Koppenberg out of Tour of Flanders

The Koppenberg is out, but some old favourites are back in the Tour of Flanders. Procycling's Jeff J

The Koppenberg is out, but some old favourites are back in the Tour of Flanders. Procycling’s Jeff J

GRAPHIC BY HET NIEUWSBLAD Flanders’ most notorious climb, the Koppenberg, has once again been taken out of the Tour of Flanders. Next year’s edition of the classic (scheduled for April 8, 2007) was presented in Oudenaarde, Belgium on Tuesday. The Koppenberg’s absence was the main talking point. The climb has had a chequered history in the Ronde. It was removed for the first time in 1987 after Jesper Skibby fell off on it and his bike was run over by a race director’s car. In late 2001 it was widened and recobbled, and the 600 m, 11.6 % beast was allowed back in the race in 2002. But the road surface has deteriorated since then due to erosion, meaning that the gaps between the stones have become too wide for it to be used safely in a race. Less than 10 riders made it to the top on their bikes in the 2006 Tour of Flanders. “As the organisers, we don’t want to run the risk that the sporting development will be too heavily influenced by non-sporting factors,” said organiser Wim Van Herreweghe to Het Nieuwsblad. “Despite the enormous effort of people and the means to marshal the section, we have to realise that we don’t hold all the factors in our hand. In bad rain and with the current condition of the cobbles, we are asking for trouble.” Brugge start/Ninove finish The Ronde will still feature its traditional start in Brugge’s Grote Markt. Whatever the weather, thousands of fans will flock to the square to watch the riders sign on. The big stars will discuss their chances on stage, before the road decides who will take home the honours later that day. After setting out from Brugge, the riders head south to Zedelgem, instead of following a more easterly route towards the coast. But once they reach Ichtegem, it’s a fairly similar route to 2006, passing through Torhout and Roselare before hitting Kortrijk after 66 km. The parcours then follows the Leie towards Waregem and Kruishoutem, and visits Gavere, the “town of the Ronde” and the home of 1960 winner Tuur de Cabooter, at km 107. By this stage, the riders will have already done 2,300 m of cobbles at Wannegem and Eine. They get another dose at Zottegem with the Lippenhovestraat-Paddestraat (3,600 m, km 123), and the tough 3,000 m Mater-Kerkgate sector after 134 km. Besides these, there is still the 2,000 m Haaghoek cobbles after 205 km. The 2007 Tour of Flanders features 21.6 km of cobbled riding in total. Old favourites back in Despite the removal of the Koppenberg, the inclusion of some other old favourites should partly mollify fans. The climbing begins as usual after 131 km with the Molenberg, followed by the Wolvenberg (km 141). After 162 km, the Kluisberg will make a return after a few years’ absence due to road works. The Cte de Trieu (km 170) is next, before the Oude Kwaremont after 177 km. This 1.5 km cobbled climb, as well as the Paterberg that follows it, should gain more significance with the Koppenberg out. The riders will have 5 km to regroup between the Paterberg and the Kortekeer (km 185), where the Koppenberg would normally be. The Kortekeer is a much easier climb. It’s paved, with an average gradient of 6.6 %. Then it’s onto the cobbled Steenbeekdries and the standard run to Brakel via the Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Boigneberg, Leberg, Berendries, Valkenberg and Tenbosse. There is a twist in the parcours before the race reaches the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg. The Eikenmolen is 610 m long and averages 5.9 %. It may be enough to launch a pre-emptive strike before the Muur for those brave enough to try. If not, the Muur itself is still a formidable task, especially after 240 km of hard racing. The Bosberg comes four kilometres later before the final 12 km run into Ninove-Meerbeke. The Tour of Flanders might have lost its toughest climb, but as always, it will be the riders who will create the drama. Expect another exciting edition of Vlaanderen’s Mooiste on April 8, 2007. The climbs Molenberg (km 131) Wolvenberg (km 141) Kluisberg (km 162) Knokteberg/Cte de Trieu (km 170) Oude Kwaremont (km 177) Paterberg (km 180) Kortekeer (km 185) Steenbeekdries (km 189) Taaienberg (km 191) Eikenberg (km 196) Boigneberg (km 200) Leberg (km 208) Berendries (km 212) Valkenberg (km 217) Tenbosse (km 223) Eikenmolen (km 229) Muur-Kapelmuur (km 240) Bosberg (km 244)