After the first edition of the “new and improved” Tour of Flanders, what is the verdict. Seven thoughts dominate for me:
- I’m not against experiments, and I commend the organizers for having the balls to try something new
- Yesterday, I never had the feeling I was watching the Tour of Flanders. It could have been any race, and at the end of it I didn’t feel that “wow, Boonen has just won the Tour of Flanders!” My feelings were more similar to a week ago, as if he’d won Gent-Wevelgem or the E3 Prijs.
- You’d think that by doing the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont three times, they become more important. But they weren’t. In the old version, it’s where the race started. There was always enormous participation about who is in front, how the road surface will be, etc. Now they had a trial run where it was still too early to do anything, and then a second and third run where you thought “hey, I’ve seen this before”.
- I felt real phantom pain for the Muur with about 40k to go. Of course the Muur was always much later in the race than that, but that’s where the anticipation would normally start. And I think people underestimate how much the Bosberg added to the original course, it’s not as steep and better paved than most of the others, but anybody who has ridden it knows it’s a terrible climb that late in the race. It often provided that wonderful tension of “can they still bridge up” and that was missing in this new format. Yesterday it was “out of sight, out of mind and out of the results list”.
- If you’re going to climb the Paterberg and the Oude Kwaremont three times each, wouldn’t it make sense to put 20 fixed cameras on those climbs and the 500m after so we can really see close-up what is happening? As it stood, the coverage was mediocre.
- Would it be possible to find a more depressing finishing straight? Seeing them ride that last kilometer there was only one positive thought popping into my head: “Thank goodness I don’t live there”. The old finishing straight wasn’t exactly in the most pitoresque spot in Flanders either, but this was rubbish.
- What was wrong with the original course again? If it was only about the money for the finishing town, that would be sad. If it was about creating a better venue for the VIPs, I’d think they’d rather see a good race once than a mediocre one thrice. The old course was pretty darn perfect, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that yesterday wasn’t as good.
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