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The essence of 'de Ronde'

Waiting for the bunch

Waiting for the bunch (Image credit: Sirotti)

As the season heads into the heart of the Spring Classics it's time to focus on Belgium and a race which captures the imagination of most cycling enthusiasts - the Tour of Flanders. Cycling historian Les Woodland takes a look at what makes de Ronde van Vlaanderen so special.

I bet your local bike race doesn't have rock-style merchandise. But that's because it's not the Tour of Flanders, the race that belongs to Belgium and the people of the bike-crazy north. Because as everyone knows, heaven keeps a special place for Flandrians who win.

So, you want to time the break? What better than your own Ronde wristwatch from Rodania, including "a sport version provided with hour, minute and second hands, date, heavy rust-free metal body, shock-resistant mechanism and shatterproof glass, tested at 100 metres below water, equipped with massive rust-free steel strap with double slot for safety"? Or perhaps you're better at guessing the future than timing the present. OK… name the first three in the right order and you'll receive a hefty prize from Eddy Merckx. But be warned: you'll be one of more than 80,000 sending a prediction to Het Nieuwsblad, the organising newspaper.

The Tour of Flanders was the invention of Karel van Wijnendaele, sometimes known as Karel Steyaert. He was born in 1882 and became a bike racer and journalist who for 20 years ran Belgium's team in the Tour de France.

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