Skip to main content

Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen – at the Heart of the Tour of Flanders

Image 1 of 45

A genuine Flandria team car

A genuine Flandria team car (Image credit: Ben Atkins)
Image 2 of 45

Choose your hero

Choose your hero (Image credit: Ben Atkins)
Image 3 of 45

Dare you try

Dare you try (Image credit: Ben Atkins)
Image 4 of 45

The Centrum produces

The Centrum produces (Image credit: Ben Atkins)
Image 5 of 45

Careful!

Careful! (Image credit: Ben Atkins)
Image 6 of 45

There are three cycling routes

There are three cycling routes (Image credit: Ben Atkins)
Image 7 of 45

Oudenaarde is nestled in the very centre of the Flemish Ardennes.

Oudenaarde is nestled in the very centre of the Flemish Ardennes. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 8 of 45

The Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen sits just off Oudenaarde's main market square.

The Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen sits just off Oudenaarde's main market square. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 9 of 45

Just one of the Centrum's exhibits is a genuine 1970s Molteni Volvo team car.

Just one of the Centrum's exhibits is a genuine 1970s Molteni Volvo team car. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 10 of 45

The Centrum has a number of bikes including the one ridden by Johan Museeuw in his last races.

The Centrum has a number of bikes including the one ridden by Johan Museeuw in his last races. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 11 of 45

Two-time World Champion Freddy Maertens now works at the Centrum - just don't remind him that he never won de Ronde!

Two-time World Champion Freddy Maertens now works at the Centrum - just don't remind him that he never won de Ronde! (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 12 of 45

Choose your hero whose story will accompany you around the museum's exhibits.

Choose your hero whose story will accompany you around the museum's exhibits. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 13 of 45

Your ticket has a barcode, which you swipe on a series of interactive screens throughout the museum.

Your ticket has a barcode, which you swipe on a series of interactive screens throughout the museum. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 14 of 45

A genuine Flandria team car sits inside the museum's entrance.

A genuine Flandria team car sits inside the museum's entrance. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 15 of 45

The museum is full of memorabilia from cycling's golden age.

The museum is full of memorabilia from cycling's golden age. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 16 of 45

Bright exhibits take the visitor through the many and varied facets of de Ronde.

Bright exhibits take the visitor through the many and varied facets of de Ronde. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 17 of 45

An antique TV camera helps to illustrate the huge task of broadcasting the race through the years.

An antique TV camera helps to illustrate the huge task of broadcasting the race through the years. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 18 of 45

The wall of fame. Whose face will be added this April?

The wall of fame. Whose face will be added this April? (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 19 of 45

Typically monosyllabic conversation with Andre Tchmil, although to be fair, French is his third language!

Typically monosyllabic conversation with Andre Tchmil, although to be fair, French is his third language! (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 20 of 45

An autographed jersey from 2005 and 2006 winner Tom Boonen.

An autographed jersey from 2005 and 2006 winner Tom Boonen. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 21 of 45

How bikes have changed over the years!

How bikes have changed over the years! (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 22 of 45

Get your picture taken on the podium with Tommeke and De Peet…

Get your picture taken on the podium with Tommeke and De Peet… (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 23 of 45

… and this is what you get. A souvenir of your visit and "victory" in de Ronde!

… and this is what you get. A souvenir of your visit and "victory" in de Ronde! (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 24 of 45

The route of the first race in 1913 really was a "Tour" of Flanders.

The route of the first race in 1913 really was a "Tour" of Flanders. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 25 of 45

Wool, Table Cloth and Wrapping Paper! It’s amazing how we take lycra for granted these days!

Wool, Table Cloth and Wrapping Paper! It’s amazing how we take lycra for granted these days! (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 26 of 45

Test yourself on the cobbles. Although it's only half the story as it doesn't do the front wheel.

Test yourself on the cobbles. Although it's only half the story as it doesn't do the front wheel. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 27 of 45

If you thought cobbles were just cobbles you'd be very wrong: (l-r) Porphyr, Belgium's native ingneous rock, Sandstone, used on some climbs like the Muur, and Scandinavian Granite, used now in replacing the old.

If you thought cobbles were just cobbles you'd be very wrong: (l-r) Porphyr, Belgium's native ingneous rock, Sandstone, used on some climbs like the Muur, and Scandinavian Granite, used now in replacing the old. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 28 of 45

In the days before TV radio was the best way to get the race to the masses.

In the days before TV radio was the best way to get the race to the masses. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 29 of 45

Dare you try to race Van Petegem up the Oude Kwaremont?

