman, aged 25, outsprinting a group of six after over 12 hours of racing.

Tour of Flanders, 1952

Although the first few editions were successful, the race still struggled to attract a lot of entries, and financial sponsorship with it. The race really gained popularity in the 1930s, perhaps as a result of shortening the race to 264km, and by 1933 there was 164 riders on the start line.

The first 40 years of the Tour of Flanders is also famous for not allowing the riders any mechanical assistance. In the ‘30s the rules were changed so that a rider could accept a pump, or spare tyre, but only in an emergency and entirely at the commissaire's discretion. Bike changes were only permitted if the frame, wheel or bars broke while riding.

Over the course of the 1950s, the rules were changed to bring the Ronde more in line with other professional races.

The 1960s was the decade that cemented Flanders in cycling history. Tom Simpson became the first British winner in 1961, followed by a huge popularity surge in 1962 that saw the finish moved to Gentbrugge to cope with the spectators. 1969 marked the emergence of Eddy Merckx, who won the race by 5’ 36” over Felice Gimondi - the race’s largest ever winning margin.

Era of the ‘Bergs’ 

Crashes on the Koppenberg

Flanders made more big changes in the 1970s – the race was known for its tough course but many of the original roads had been paved over, making the course considerably easier.

In 1973 the finish was moved again, this time to Meerbeke, close to the Muur van Geraardsbergen, which became a legendary part of the race. In 1976 the Koppenberg was included, feared by many due to its 22% cobbled ramps, and was the location of the beginning of Roger De Vlaeminck and Freddy Maerten’s bitter rivalry.

Johan Museeuw, Tour of Flanders 1998

The 1980s were characterised by complete domination by Belgian and Dutch riders, including the legendary 1985 edition that saw only 24 out of 174 finish.

The 1990s era of Flanders is best known for Johan Museeuw’s exploits that included three victories and eight podium finishes. So complete was his control of the race he was nicknamed the ‘Lion of Flanders’. 

Post-2000

The Muur, Tour of Flanders 2005

In 2005 the Tour of Flanders was included in the inaugural UCI Pro Tour, establishing it as one of the five Monuments of cycling. In the 2000’s a new star of Belgian cycling emerged, Tom Boonen, who won two consecutive victories in 2005 and 2006, with another following in 2012.

The big upset came in 2011, not from the riders but from the organising committee. The race was taken over by ‘Flanders Classics’, who moved the finish to Oudenaarde, much closer to the Koppenberg but also removing the Muur from the parcours to a great outcry from the fans. The Tour of Flanders celebrates its 100th edition on 3rd April 2016.

Tour of Flanders: All you need to know

Page 1: Essential guide and key climbs  
Page 2: History of the race  
Page 3: Top five editions  
Page 4: Sportive ride report