7 thoughts on Flanders

April 2, 2012

After the first edition of the “new and improved” Tour of Flanders, what is the verdict. Seven thoughts dominate for me:

  1. I’m not against experiments, and I commend the organizers for having the balls to try something new
  2. 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.
  3. 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”.
  4. 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”.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below and subscribe to the blog for future posts.

25 Responses to “7 thoughts on Flanders”

  1. You are spot on in my opinion! I wrote a blog venting about it and while I enjoyed the race yesterday it totally felt flat compared to the old course. That is not an I told you so but just a judgement based on what I witnessed as well. http://keepthemuurandbossberg.blogspot.com/

  2. Anaxrasson Says:

    And how is now the Koppenberg becomming ? Years ago you could do something, now it’s just the first of the 3 laps.

  3. racepace Says:

    I rode the sportive on Saturday, and I rode the old course 2 years ago…

    I thought the sportive was run alot better this year, the start and finish in Oudernarde was much better for the sportive.

    I missed the Bosberg and the Muur on the ride, I felt like it was the tour of flanders but I cheated a bit and missed those two out if that makes sense. The course was still hard though and the climbs in the second half came thick and fast.

    The race? I agree with alot you have said I’m not sure 3 climbs of the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg worked, they just looked slower each time? when you climb it once it looks really hard when you are going slow, when you just get slower each time it looks a bit rubbish.

    The race was a good race and had plenty of drama and highlights but the run in did spoil it, head wind on pan flat road in pretty much a straight line! DULL!!!

    They would have been better to call back at the Koppenberg or make it the last climb, it’s 5k closer to the finish town and that could have made for a much better finish.

    I like the idea of a bit of a change, but I reckon they need to tweak again for next year, needed something big a bit closer to the finish for me?

    • Yes, that could work, of course the problem is you only have one Ronde a year so your experiments are limited and when you’ve got it wrong, you just f’d up the best race of the year. They should do what they do for the Olympics, have a test race on a new course rather than immediately changing the big one to a new course.

      • racepace Says:

        agreed, test event would be the way to go, the action was far to far from the end this year. That road in was a killer in the head wind and so dull…

        Coming in from the other side of town through the streets from the Koppenberg would be much better, last hill is closer and the streets and junctions would encourage attacks… yesterday it encouraged track stands!

  4. Bob Says:

    totally agreed with your #2…. it just felt yeah, empty.
    the lightside of this is that it is easier for them next year to make a better one than this…

  5. Claudia Says:

    Yes and yes!

  6. trounder Says:

    I was looking forward to reading everyone’s opinion about the finishing straight. I kept thinking I was watching the end of a race in China or Dubai or something.

    • I literally felt it was too straight, if that makes any sense. The old finish had the bend in it that kept the pace higher and by the time they slowed down after making the bend there was not much time to set up a sprint like yesterdays drag race finish.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    The finish was a bit rubbish without Cancellara. I agree this year TVV had another feeling, without the Muur.

  8. John Tidyman Says:

    Totally agree, I was on the Muur last year and the Kwaermont this year and in spite of watching hen pass three times the atmosphere was sterile. Also, the loss of Cancellara killed the race as no one tried a mad break for victory – rather they all tried hard not to lose.

  9. Chuckk Says:

    I actually enjoyed this years route.

    Firstly the sprint. 3 men, one hopeless sprinter – who had to try and get away and did try in fairness, the race favourite and home town hero and a guy who was a bit of an unknown quantity in terms of form but many believed could pull an upset. Made for some interesting cat and mouse stuff and was an example of good selection caused by the route.

    I found that the anticipation that the course provided was excellent. You had the small group go off the from the second time up the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont, working well together getting a bit of distance, then being caught by the chasing pack with at the foot of the final climb repeat. Sagan looked like he would get back in contention as did others. The 3 strongest on the day put in an attack and manage to stay away. That is a decisive enough climb for me.

    It was awful seeing Cancellera and others crash but I’m not sure he was riding Boonan, Pozatto or Ballan off his wheel up the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont. Likely would remain a Boonan win in a wheel sucking last 10km.

    If anything dulled the race it was the strength of Omega Pharma Quickstep. The fact that they had 3 in the top 10 and that all the moves in the chasing pack were covered by OPQ and BMC dulled the threat of the chasing peloton.