Dare you try to race Van Petegem up the Oude Kwaremont? (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 30 of 45

Statistics and history of the race's mythical places is everywhere.

Statistics and history of the race's mythical places is everywhere. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 31 of 45

Ideas on optimum nutrition have changed a lot over the years.

Ideas on optimum nutrition have changed a lot over the years. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 32 of 45

On exiting the museum you are directed into the Ronde Shop.

On exiting the museum you are directed into the Ronde Shop. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 33 of 45

No race is complete without a Flandrian Lion - no matter where it is in the world.

No race is complete without a Flandrian Lion - no matter where it is in the world. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 34 of 45

ProTour team kits for sale. Especially the Belgian teams!

ProTour team kits for sale. Especially the Belgian teams! (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 35 of 45

The Centrum produces its own range of retro jerseys. Is your hero in her somewhere?

The Centrum produces its own range of retro jerseys. Is your hero in her somewhere? (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 36 of 45

Plenty of old school wool for the vintage cyclist.

Plenty of old school wool for the vintage cyclist. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 37 of 45

Inevitable Molteni jerseys for all those Eddy Merckx fans out there

Inevitable Molteni jerseys for all those Eddy Merckx fans out there (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 38 of 45

Champagne anyone? These bottles are to commemorate Freddy Martens' two World Championship victories.

Champagne anyone? These bottles are to commemorate Freddy Martens' two World Championship victories. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 39 of 45

The shop sells a great number of books about this and other races - unfortunately most of them are in Flemish!

The shop sells a great number of books about this and other races - unfortunately most of them are in Flemish! (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 40 of 45

Primus beer is one of the Ronde's sponsors, so a souvenir pack is on sale.

Primus beer is one of the Ronde's sponsors, so a souvenir pack is on sale. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 41 of 45

The Bevoorradingslist in the Brassierie is themed around the race's history.

The Bevoorradingslist in the Brassierie is themed around the race's history. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 42 of 45

Spaghetti Boononaise? Or perhaps a Vispannetje Museeuw?

Spaghetti Boononaise? Or perhaps a Vispannetje Museeuw? (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 43 of 45

Careful! This stuff is mighty smooth, but is pretty strong too at 7%!

Careful! This stuff is mighty smooth, but is pretty strong too at 7%! (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 44 of 45

There are three cycling routes mapped out around the area covering all the cobbles and mythical climbs between them.

There are three cycling routes mapped out around the area covering all the cobbles and mythical climbs between them. (Image credit: Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com)
Image 45 of 45

Yannick Talabardon (Saur-Sojasun)

Yannick Talabardon (Saur-Sojasun) (Image credit: Fabrice Lambert/sportbreizh.com)

Tales from the Peloton , March 25, 2008

The pretty market town of Oudenaarde sits at the heart of the scenic Flemish Ardennes, just a stone's throw from many of the region's legendary bergs – and the start point of the women's Ronde. Just off the main square sits a museum dedicated to the race that puts this region on the map each spring. Cyclingnews' cobble-aholic Ben Atkins takes us on a tour.

The Centrum: Cycling's cathedral

According to the museum's director Rik Vanwalleghem: "Bike racing is a religion in Flanders: If bike racing is a religion, then the Ronde Van Vlaanderen is the main service of the year." So, in the early 1990s, various journalists and local politicians had thoughts about a permanent exhibition on the race so that people could enjoy it the whole year round. In 1991 a book was published about the history of the Ronde and it won an award for the best sporting book of that year.

That prize – of approximately €2,500 – became the beginning of a fund specifically to pay for the building of a centre. To extend Vanwalleghem's simile a little further: If bike racing is a religion, it now has its cathedral.

As well as donations from individuals and fundraising events, they also sought money from the local government. After all, in an area seeking to promote itself to the world, "the Ronde Van Vlaanderen is a big ambassador for Flanders". For this reason, the Centrum receives funding from the Flemish Tourist Board – although they'd obviously like more! On top of this, the Centrum is also a genuine educational resource for the schools in the area. As well as the bike racing, the culture, geography, geology and even the botany of the area are explored within the exhibits – we never had field trips like this when I was at school!

Choose your hero

With your admission ticket, you choose one of twelve Flandrien heroes as an "alter ego" to take you around the various exhibits. The choice is between Johan Museeuw, Walter Godefroot, Rik Van Steenbergen, Edwig Van Hooydonck, Eric Leman, Briek Schotte, Eric Vanderaerden, Eddy Merckx, Gaston Rebry, Jan Raas, Rik Van Looy and Henri Van Lerbergh. More recent heroes Tom Boonen and Peter Van Petegem are to be added soon, as if the choice wasn't tough enough. As he was the directeur of our own Pro Continental team last year, this Cyclingnews correspondent felt duty bound to select Eric Vanderaerden this time.

