After weeks of battling ice and snow, the organisers of the Northern European classics can breathe a sigh of relief, because the forecast for Sunday's Tour of Flanders is at least clear if not warm.
The riders were still bundled up as they braved single digit temperatures on Thursday and Friday to preview the famed cobbled climbs of the Tour of Flanders: one of the most notable is the steeply pitched Koppenberg. While it comes only once in the race, it appears at a critical point in the 256.2km odyssey.
The rough berg comes with 64km to go, not long after the first trips up the Oude Kwarement on Paterberg. It gets steeper near the end of its 600m length, kicking up to a brutal 22% grade before levelling off. In a peloton of 200 riders, positioning is all important on the approach to this climb, as it also narrows to barely the width of the team cars that squeeze through. There are verges on each side, leaving little room to get around any crashes.
It is for this reason that the Koppenberg is one of the spots where the pros can be found training in the days leading up to De Ronde. In this gallery you can get a sense of the steepness, the irregular nature of the cobbles, and the beautiful fact that any amateur cyclist can test him or herself against the best in the world on the good Friday before the race.