Photo of the week: A Tour like no other

Summary

This year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen cycle race – delayed from the spring because of the pandemic – will have no crowds cheering riders up the famous cobbled hills

‘Watch it on TV’

The region’s biggest cycle race, the Ronde van Vlaanderen or Tour of Flanders, takes place on Sunday. The event was postponed from April due to Covid-19, and the ongoing restrictions for public health mean that the usual crowds will be unable to watch the race in person.

The teams headed out for a reconnaissance ride on Thursday (pictured), along brutal cobbled hills that would normally be packed with cheering spectators crowded close together.

“Last year we had 40,000 spectators in Kluisbergen alone,” said local mayor Philippe Willequet. “They now all have to stick to the agreements and stay away. We will not allow anyone on the Oude Kwaremont or the Patersberg. The police are preparing to stop people if they try.”

When the new date was announced in March, all our rooms sold out in a couple of hours

- Kluisbergen hotel owner

Maarkedal mayor Joris Nachtergaele told VRT: “We mayors must all give a clear signal, otherwise the situation will get out of control. The Ronde is a social occasion here. People meet families and friends and organise barbecues. Bed and breakfasts are fully booked. We cannot allow all these people on the hills.”

Organisers were concerned that there would be a repeat of scenes from last month’s Tour de France, when spectators packed tightly together along the route and screamed encouragement at the passing riders. They are asking people to stay at home instead and watch the one-day classic on TV.

However, one hotel along the route is enjoying a boost from fans eager for a piece of the action. “When the new date was announced in March, all our rooms sold out in a couple of hours,” said Pieter Loose, manager of Sporthotel Ten Hotond in Kluisbergen. “The hotel is starting to fill up now. With the preparations for Sunday, lots of people are already coming to see the slopes and the cobblestone sections.”

Photo: Belga/Dirk Waem

Flemish cycling

Flemish cyclists have played a dominant role in the history of European bicycle racing. With the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), the region also has a classic cycle race.
Flandriens - The legendary pioneers of the Flemish cycling tradition are called “Flandriens”. They include Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Planckaert, Johan Museeuw and Walter Godefroot.
Eddy Merckx - Having won 525 races in his career, Brusselaar Eddy Merckx, nicknamed “the Cannibal”, is considered one of the greatest cyclists of all time.
Trophy - The annual Flandrien Trophy honours the best Belgian cyclist of the past season. Professional cyclists choose and vote for the nominees.
5

number of times Merckx won the Tour de France

1 913

first Tour of Flanders

1 969

Merckx becomes first Belgian to win the Tour de France in 30 years