Flandrien Challenge - 2 days - day 1
Kick off the Flandrien Challenge by conquering the 9 segments in the Kemmelberg area. The roads of the Westhoek are an under-appreciated hotbed of cycling. On these muddy farm lanes, through the constant wind, Flandriens like Frank Vandenbroucke, Johan Museeuw and Johan Bruyneel honed their craft. After the appetiser we served up in the West, we send you along the river Lys to the cobbles northeast of Oudenaarde. Nokereberg serves as your entrance to the Flemish Ardennes and is followed by some of the longest cobble sectors of the region. Do Doorn, Paddestraat and Kerkgate ring a bell? After conquering the last of the 26 segments, you end your first day at the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen.Show larger map
The Lettenberg hill is a spur of the much larger Kemmelberg and is frequently the launchpad for attacks early in finale of Gent-Wevelgem. Pay attention on the descent, the road is full of holes in exactly the wrong places. A pause in Kemmel before the climb is worth it for a visit to Cafe Boutique, an excellent cycling cafe, with jerseys from Tom Boonen and Eddy Merckx amongst others.
This is the steepest and longest side of the Kemmelberg, with a maximum gradient of over 20%. Gent-Wevelgem used to descend this way but a Jeremy Roy crash in 2002 underlined the danger of using steep, tree shaded cobbled descents in the finale of a big race.Riding out of Kemmel, you turn right onto the stones which trick you into thinking the summit is just around the long left hand bend before kicking you in the teeth with the last 20% ramp before the summit at the Ossuaire built to honour the remains of some 5294 French troops killed in fighting over the possession of the hill, who's guns overlooked the entire Ypres Salient. Of these, only 57 were identified. It is the largest French military monument outside of France.
A short, paved climb with a maximum gradient of 12%. Situated on the flank of the Rodeberg and bringing you onto the main road just 100m before the right turn onto the Baneberg, this is one of the most beautiful climbs in the region. Before you go under the trees, make sure to take a look over your shoulder back towards Loker.
The Schomminkelberg is a climb which the professionals stay away from, despite it's popularity in amateur races. It is narrow and steep, gaining more than 65m over the last 1.1km - the deceptive average gradient of 4.4% includes the gentle pitch out of Westouter, but it's really in the last kilometer, including a ramp of 17% in the steepest section, where the climb does it's damage. You may wish to fortify yourself at the excellent frituur on the way out of the village. Westouter is also a great spectating point for Gent-Wevelgem and In De Zwaan is a great traditional Flemish cafe.
A very short and venomous climb or should we say 'wall' . Only 270m long, with an average incline of 9% and a maximum incline of 20%. If you manage to pull your eyes away from your front wheel, you will note the incongruous sight of a ski-lift above the road. This climb is used in Gent-Wevelgem and one of our favourites.
At 156 meters the Kemmelberg is the highest point in West Flanders. Named after the village of Kemmel on its eastern slopes, during World War One it was the scene of brutal slaughter, the roads up it's slopes were only constructed to allow the hauling of munitions up to the gun emplacements on top. Today, it is the showpiece of Gent-Wevelgem, one of the great Classics and whose two ascents of the Kemmelberg’s notorious cobbled pavement, or pavé, continued to court controversy. For if the riders must climb from the south-east the Kemmel twice, for a while they also had to descend down the northern face. With its 20 per cent gradient over unpredictable terrain, the Kemmelberg has witnessed some truly horrendous crashes.
NOW ENJOY A LONG STRETCH WITHOUT BERGS & COBBLES BEFORE HITTING THE NEXT 17 SEGMENTS
The last climb of Dwars Door Vlaanderen and the finale of Nokerekoerse: the only option here is to put the pedal to the metal and forge on ahead: a 350 m stretch, with an average gradient of 5.7% and the steepest incline at 7%, it was here that a touch of wheels in the sprint led to a huge crash for Mathieu Van Der Poel in the 2019 Nokerekoerse.
