Flandrien Challenge - Day 3
There's no let up on Day 3 of the Flandrien Challenge, it may be "only" 142km long but today boasts almost as much climbing as Day 2 in addition to the legendary combination of Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg & Koppenberg. Just stay focussed on your personal monument and your place on the wall of fame!To concentrate on the three biggest names alone would be a mistake, however. The route contains no fewer than 23 climbs and the gradients on this route are consistently steeper than on the previous 2 days. If after the Koppenberg you still have the motivation to forget you're only 2km from the finish line and carry on to climb Steenbeekdries, the Taaienberg, Eikenberg and the lesser known but no less brutal Ladeuze, then you will have without doubt earned the title of a True Flandrien!
Situated close to the Tour of Flanders Centre, this is a great steep climb to start your ride. The climb was used 4 times in the Ronde (1998-2001). It's essentially a quieter and more direct route up onto the ridge that makes up the backbone of the Flemish Ardennes.The maximum gradient is 11% and you'll be rewarded at the top with a panorama of the surrounding countryside. A perfect introduction to Cycling in Flanders.
In 2002 the Tour of Flanders officially mentioned the climb in the race book. However, the hill has been climbed much more often. In the neighbourhood you'll find the Eikenberg, the Kokkerellestraat and the Boigneberg.At the top, you can take a pause in the cafe In De Groenen Boom. This family run bar sits at a crossroads which every Flemish races passes every year and, as such, is a hotspot for teams to take their VIPs to on race day and a great place to spectate.
“Unknown is unloved" and sadly, that is the fate of this magnificent hill, Foreest in Schorisse. The fact that Foreest has only been ridden four times in the history of the Tour of Flanders no doubt has something to do with it. We first discovered the hill during a training ride in the company of former world champion mountainbiker, Filip Meirhaeghe who lives in Schorisse. We were instantly taken. Even if the climb is just 700m long, it feels for a moment like you’re in the Ardennes thanks to the peace and quiet that surrounds it. Enjoy!
This is one of the signature cobblestone roads in Flanders. The cobbles in this two kilometre stretch are rough but what makes this road really special is how it sinks in the middle, causing a slight descent at the start and a rise at the end. The Haaghoek is featured in races such as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke and Tour of Flanders.
This asphalt climb is regularly featured in the Flemish spring classics. It's positioned immediately after the legendary cobbles of the Haaghoek. The Leberg is 700m long and has an average gradient of 6,1% with its steepest point, 14%, in a right-hand curve at the bottom of the climb. The climb connects to the last bit of the Pottenberg which is less steep, but runs exposed through fields and acres, causing wind to have a significant influence. Look out for the road graffiti in support of local riders that can be seen on your way up all year round.
Also known as 'Bosgat', this climb will definitely hurt. You start on cobbles but when the climb kicks in the cobbles are replaced by typical Belgian concrete road surface. The Kaperij was used a couple times in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and in the Omloop het Nieuwsblad. The max gradient is 8%.
Berg Ten Houte
Berg ten Houte is our newest cobbled climb in Flanders. This tough formerly paved climb was included 9 times in the Ronde van Vlaanderen between 1982 and 1990 and also part of the E3 Harelbeke, most recently in 2013.The local authority had Berg ten Houte rebuilt with cobblestones in spring 2018, for extra challenge!The Berg ten Houte is actually one of the oldest 'stone roads' in the Flemish Ardennes. Ever since Roman times this has been a connection between Wallonia and the Valley of the Schelde north of Maarkedal. Hopefully Berg ten Houte will be included again in the course of the Tour of Flanders, and this time as a cobblestone hill!
The 750m climb starts going gently uphill from the center of Ronse. The upper – and steepest – part of the climb has a roughly-paved cobbled surface, totaling 450 m of cobbles. The climb was first included in the Tour of Flanders route in 1973 and has become a fixed location in the route since the race's restyling in 2012. In recent years, it comes at 26 km from the finish in Oudenaarde, as the last cobbled climb before the iconic Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs. The Kruisberg is also regularly included in the Three Days of De Panne, E3 Harelbeke.
Schapenberg - Scherpenberg
This hill may be one of the lesser known of the Tour of Flanders, but it is one of the toughest and most challenging in the whole Flemish Ardennes. The Schapenberg is a narrow and winding climb of 1.5 km. The steepest part is on an incline of no less than 20%! Should your over-extended heart survive the shock of meeting the bad tempered German Shepherd near the top, who invariably barks at passing cyclists, you'll join the road at the top of the Hotond, the view (on a clear day) stretches out all the way to France. This is, in fact, the highest point of East-Flanders (145 metres).
