Tour of Flanders returns to Antwerp

Tour of Flanders returns to Antwerp

Road  15/02/2024

After the start in Bruges last year, in 2024 it is once again Antwerp’s turn to host the Tour of Flanders. The course is undergoing a number of changes for safety reasons, but the finale, with a leading role for Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont, remains unchanged for both the men’s and women’s races. As usual, the finish of both races is on Minderbroedersstraat in Oudenaarde.

On Sunday 31 March, the starting signal for the 108th Tour of Flanders for men will once again be heard in Antwerp, which hosts the Tour alternately with Bruges. As in previous editions, the teams will be presented to the general public on the Grote Markt. What is new, however, are the neutralised kilometres. A new exercise was carried out in this regard and in contrast to previous editions starting from Antwerp, the peloton will not be heading straight away to the Linkeroever this year.

“The riders will be cycling neutralised for around 5 km right through Antwerp city centre,” says Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel. “From Steenplein, we head to the Oudaen and then cycle along the Meir. The latter will undoubtedly produce some exceptional footage. At Operaplein, we ride towards Italiëlei and then on to the Waasland tunnel. With this altered course, the official start is still on Antwerp territory. At the Galgenweel on the Linkeroever, the flag goes up.”

The route to the Flemish Ardennes looks different to that in 2022. A conscious choice, explains Race Director Scott Sunderland: “The changes in the first 100 km are safety-related choices. We have been looking even further for wide roads so that the peloton has more space in which to build up speed. The edition from Bruges, where we carried out a similar exercise for the opening hours of the race, showed how these wide roads led to high averages in the opening hours. That speed ultimately helped to determine the shape of the race and the strategic choices of the teams.”

In those first 100 km, the peloton also travels through the Tour Villages, where a guard of honour traditionally awaits the riders as they pass through. There are five of them this year: Sint-Niklaas, Hamme, Haaltert, Herzele and Zottegem. With the latter, the peloton will end up reaching the Flemish Ardennes. The last two Tour Villages will also be welcoming the women. As usual, they start their 21st edition from the Markt in Oudenaarde.

The changes in the first 100 km are safety-related choices. We have been looking even further for wide roads so that the peloton has more space in which to build up speed
Race Director Scott Sunderland

The ultimate finale of Flanders’ Finest starts as usual with the Koppenberg, some 45 km from the finish. Unlike in previous years, the men and women will be taking the same route to the Bult van Melden this year. Race Director Scott Sunderland explains: “We have opted to change the approach for the men and to make it the same as the one for the women. A choice for equality, but above all for reasons of safety. To be specific, this change means that after the first climb of the Paterberg, the riders will cycle on roads where it is easier to keep track of things. We are making the approach to the Koppenberg more straightforward and are taking out the descent and sharp bend just before the climb.”

With this change, the cars in the women’s race can follow the same detour as for the men’s race and team leaders can assist their riders all the way to the foot of the Koppenberg. Moreover, with this change, the organisation is eliminating a few points where the race had threatened to stall in recent years. “These situations were becoming too dangerous,” Sunderland continues, “and safety is our highest priority. Furthermore, we also want to adapt our course to the way in which the peloton races. We want to anticipate and continue to develop the Tour to better serve the riders. And that is what we are doing with this change, but it does mean that both the Kortekeer and the Kanarieberg will not be included in the course this year. But we are adding the Kapelleberg.”

From the Koppenberg, an identical finale to the finish in Oudenaarde awaits both the men’s and women’s peloton. The traditional sequence of Mariaborrestraat, Steenbeekdries and Stationsberg leads on to the Taaienberg. Then it is via the Oude Kruisberg/Hotond towards the pivotal denouement on the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. The finish is 13 km away on Minderbroedersstraat in Oudenaarde. According to the earliest schedule, the men are expected to arrive at around 16:29. As in previous years, the women finish after the men, meaning that their finale can once again be watched on prime time TV. The denouement of their Tour of Flanders, according to the fastest schedule, is expected to be around 17:44.

All information can be found at www.rondevanvlaanderen.be.

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