A thirteenth legend is also present at the Centrum these days. Since the early part of this year, former double World Champion, and Flemish legend Freddy Maertens has become part of the museum's staff. He had worked at the National Museum of Cycling in nearby Roeselare for many years, but recently moved across to the Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen – incidentally one of the few major Flemish races that he never won, but he probably doesn't need reminding of that!

The first part of the museum experience is a quick movie. On entering, you're guided into a fifty-odd seat auditorium with a triple screen arrangement. The twelve-minute film takes you through nearly one hundred years of the great race, featuring some wonderful black and white footage from the early years as well as the bright colours of more recent years. If you sit at the back you can take it all in better, but if you sit at the front you get drawn in and almost feel part of the action. Personally I could sit in there and watch it over again all day...

Once the movie is over, the doors to the main part of the museum open, directing you through a series of interactive exhibits, accompanied by your chosen hero. A barcode on ticket swiped on screens throughout the Centrum tells a tale about the events that led to his victory and the conditions that he faced on his way to final victory.

Ride the cobbles; climb with Van Petegem

As well as the electronic information, you are given a chance to take in the full Ronde experience for yourself. A static Eddy Merckx bike allows you to ride the cobbles – although sadly it only bounces the back wheel, which doesn't quite give you the whole story. There is also a static bike set up on an interactive trainer that gives you the opportunity to ride up the Oude Kwaremont – one of the Ronde's most legendary climbs – in the company of Peter Van Petegen, or it does if you can keep up with him!

As the Centrum doesn't actually have a collection of its own, most of the exhibitions of memorabilia are made up of fans collections, which are loaned to them on a long-term basis. Alongside these though, are exhibits based on the various elements of the race – and how they've changed over the years – like the ideas around nutrition, and the technology of riders' bikes and other equipment. Other exhibits show what an enormous logistical exercise it is to broadcast the race live, both on TV and radio. Also, if you thought a cobblestone was much the same as any other, you'd be wrong, an exhibit shows the difference between the different local stones used, as well as the Scandinavian granite that is being used nowadays.

Shop 'til you're dropped

On exiting the museum, you are returned to the ground floor of the building via the Centrum's Shop. This shop sells virtually everything the Belgian cycling fan needs, from a huge variety of books, cycling memorabilia and fan products, as well as a number of different replica kits from ProTour and other local teams.

As well as the current pro teams' kits, the Centrum has produced a range of its own Retro jerseys. The ubiquitous Molteni, Flandria and Brooklyn jerseys of Merckx, Maertens and De Vlaeminck sit alongside less internationally famous Watney's and Groene Leeeuw. If you have a hero from the sport's past like Kelly, Simpson or Raas, their jersey is here for you!

No race in the world is complete (and we're checking UCI regulations to see if it's legal) without a lion of Flanders flag.

Feed Zone – Brasserie de Flandrien

As well as the museum and shop, the Centrum is also home to the Brasserie de Flandrien. In keeping with the rest of the place, the walls are covered in pictures, souvenirs, old posters and newspapers from the history of the Ronde and bike racing in general.

The Brasserie's menu – or 'Bevoorradingslist' (Bevoorrading being Flemish for feed-zone) – includes such delights in the 'Grote Musette' as Spaghetti Boononaise, Vispannetje Museeuw, or a Bord Kannibal. If you fancy a dessert you can have a Coupe Koppenberg ice cream.

Naturally, in a country famous for its beer, the Flandrien has its own brew. Flandrien is a refreshing dark beer, but look out; its smooth taste disguises its 7% strength!

Are you hard enough to be a Flandrien?

Since the Centrum was completed in 2003, 75% of funding has come from admission charges, a membership scheme – known as De Flandriens – and its own cycling events. The 'Word Flandrien' is a cycle tourist event for all the family that 10,000 people attended in 2007, and the 'Retro Ronde' is an event for vintage cycles similar to l'Eroica in Italy. In addition, the Centrum has also marked out three cycle routes that take in all of the climbs and cobbles used in the race – every year the 'Gouden Flandrien' (Golden Flandrien) challenges riders to complete all three at once – much tougher than the race parcours itself.

Every year, more and more visitors come from all over the world. The Centrum was host to 52,000 paying visitors to exhibition in 2007, and looks set for more in 2008. If you find yourself in Flanders this spring – or indeed any other time of year – you could do worse than set aside an afternoon to pay a visit too.