Kluisberg - Bergstraat
The Kluisberg can be climbed from different directions but this one, via the Bergstraat, would be the classic route. The climb from Ruien was tackled 11 times (1955, 1966, 1997-2003, 2007, 2010 in )the Tour of Flanders. Until the 1960s this was a wide cobbled road, after which it became paved. Also other races such as Dwars door Vlaanderen and the E3 Prijs and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Kuurne included this climb in the parcours as well as the Women's Tour De France in the early 2000s where Nicole Cooke launched a solo attack that won her the second stage.On your right just as the climb begins is Jowan, one of the best-known bike shops in the region.
Three: that’s how many times riders must climb the famous Oude Kwaremont during the Ronde. The Oude Kwaremont is the longest cobbled climb of Flanders at 2200 meters long, and 92 meters of climbing. While it averages a nice “easy” 4% gradient it’s maximum gradient of 11.6 % lies in the middle of the climb – it’s not an easy feat to recover from that over cobbles. Indeed, if you fail to recover from it in time, you can consider a pause at In 't Palet on the corner of the village square.
It’s only a relatively recent addition to the Tour of Flanders, constructed in the 1980s on farmland by a landowner jealous of his friend's proximity to the Koppenberg every year, but the Paterberg has already achieved legendary status. With a maximum gradient of 20.33% and an average gradient of over 12%, it’s one of the steepest climbs in the region. The descent to the sharp right hand corner at the foot of the climb requires care and usually claims at least one victim every year on the Tour of Flanders.
The Kortekeer, a hill in Maarkedal, first featured in the Tour of Flanders in 1988 when the Koppenberg was removed from the route due to its condition at the time and the danger it posed. The Kortekeer, however, earned a long-standing place in the Tour of Flanders but faded into obscurity when the Koppenberg was once again included into Flanders’Finest in 2008. 1 km long, with an average incline of 6.4 % and an incline of 17 % at its steepest point, the hill is now a valuable addition to the middle of the race, being climbed after the first ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, the steep corner near the summit seems to serve as a launchpad for a doomed breakaway every year.
The ‘bump’ of Melden, as the Koppenberg is locally known, is guaranteed to add suspense to the Ronde, every year. Not surprisingly it has been listed as a national monument. This hill and over 100 acres of surrounding countryside add up to one the most beautiful natural hotspots in the Flemish Ardennes.The Koppenberg is also probably the most difficult climb in the region, combining maximum gradient of 20% with rutted, worn cobbles and a constantly greasy surface. There's no shame in having to stop. Better men than us have had to walk up here. Legend has it that the climb was introduced to the Tour of Flanders organisers by 2 time winner Walter Godefroot, but only after he'd retired so he wouldn't have to race up it.
The sequence of Mariaborrestraat - Steenbeekdries cobbled section is 1250m in total and includes the climb of Steenbeekdries. In the Tour of Flanders this is usually taken straight after the Koppenberg with a feed area on the slightly uphill N60, resulting in the fast, downhill cobbles of the Mariaborrestraat being littered with lost bidons and gels. After this segment you can take a left onto the descent of the dangerous cobbled Stationsberg.
This hill lives up to its name. Taaienberg literally means ‘tough hill’ and the reason for this name will become clear when you ascend its 530m stretch of cobblestones. This wasTom Boonen’s favourite hill to test his early season form on with an annual attack in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad earning it the name of 'Boonenberg'.
The Bovenstraat/Kouterberg was an official climb in the 1991 edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. It is also called "Kouterberg", but differs from the Kouterberg as used by the Ronde between 1984 and 1990. That was on the parallel road.The paved climb has a altitude difference of 45 meters, a length of 1,440 meters, an average gradient of 3,4% with a maximum of 9%. After 200 meters of climbing you will find the restaurant 'Het Genot at Den Berg' on the right-hand side of the road.
The Ladeuze is a steep climb in the Flemish Ardennes. The maximum slope is 15 %. Used for the first time in the Ronde in 2003 because of roadworks at the nearby Eikenberg, but features regularly in the women's classics. The climb has a super steep pair of bends about half way up and doesn't get much easier until you emerge on the main road between Oudenaarde and Brakel.