Tom Boonen has expressed regret that the Muur van Geraardsbergen has been removed from the route of the 2020 Tour of Flanders but he said that the unprecedented October edition might be the right time to experiment with a shorter version of the Ronde.
The Tour of Flanders was postponed in April due to the coronavirus pandemic and has been rescheduled for October 18. On Friday, Flanders Classics announced that the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Tenbosse have been removed from the route, which is now 241km in length rather than 267km. Gent-Wevelgem has been shortened to 238km, while reduction have also been made to Brabantse Pijl and Scheldeprijs.
“If the Ronde is much more attractive this year, it could well be made shorter in the future,” Boonen told Het Laatste Nieuws.
“The Classics and all races are going to be shortened, because more races are going to be ridden in an exceptionally short space of time. The Muur is a victim of that. When the Muur was removed from the Ronde in the past, there was also a lot of debate. It’s no different now.”
Boonen twice won the Tour of Flanders on its old finale over the Muur and Bosberg, and he went on to become the first winner on the new finale over the Kwaremont and Paterberg in 2012. The Muur was restored to the route after a five-year absence in 2017 and although it featured some 95km from the finish, it proved to be a key moment in the race, as Boonen helped to split the peloton and tee up teammate Philippe Gilbert for a dramatic solo victory. “It's always an interesting moment in the race,” Boonen said.
While Boonen echoed Oliver Naesen in expressing a preference for the longer distances of the Monuments, he noted that a shortened Ronde would offer more riders a chance of claiming victory in Oudenaarde on October 18. He pointed to the example of E3 Harelbeke, noting that the Ronde favourites often race “more intensely” on that shorter distance.
"Of course, I'd rather if all races kept their fixed mileage,” Boonen said. “We're going to get a race with another story. In the Tour of Flanders and other top classics, there are riders who can make a difference in that last hour. But now, in races of about 220 kilometres, there will be maybe ten percent more riders with a chance of victory.
“Everyone likes everything to stay the same. But I know from experience that a shorter race can sometimes be harder than one of 260 kilometres, in which the riders save themselves for longer. It gets interesting. Maybe lessons can be learned. And this is a special year. If there's a time to try something like this, it's now.”
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