The 2017 edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen will feature an extra sector of cobblestones as race organisers try to increase the number of possibilities in the final phases of the Belgian classic.
The 200km outing in the Flemish Ardennes, starting in Roeselare and finishing in Waregem, features several of the climbs and cobblestones seen in the Tour of Flanders, and in recent years the final difficulty has been the Nokereberg, topping out with eight kilometres to go.
In this year’s race, Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet attacked ahead of the Nokereberg and rode solo into Waregem, but was cruelly caught by the reduced peloton 200 metres from the line, whereupon Jens Debuscherre took the sprint.
From next year, Dwars door Vlaanderen is stepping up to WorldTour level, and the organisers are introducing a detour to add an extra selective element in the form of an 800-metre stretch of pavé. The final five kilometres will still take place on wide, tarmacked roads, but organisers hope the small change will increase the chance of the race situation fluctuating in the closing kilometres. The rest of the course remains largely unchanged.
Wouter Vandenhaute, head of the Flanders Classics collective of races, also confirmed that Dwars door Vlaanderen will take place on the Wednesday before the Tour of Flanders from 2018 onwards.
Organisers of the Three Days of De Panne, which currently occupies that slot, vented their anger over the proposed move and expressed their desire to hold onto their slot.
Vandenhaute, however, wants to capitalise on Dwars door Vlaanderen’s promotion to the WorldTour to attract a stellar field full of riders who’ll be battling it out for victory at De Ronde.
"In 2018 Dwars door Vlaanderen is the Wednesday before the Tour of Flanders - there is no discussion about that," he said.
He even suggested the race could be shortened to make it a more attractive pre-Flanders proposition.
"Perhaps the time is ripe to have a WorldTour race under 200 kilometers," he added. "A shorter course is a way to keep the same riders over here in that period."