Het Volk comes home after 12 years

A massive crowed gathers at the start in Gent.

A massive crowed gathers at the start in Gent. (Image credit: Stijn Vercamer)

For the first time since 1995 the opening classic of the year, Het Volk, which takes place in Belgium, will start and finish in Gent according to sportwereld.

The 63rd edition of the race, that will be held on the Saturday, March 1, has been dramatically altered from its current format. For 2008 the race will begin with a 70-kilometre flat section before the riders will face the first obstacles of the race. In just 40 kilometres riders will face five typical Flemish hills and one cobbled section. Riders will then face a flat section before the finale of the race starts. Five more hills and an equal number of cobbled sections in the last 55 kilometres will sort out the strong from the weak and should provide a worthy winner.

The 'oude Kruisberg' marks the beginning of the finale for the event and is followed by the 'Donderij' and 'de Hof ter Fiennestraat' cobbled sections. The Taaienberg, Eikenberg and the Wolvenberg are also included. The last climb, the 'Molenberg', comes with 39 kilometres remaining. In total there are 11 hills and 16 kilometres of cobbles.

"The finish line lies almost on the same spot as where the second stage of the Tour de France finished this year. It is ridden in the other direction and is slightly uphill," said Christophe Peeters, Gent's minister of sport.

"This race belongs here [in Gent]. We can now speak of Gent-Gent, even if the organisers would rather hear it called Het Volk. Traditions are there to uphold, so this race should start and finish in Gent," Peeters concluded.

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