This is a partially recycled post from last year, where we introduced the Wong-Baker Pain Scale to rate the climbs of the Tour of Flanders. Much of the text -- as with the race -- remains the same, though there are a total of 16 climbs this year, one less than 2008, thanks to the removal of the first two minor events and the replacement of the Berg Ter Sterne around KM 200 with two pretty tough climbs, the Eikenberg and the Varent. For my money this course seems a wee bit tougher than last year, based on those substitutions alone. Anyway, here is your guide to the course, complete with the faces evoked by each climb. For more info see the all-in-one Roadbook from the official site. On the flip...
Under a half-kilometer, but ramps of 14% on the cobbles, which make up most of the slope. 1: hurts a little bit
645 meters on asphalt... but up to 17%, and 8%v average. Preceded by 3km of cobbles, and another 1.4km right after. 2: hurts a little more
- Oude Kwaremont
Ah, now things start heating up. This climb, included every year since 1974, comes at about the 182km (of 260) mark, and after a mellow stretch. It's business time. The climb itself is the day's longest, 2.2km, with 1500 meters of cobbled ramps topping 11%. 2: hurts a little more
All of 360 meters... but averaging 13%, all on cobbles, maxing out over 20%. Right after the Oude Kwaremont. 3: hurts even more
Needs little introduction. One of the hardest climbs in the world of Cycling. As for numbers, 600 meters, 11.6% average, maxing at 22%. Some of the ugliest cobbles in Flanders, only recently deemed safe enough to ride. Guys will be walking. 5: hurts worst!
By itself, this could rate a zero: 700 meters at a steady 6.7%. But all cobbles? So close on the heels of the Koppenberg? 2: hurts a little more
Really only about 200 meters or so of serious (15%, cobbled) climbing, but bunched closely with the last two entries here, that's enough. 4: hurts a whole lot!
New! Well, not exactly, but back in the game, paired with the Varent and replacing the Berg Ter Sterne. The Eikenberg itself features 1.1km of all cobbles, averaging 6.2% and topping out at 10%. The issue is the succession of climbs: Steenbekdries at km 195, Taaienberg at 199, Eikenberg at 203, etc. A lot of guys will disappear in this stretch. 3: hurts even more.
A mere 900 meters at 5% with a max of 10. Bigger fish to fry and all, but it won't provide any rest. 2: hurts a little more
Hm, gotta wonder when the collective nerve of the pack will break. The short ramp here of 14% ain't nuthin, but it's paved, and the rest of this climb is mellow enough to produce a mere 4% grade. 2: hurts a little more
The pressure will surely be on by now. Just under 1km at a steady 7%, on pavement. 3: hurts even more
Steeper but shorter than the Berendries, with ramps up to 12.8%. But race-winning attacks have been seen here often enough, which means this hill will be climbed at a ridiculous speed. More than any other hill, the race factor changes how the hill would score on its own. 4: hurts a whole lot.
A cut below the Valkenberg: 455m at 6.4%, paved. The race will be going so fast, the leaders might barely notice it. 3: hurts even more
First Second time in De Ronde. 610 meters at 6% doesn't sound like much, but it starts easy and keeps getting worse (12.5%). This will be a huge strategic moment, and the racing will be immense. 4: hurts a whole lot!
- Muur - Kapelmuur
Needs little introduction. 453 meters, over 9% avg and 19.8% max. There will be blood. 5: hurts worst
At this late in the game, everything freaking kills. Plus, urgency will be off the charts, and there's 3-400 meters of 11%. 4: hurts a whole lot