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The Flandrien Challenge: 59 climbs, 72 hours, one unbelievable feat

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Ticking off 59 climbs in just 72 hours makes this mammoth task one unbelievable feat

13 Nov 2020

Of all the places on Earth, Flanders can surely lay claim to having the most classic climbs per capita. From the Achterberg to the Zwarteberg, there’s near-on a climb for every day of the year. So where to start? And more to the point, how do you string them together in a ride? Cycling in Flanders has the answer: the Flandrien Challenge.

‘It’s quite simple. I say simple. It’s very hard,’ says Flandrien Challenge’s chief architect, Dries Verclyte. ‘The challenge is to ride 59 climbs in 72 hours. There are nine that come from the west and 50 from the east, so it’s like combining the Tour of Flanders with Gent-Wevelgem. Two Classics in one.’

The total challenge length is just over 400km, and in partnership with Strava, Cycling in Flanders has designed three loops to be executed over three days. The loops are available free from the Flandrien Challenge page on the Cycling in Flanders website. Each climb on each loop has its own official segment, and if you can tag off all 59 in less than 72 hours... well, that makes you something pretty amazing in the eyes of the Belgians.

How it’s done

‘All the climb segments are painted on the road, the start and finish lines and statistics for the climb – height, gradient, length,’ says Verclyte. ‘When your front wheel rolls over the line, the segment officially begins.

‘We hope it’s something that will appeal to people as a weekend away. You can travel to Ypres in the morning on a Friday, then ride route one, 75km and nine climbs. Then later that day, or the next morning, you travel to Oudenaarde, which will be your base for the next two days. The second day is big, 190km with a total of 2,400m climbing over 25 climbs, then day three is the remaining 25 climbs, a total of 145km and 2,200m climbing. It’s a challenge, not a race, although we will be amazed if anyone can average more than 27kmh overall.

‘Every time you complete a climb Strava gives you a badge that looks like those Panini sticker-album stickers. If you can collect all 59 in 72 hours or under, you go to the Tour of Flanders Centre in Oudenaarde, show them your Strava account and they will put you on their Wall of Fame, permanently.’

For those unfamiliar, the Tour of Flanders Centre is something of a cycling Mecca in Belgium, stuffed full of memorabilia ranging from Tom Boonen’s jerseys and Eddy Merckx’s bikes to full-on TV-camera motos and Flandria and Molteni team cars. Getting your name in here is something quite special, so too how the Flandrien Challenge does it.

‘Names get engraved onto miniature cobbles that are set into the wall, along with names like Museeuw, Merckx, De Vlaeminck, Boonen. These are the Flanders greats, and if you complete the Flandrien Challenge you will become an honorary Flandrien with them. Immortalised in stone.’

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