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Gallery: Inside the Tour of Flanders museum at Oudenaarde

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Tom Boonen's jersey and trophy from the 2005 Tour of Flanders.

Tom Boonen's jersey and trophy from the 2005 Tour of Flanders. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Twelve riders have won the Tour of Flanders on two occasions.

Twelve riders have won the Tour of Flanders on two occasions. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Tour of Flanders winners are immortalised in figurines at the museum in Oudenaarde.

Tour of Flanders winners are immortalised in figurines at the museum in Oudenaarde. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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One can imagine Guillaume Driessens behind the wheel.

One can imagine Guillaume Driessens behind the wheel. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Fabian Cancellara's 2010 victory had the satirists working overtime.

Fabian Cancellara's 2010 victory had the satirists working overtime. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Freddy Maertens never won De Ronde, but he works at the museum in Oudenaarde.

Freddy Maertens never won De Ronde, but he works at the museum in Oudenaarde. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Frans Verbeeck (Maes-Watney) lost out to Eddy Merckx at the 1975 edition of the Tour of Flanders.

Frans Verbeeck (Maes-Watney) lost out to Eddy Merckx at the 1975 edition of the Tour of Flanders. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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One of Eddy Merckx's bikes from the 1973 and 1974 seasons.

One of Eddy Merckx's bikes from the 1973 and 1974 seasons. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The legendary Flandria team was a force in the 1970s.

The legendary Flandria team was a force in the 1970s. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Johan Museeuw's jersey from his first Ronde victory in 1993.

Johan Museeuw's jersey from his first Ronde victory in 1993. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Andrea Tafi was part of the legendary Mapei squad of the 1990s.

Andrea Tafi was part of the legendary Mapei squad of the 1990s. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Johan Museeuw's prize for winning De Ronde in 1993.

Johan Museeuw's prize for winning De Ronde in 1993. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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An award made to Moreno Argentin for his feats in the northern classics in 1990.

An award made to Moreno Argentin for his feats in the northern classics in 1990. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The Ronde Van Vlaanderen's popularity is universal.

The Ronde Van Vlaanderen's popularity is universal. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Pat McQuaid was among the visitors to the Tour of Flanders museum.

Pat McQuaid was among the visitors to the Tour of Flanders museum. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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A figurine peloton representing the epic 2011 Tour of Flanders.

A figurine peloton representing the epic 2011 Tour of Flanders. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Gianni Bugno's tight 1994 triumph remembered.

Gianni Bugno's tight 1994 triumph remembered. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Even a cameraman's moto finds its way into the display.

Even a cameraman's moto finds its way into the display. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Remarkably, Marcel Kint never triumphed at the Tour of Flanders.

Remarkably, Marcel Kint never triumphed at the Tour of Flanders. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Raymond Impanis' Peugeot from 1963.

Raymond Impanis' Peugeot from 1963. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Raymond Impanis' final season as a professional was in 1963 in the colours of Peugeot.

Raymond Impanis' final season as a professional was in 1963 in the colours of Peugeot. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Visitors have the chance to pose alongside two Ronde greats.

Visitors have the chance to pose alongside two Ronde greats. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The Tour of Flanders has inspired legions of books in Belgium.

The Tour of Flanders has inspired legions of books in Belgium. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Sports journalist Karel Van Wijnendaele dreamt up the Tour of Flanders and contributed to its legacy until his death in 1961.

Sports journalist Karel Van Wijnendaele dreamt up the Tour of Flanders and contributed to its legacy until his death in 1961. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Fabian Cancellara's helmet from his victorious 2010 Tour of Flanders ride.

Fabian Cancellara's helmet from his victorious 2010 Tour of Flanders ride. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Fabian Cancellara's victory over Tom Boonen in the 2010 Ronde was summed up by this effort by Belgian cartoonistMarec.

Fabian Cancellara's victory over Tom Boonen in the 2010 Ronde was summed up by this effort by Belgian cartoonistMarec. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Not surprisingly, the most memorable editions of the Ronde seem to end with Flemish victories.

Not surprisingly, the most memorable editions of the Ronde seem to end with Flemish victories. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Emma Johansson and Tom Boonen compared at the Tour of Flanders museum.

Emma Johansson and Tom Boonen compared at the Tour of Flanders museum. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Information on the hellingen that punctuate the Tour of Flanders.

Information on the hellingen that punctuate the Tour of Flanders. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The Muur van Geraardsbergen does not feature in 2012.

The Muur van Geraardsbergen does not feature in 2012. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Early radio earpiece technology at the Buckler team.

Early radio earpiece technology at the Buckler team. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Fans have a chance to simulate the Tour of Flanders at the museum.

Fans have a chance to simulate the Tour of Flanders at the museum. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Stijn Devolder continued a sequence of multiple winners in 2009.

Stijn Devolder continued a sequence of multiple winners in 2009. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Tom Simpson won the Tour of Flanders in 1961.

