Let the madness begin – Belgian cycling madness.
As Belgium falls under the spell of the 2021 UCI World Cycling Championships for a week, amateur sportive riders got things started in Flanders at the 105th edition of the grand classic Tour of Flanders sportive on Saturday.
For the first time ever, the event, also known as “We Ride Flanders and Ronde van Flander ” did not sell out. Only 6000 riders, rather than the tradition 16,000, took to the start line in Oudenaarde to ride the world famous course renowned for its short, sharp hills and knee-jarring cobblestone sections in the Flemish Ardennes.
Cyclists usually come from all over the world to ride the main 177km gran fondo event, but due to the pandemic, travel restrictions and a rescheduled date in September, foreign participation was limited to riders from Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. Still, foreigners made up almost 50 percent of the field, with 2x World Road Race Champion Paolo Bettini making the trip from Italy.
With a smaller field than usual, riders enjoyed less congested roads and fewer bottlenecks on the steep climbs of the renowned Koppenberg and Paterberg, which usually trigger jams as riders start to switchback, dismount and fall over before walking up in defeat.
Often just one lane wide, the roads are pure Flandrian, unlike anything else found in Europe or America. Riders must constantly duck, lean and roll through tight corners while avoiding potholes, cobbles and a never ending line of road furniture. Viewed from above, it is a sea of colorful riders flowing like a river through ancient villages, fields and valleys…it’s as close to bike riding heaven as you’ll ever get.
The 2022 edition of the Tour of Flanders sportive will occur on 2 April, a day before the professional race.
PHOTOS: Tour of Flanders