With the first of Belgium's big classics, the 91st Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), just days away, Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins hopped on his bike and took to the route to see what lay ahead of the riders.
When riders line up in Brugge on Sunday morning, a 259 kilometre parcours will lay ahead. At the end of the gruelling ride will stand a single man: a victor. While he stands in glory the remaining riders in the peloton will be also-rans.
But in order to get there he will first have to conquer 18 hellingen, the Flemish term for climb. The cobbled climbs vary in length, with the smallest only a few hundred metres spanning through to the 2.2 kilometre long fifth climb of the event, Oude Kwaremont.
The gradient too is vastly different, with a 16.3 per cent covering the range between the highest and lowest gradients on the route. While riders will enjoy 134 kilometres of riding before easing into the climbs with the 463 metre Molenberg, you can be sure that from then on the race will really start to heat up.
Here's Cyclingnews' breakdown of the hellingen.
Climb 1 - Molenberg
Average gradient: 7%
Maximum gradient: 14.2%
Km from start: 134km
Km from finish:125km
This climb can take the uninitiated by surprise. The course is rolling along quite comfortably along a nice, flat, well surfaced road when it suddenly takes a sharp right turn and is faced with a steep wall of cobbles. First time riders may find themselves almost grinding to a halt as they're stuck in too big a gear, simply because they weren't expecting it. The steepest section is near the middle before it begins to ease off and the cobbles give way to asphalt for the last few metres.
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