Tom Simpson won the Tour of Flanders in 1961. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Peter Van Petegem was a modern-day Flandrien.

Peter Van Petegem was a modern-day Flandrien. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The characteristics of a Flandrien listed in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen museum in Oudenaarde.

The characteristics of a Flandrien listed in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen museum in Oudenaarde. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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A display illustrating the legendary career of Briek Schotte.

A display illustrating the legendary career of Briek Schotte. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The "Lion of Flanders" Johan Museeuw had a bike to match his moniker in 2004.

The "Lion of Flanders" Johan Museeuw had a bike to match his moniker in 2004. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Johan Museeuw's bike from his final Ronde in 2004.

Johan Museeuw's bike from his final Ronde in 2004. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Freddy Maertens' Flandria outfit were a dominant force in the 1970s, even if Maertens himself never triumphed at De Ronde.

Freddy Maertens' Flandria outfit were a dominant force in the 1970s, even if Maertens himself never triumphed at De Ronde. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Tom Simpson's 1962 Gitane was donated by his daughter Joanna.

Tom Simpson's 1962 Gitane was donated by his daughter Joanna. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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A Minvera bike from an early edition of De Ronde.

A Minvera bike from an early edition of De Ronde. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Tom Boonen became only the fourth reigning world champion to win the Tour of Flanders when he triumphed in 2006.

Tom Boonen became only the fourth reigning world champion to win the Tour of Flanders when he triumphed in 2006. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Eddy Merckx's gloves from 1974, when he finished 4th.

Eddy Merckx's gloves from 1974, when he finished 4th. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Johan Museeuw's famous "hairnet" helmet and a bidon used by Andrea Tafi en route to victory in 2002.

Johan Museeuw's famous "hairnet" helmet and a bidon used by Andrea Tafi en route to victory in 2002. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Rick Van Looy, Freddy Maertens and Frank Vandenbroucke were among the pallbearers at Briek Schotte's funeral in 2004.

Rick Van Looy, Freddy Maertens and Frank Vandenbroucke were among the pallbearers at Briek Schotte's funeral in 2004. (Image credit: Daniel Simms)

Oudenaarde may be looking to build a legacy of its own as it prepares to host the finish of the Tour of Flanders for the first time, but the town has also been a curator of the rich heritage of the race since 2003. The Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen, a museum documenting almost a century of Tour of Flanders history, stands proudly in the centre of town, just off the cobbled market square.

Perhaps nowhere else in the world are cycling and cultural identity so closely entwined. Like so many great races, De Ronde began as a promotional tool for a newspaper – in this case, Sportwereld – but it quickly developed into an enduring symbol of the region itself. Accordingly, the museum devotes ample space to Karel van Wijnendaele, the journalist who dreamt up the race, a man for whom the newspaper and its race were a means to give his people “confidence as Flandrians.”

Out on the road, of course, the Flandrians responded in kind. With no fewer than 67 Belgian victories to date, it’s no surprise that the achievements of local heroes dominate the extensive display in Oudenaarde, with iron men from Romain Gijssels to Johan Musseuw, by way of Briek Schotte, Raymond Impanis, Rik Van Steenbergen, all remembered.

The artefacts and exhibits on display range from Museeuw’s bike from his final Tour of Flanders in 2004, to Eddy Merckx’s gloves from 1974. The foreign riders who marked the history of the race are not forgotten either, of course. Pride of place is given to Tom Simpson’s Gitane from 1962, the year after his own victory in the race, while Fabian Cancellara’s jersey and helmet from 2010 are accompanied by a satirical cartoon reflecting the emphatic nature of his Easter Sunday victory.

As well as the array of jerseys, bikes and equipment on show, including the jerseys Tom Boonen wore en route to his back-to-back triumphs in 2005 and 2006, the museum is replete with presentations illustrating the facts and figures of the great race. The vital statistics of Flanders’ hellingen are all outlined, and those who grew up with the Muur as the emotional heart of their Tour of Flanders will wistfully note that the famous climb is afforded particular prominence in the museum, even though it no longer features on the route.

Some interactive features are also included on the tour. Visitors are encouraged to simulate parts of the race on a turbo trainer, while fans can also mount a podium to pose for a picture alongside cardboard cut-outs of Tom Boonen and Peter Van Petegem. Among the great and the good to clamber up the podium were UCI president Pat McQuaid and former TVM fastman Jeroen Blijlevens.

Poignantly, Freddy Maertens, one of the greatest Flemish riders never to win De Ronde, is an employee of the museum and provides guided tours on request. Indeed, the walls of the museum seem to breathe the history of the race that defines cycling’s most fervent heartland.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, therefore, that a list of the twelve greatest Tours of Flanders of all-time features twelve Belgian winners, from Gaston Rebry in 1934 to Stijn Devolder’s 2008 triumph. The first winner in Oudenaarde can expect to join them in the pantheon.