The organisers of the Tour of Flanders have responded to criticism of the Ronde’s parcours by announcing a number of changes to the route of next year’s race. The circuit that was introduced in 2012 when the Ronde received a considerable makeover has been dropped, while a couple of lengthy flat sections in the latter part of the race have also been removed.
In a statement, race organising company Flanders Classics said: "We received many positive comments, but we also took the criticisms to heart. When designing the new course, we have endeavoured to maintain the strong points and refine where necessary."
The finishing circuit had been heavily criticised for changing the whole dynamic of the Ronde, as well as for the fact that including it meant excluding the iconic Muur and Bosberg climbs. Those two hills remain absent from the 2014 race, but the circuit has been substantially revamped.
The Oude Kwaremont still features three times – which is not surprising given the success of the huge VIP tent that is now erected alongside it – but the Paterberg now only features twice. These two hills remain the final pair on the route, which ensures the relatively lengthy run-in to the finish to Oudenaarde is unchanged.
Flanders Classics have responded to criticism of there being too many lengthy flat sections late in the race by re-ordering the climbs in the second half of the race. "Over the past two years riders’ attacking instincts have been tempered by the fear of some long, flat stretches in the last 100km. The decision to insert several short, flat sections should make the race more difficult to control. Attacking riders can now envisage staying away from the peloton’s grip. Over the last 150km, there is a maximum of 12 km between the cobbled sections and the hills," explained Flanders Classics.
The result of this makeover is a much more unrelenting finale in terms of the hills the riders will encounter. Now the first climb on the race after just 108km, the Oude Kwaremont is tackled again almost 100km later, followed by a first ascent of the Paterberg. From there the riders continue to the fearsome Koppenberg, which now sits just 45km from home, the closest it has ever been to the finish.
Following it in rapid succession are Steenbeekdries (39km from the finish), the Taaienberg (37km), the Kruisberg (35km), the Oude Kwaremont (17km) and Paterberg (13km).
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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