    Lastly, I was a bit saddened to see people complaining about the finale 40km from the end of the race. Seemed like minds were made up. How could it be any other race with the amount of Left, Right, Left, Right, Narrow Roads, Cobbles and steep sharp climbs other than RVV.

    • Fair enough. I didn’t think the racing was necessarily bad, and definitely there was enough drama. I just thought it lacked the crescendo of having these climbs with different characters that used to make up the race. side different climbs meant that you were never quite sure if the relative strengths wouldn’t be a bit different on the next climb. Now you see who goes up well on the two climbs that matter, and you see them do it three times.

      And yes, OPQS had 3 in the top 10 but that group that contained two of them also contained plenty of others. On top of that, I think the end showed that team strength matters little, you can either get up those climbs with the best or you can’t. The team strength was on full display with 40k to go, but anybody making a move then was too early anyway.

      • Chuckk Says:

        I agree with the point that there is a lack of variance with the same two climbs being used three times. I felt that the circumstances of the second pass of the climbs (with Van Summeren’s fall into the barrier and subsequent hold up of the bunch which lead, in part, to the first split) and the fact that the bunch caught the leaders for the final ascent made it interesting. Did they get separated because of the crash? Have the people in the group conserved more energy?

        The third time up brings with it, the Classic’s fatigue. That is, the distance and difficulty taking its toll unexpectedly. Like Boonan nearly losing the wheel of Pozatto. If he wasn’t back to best maybe he is out the back, maybe he can organise the chase group etc. Point being, the racer’s ride the course given and are the ones making it as difficult as it is.

        The Muur is iconic and has a wonderful natural atmosphere to it because of the way fans can gather on it. I think that getting to the Muur and getting from the Muur to the finish lacks something (which maybe that climb makes up for). I thought this course went some way to change that.

        Something like having the final circuit being the third last and final climbs, being separated in the middle by some other (forgive my lack of local geography – insert suggestion here) could be a compromise.

        ps I don’t think Van Avermaet, Chavanel and Terpstra will get enough credit for disrupting the final chase!

  10. There is so much wrong with the final circuits that I don´t know where to begin. But money talks doesn´t it? There´s no way to keep the race from finishing in Ouedenaarde for the next 5 years, so please change the 3 laps to a maximum 2 of Kwaremont and Paterberg and for instance do the Oude Krusberg with the cobbles before the lap lap, just before the Hootond. Let me just say in the end, if no one understood it earlier, I really prefer the olg route with the Kapeelmuur and Bosberg before the finish.

  11. Col Says:

    Had Fabian been in the chase group it may have ended up the most exciting race of the year?

    That said, I think that you don’t fix what ain’t broken. The old course is iconic. It would be like changing Roubaix (again) so that it didn’t finish at the velodrome.

  12. Reno van Dael Says:

    Gerard.. agree on most arguments. The arguments given by Wouter VDH was that on the old course, there’s two long sections where nothing really happens, where dropped riders can come back and not many folks alongside the road. That’s between the hills and the Muur and between the Muur and Meerbeke. There’s a point here.. not always would the strongest win (Nuyens, for example, with respect).
    Now, would that be a good reason to make the finale harder? It’s an arbitrary question, to which each will have his or her own answer.
    Change is good and sometimes needed or desired (inclusion of La Manie in MSR, for instance). Here, I really enjoyed the race, it was exciting, but yes, it didn’t feel like Boonen won the Ronde, the big Monument.

    • I understand that you don’t want too much space between the last climb and the finish, but was the Bosberg really farther from the finish than Sunday’s final climb?

      • racepace Says:

        even if the Bosberg was further away, the run in this year was super dull! too wide, too few features, the old run in to Ninove was better, even though it wasn’t exactly as exciting as the finish to the Strada??

  13. The only way to make that finish straight exciting would be to build a cover over it and make it a faux tunnel. Imagine them going in at the 1km point and coming out with 150m to go!

  14. […] am glad it wasn’t just me. Gerard Vroomen has similar thoughts to mine in his latest blog post. Would it be possible to find a more depressing finishing straight? Seeing them ride that last […]

  15. Tom Barrows Says:

    GV – The race directors experimented and failed, ostensibly by a lot of the points you made. On the other hand, I think most experiments are doomed to failure, it is the nature of the beast. Now we’ll have to wait and see if the race directors have a “bigger set of balls” and acknowledge their error and reset Flanders 2013 to the old course. -tom

  16. ctopher08 Says:

    I have nothing against it. It’s a race, a little change makes it more exciting!

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