Whoever said I should cheer up and look at the calendar earlier today was right...
OK, that map is next to useless, apart from proving that we do, in fact, have an official route for this year's Tour of Flanders. In fact, we may have had one for a week or so now (Yo Wielerland... respect!), though I haven't seen anything since the cryptic sneak-previews back in December. Actual, legible details on the flip:
First a little soundtrack for your reading enhancement. [h/t tgsgirl. Shocking, I know]
This is the list of hills. It's long.
|1 Tiegemberg 70 km
2 Nokereberg 80 km
3 Rekelberg 127 km
4 Kaperij 139 km
5 Kruisberg 154 km
6 Knokteberg 164 km
7 Oude-Kwaremont 171 km
8 Paterberg 175 km
9 Koppenberg 181 km
|10 Steenbeekdries 187 km
11 Taaienberg 190 km
12 Eikenberg 194 km
13 Molenberg 209 km
14 Leberg 216 km
15 Valkenberg 225 km
16 Tenbosse 232 km
17 Muur - Kapelmuur 242 km
18 Bosberg 246 km
For comparison's sake, last year included 15 official hellingen. The differences:
- The opening two climbing sequences are totally different. Last year there were no named climbs before 139km, so the Tiegemberg-Nokereberg are add-ons. The Nokereberg was most recently included in 2008; the Tiegemberg has been on the outs since 1996. Both are cobbled, but in the single-digit gradient range.
- The Rekelberg-Kaperij combo replaces the Den Ast from last year. The Rekelberg makes only its second appearance in the greatest sporting event ever anywhere. The Kaperij, I can find no record of, apart from a Ronde voor Oldtimers. I'm gonna hazard a guess that it's not especially hard.
- The only other change in hills is the revival of the Valkenberg, in place of the Berendries. I'm not sure how much of a difference that makes. The two are comparable 7-8% types, free of cobbles. Berendries is 400 meters longer, but the beauty of the Valkenberg has always been its placement -- good place to jump before the Muur -- so to me this isn't much of a change.
The other factor, of course, is cobbles, and the good folks at Flanders Classics have beefed those up too, although again in the early stages. After the Oude Kwaremont the mega-sectors are the same, still bunched around Markedal to some degree and with the uber-nasty Haaghoek sandwiched between the Molenberg and Leberg. Now, however, prior to the Oude Kwaremont there are four mega-sectors, not two. I can't read the names very well, but I count a total of eight sectors before the shootout at the O.K. Kasseien, versus seven last year. So it's harder by any measure you want to use.
Except distance. The riders' reward for a few extra km of climbs and a few more km of cobbles is a 5km shortcut somewhere, as the total distance is down to 258.
What does it all mean? Strategically, not much. But if you're racing here or just planning one of the Ronde Toerism rides, well... train harder.
Photo by Chris Fontecchio for the Podium Cafe