Tour of Flanders: Some facts about the Ronde
|March 28, 2012||Filled under 2012|
For the cycling geeks amongst you here are some facts about The Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen) which will be live on the big screen at the Gipsy Hill Tavern once everyone has braved London’s own cobbles and ‘bergs’. Some of these facts may even be true!
Back in the 40s the race was usually held on the same day as Milan–San Remo. Most of the top French and Italians went for that and so there was only a single non-Belgian winner before WWII.
The first edition of the Tour of Flanders in 1913 was 330 km and there were 27 riders. The race finished on a wooden track that circled a lake in Mariakerke. Ticket sales covered only half the prizes.
Prizes during the war years were whatever the organisers could get their hands on including boxes of razors, a stove, bottles of wine and cycling equipment. In 1938 there was a bonus of 100 francs for any rider who led by 30 minutes. The last four riders in 1949 were given bottles of massage oil. The prize for reaching the the top of the Kruisberg first in 1953 was a washing machine.
In the 1930s riders had to carry all their own equipment (including tyres) and would probably have seen their modern contemporaries as a bunch of wimps with their radios, spare wheels and air conditioned team cars. Riders were eventually allowed to accept a rain jacket, a spare tyre and a pump, but only in an emergency and at the referees’ discretion.
Irish classics legend Sean “King” Kelly claimed his failure to win the Tour of Flanders was the biggest dissapointment of his career. He was second several times was desperate to win it as he had lived in Belgium during most of his cycling career.
In 1984 only Phil Anderson and Jan Raas managed to reach the top of the Koppenberg without walking. Riders walking up this famous climb has often been a feature of the race. The Koppenberg has been dropped from the route several times due to safety concerns.
The final word goes to Walloon writer Paul Beving, and his tribute to his northern countrymen’s race:
La Ronde is as much part of the heritage of the Flemish people as the processions of Veurne and Bruges, the festival of cats at Ypres or the ship blessing at Ostend. This cycle race is the most fabulous of all the Flemish festivals [kermesses]. No other race creates such an atmosphere, such a popular fervour.
Our friends from The Flemish Representation in the UK will be taking part in The London Classic this year so feel free to check these facts with them!