Two bergs and two stretches of cobbles are out and one berg is brought in as the Tour of Flanders pr
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE The organisers of the Tour of Flanders, no doubt buoyed by a revelation from Lance Armstrong on Dutch TV that he will be targeting the ‘Ronde’ next season, have made some small changes to next year’s route of the famous Classic. In order to accommodate a first visit to Kortrijk since 1984 to pay homage to three-Time Flanders winner Briek Schotte, who died on the morning of this year’s race, two ‘bergs’ have been dropped, although the organisers insist that the route is tougher than ever. After its traditional start in Bruges, the 89th edition of the Tour of Flanders will head out to Ostende and then back inland to Kortrijk. However, to keep the race at around the 250-kilometre distance demanded by the International Cycling Union (UCI), two cobbled sections have been dropped (at Kanegem and Lippenhovestraat in Zottegem), as have the Grotenberge and Rekelberg climbs. Instead of these two bergs, the race will tackle the Valkenberg for the first time since 1996. Asked by La Dernire Heure if the race will be easier than this year when Germany’s Steffen Wesemann was the victor, Flanders race boss Wim Van Herreweghe said: “I don’t think so. Because from the Oude Kwaremont, the third of 17 climbs, there will be 14 climbs to cover in just 84 kilometres. Or one every six kilometres.” Van Herreweghe revealed that his organisation’s hope is that the future of the races they put on before Flanders (GP E3 Harelbeke, Flche Brabanconne and the Three Days of De Panne) can be tied in to that of the Classic by binding all four races within an all-encompassing Flemish Cycling Week on the Pro Tour. As part of this linking process, Belgian rider Tom Boonen was announced as ‘Flandrian of the Year’ at a gala evening on Monday night in Bruges. Boonen received his trophy from last year’s inaugural winner of the award, his Quick Step team-mates Paolo Bettini.