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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: Top five editions

1977 – De Vlaeminck vs. Maertens 

Roger De Vlaeminck and Freedy Maertens were the stars of Belgian cycling towards the end of the ‘70s and were bitter rivals. They had both been dropped in the 1976 edition as they both decided they would rather lose than see the other one win.

In 1977, Freddy Maertens suffered a puncture on the newly introduced Koppenberg while De Vlaeminck broke away. Maertens was given a wheel by a spectator and assisted to the top where he quickly caught De Vlaeminck, who had also punctured. As it was just the two riders together, De Vlaeminck refused to work with Maertens.

Maertens rode 70km to the finish, with De Vlaeminck stuck to his wheel, and was then easily beaten by a relatively fresh De Vlaeminck in the sprint. It was De Vlaeminck’s only Flanders win.

The riders both fell out and to this day still dispute that day’s events. Maertens claims he believed he was to be disqualified for the wheel swap, and De Vlaeminck supposedly offered to pay him to keep riding and evade the peloton.

De Vlaeminck denies this and claims he was riding tactically as he knew Maertens was a better sprinter.

1985 – Vanderaerden vs. the elements

Although Eric Vanderaerden’s solo win, aged 23, is worthy of a mention itself, it’s the weather that really grabbed the headlines. Vanderaerden broke a wheel before the Koppenberg but managed to chase back onto a strong leading group including Greg LeMond and his team-mate Phil Anderson.

Although a sprinter, Vanderaerden attacked on the Muur and soloed the final 20km to the finish. While the attack is impressive enough, it all took place during a severe storm that broke during the second leg of the race. Of 174 starters, only 24 finished.

1987 – Jesper Skibby vs. the race official 

The Koppenberg’s fame comes not only from the steepness of its cobbled slopes but also the narrowness of the road. This all came to a head in 1987, when Danish rider Jesper Skibby was hit by an official car.

The car was following close behind and when Skibby began to slow, the car (pressured by the encroaching peloton) knocked Skibby to the ground while trying to pass then ran over his back wheel, narrowly missing his leg and ending his race. After this, the Koppenberg was removed from the race for 15 years while the road was widened.

1994 – Bugno vs. Museeuw

Johan Museeuw dominated the Tour of Flanders so much that they nicknamed him the 'Lion of Flanders', but 1994 didn’t go his way. While the Belgians owned the race, the Italian classics riders wanted to claim it with Argentin, Bartoli, and Bugno all taking wins.

In 1994, Museeuw contested the sprint with Bugno and lost by just 7mm – the smallest winning margin in Tour of Flanders history. The next day one newspaper ran the finish line photo with the headline ‘The Sorrow of Flanders’.

2017 – The return of Phil Gil

Philippe Gilbert holding his bike in the air after winning the 2017 Tour of Flanders

Rumour has it that when Phil Gilbert signed a one-year contract for Deceuninck-QuickStep in 2017, the salary for a former World Champion and triple Monument winner was quite low. If he wanted an extension and a better payday, then big victories would be necessary.

With 55km left to ride, Gilbert broke clear of his rivals on the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. The next time his rivals would see him, he would be on the top step of the podium having won the Tour of Flanders.

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