A 1450m long cobble section located in Wannegem-Lede and recognized by its windmill, dating to 1783. It was banned from the Ronde in 2008 when it fell into disrepair (although the organisers of the Sportif event had no such qualms in sending amateurs over it!) but now it's been cleaned up and makes for one of the best cobbled rides in the area. The open, flat section after the village is fast, with the wind normally behind you, and gives a great view of the surrounding country down to the Schelde.
A short cobblestone road runs straight through the adorable village of Mullem and leads you to foot of Den Ast. At the end of this slope you will find the castle of the Gerlache family, which is locally called the ‘Ter Ast’ castle. This climb has been used 5 times in the Ronde (1997-2000, 2010). A climb for the big ring.
The 2.260 meter long cobblestone road ‘Paddestraat’ is Flanders’ most well-known cyclist’s ‘scourge’. This present day bone rattler was once part of a Roman ‘Via’ between Boulogne-sur-Mer and Cologne. The Paddestraat became a well-deserved national monument in 1995. Here you will find the ‘Ronde van Vlaanderen Monument’, which lists the names of all Ronde winners since 1973, the year in which the Paddestraat was added to the parcours. The right hand bend after the railway crossing where you enter the cobbles was where Frank Vandenbroucke lost his bid for glory in 1999 after a brave attack with 150km to go in the company of teammate Philippe Gaumont. "Fresh" from a night out in Bruges that lasted until the early hours, Gaumont slid out on the bend and broke his wrist. VDB still managed to take second in the sprint.
The cobblestone section of the Lippenhovestraat is 'only' 1300 m long, and traditionally followed just after the cobbles of the Paddestraat in the finale of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. These days, it's the first cobbled sector of the new Tour of Flanders route. Time to put the hammer down.
The Kortendries may not have featured in the Tour of Flanders very often, but in 1990 it played a crucial role. World champion Moreno Argentin broke away from the select company of the head pack while the rest hesitated. The finish line was still 35km away. The only rider who took up the Italian’s gauntlet was Rudy Dhaenens. Both remained in the lead but in the sprint, Dhaenens proved no match for the world champion. Eight years later, Rudy Dhaenens was killed in a car accident on the day of the Tour of Flanders. He was on his way to the finish in Meerbeke, where he was to commentate for Eurosport.
The Molenberg was for a long time the first pivot point in the Ronde. Indeed, much hinged on the poor state of the cobblestones and the bottleneck that ensured when the peloton attacked the Molenberg. Two-time winner Peter Van Petegem always said: “If you’re not in the first 10 to take the Molenberg, it will take you at least half an hour to get back in front.” The Molenberg was also the place where Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara broke away from the pack in 2010. On that occasion, Cancellara went on to win the Tour of Flanders. This is a climb you want to hit hard.
2.550 meters of gently rising cobbles. The cobbles are not that nasty as their neighbouring sections but the grade of 3% will definitely hurt. This stretch is remembered for a moment in the 2015 Tour of Flanders where almost the entire favourites group took to the pavement amongst the spectators, except Ian Stannard who ploughed on through the middle of the cobble, oblivious. Attention Flandrien Challenge hunters: the markings on the road are currently wrong, but the Strava segment as integrated in our route is correct.Halfway along the Kerkgate is the cafe of De Witte Hoeve, which is one of the liveliest places to spectate Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, with the race passing twice and team staff handing up bidons on the pavement outside. Sometimes soigneurs can be seen sneaking a quick beer between passages.
With a maximum gradient of 'only' 10%, the Eikenberg looks fairly simple on paper, but the cobbles seem to go on for an awfully long time with no let up. There are bits and pieces of asphalt at the sides of the road as it climbs, offering a very brief respite to any riders who like things a bit smoother. The Eikenberg climb may not be as well known as the Oude Kwaremont or the Paterberg, but it plays a vital role in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as well as the Tour of Flanders.
The Volkegemberg was included 17 times (1974-1984, 1991-1996) in the Tour of Flanders. Until 1982 the slope consisted entirely of cobblestone road, after that it became an asphalt road with just200 meters of large, modern cobblestones at the top. At the moment the riders descend this slope and make a sharp right turn at the foot to start the climb of the Wolvenberg.