No topic has been as hotly debated in the off-season as the total revamping of the Ronde van Vlaanderen parcours. Cries of outrage over the exclusion of the climax-point of the race in recent history, the Muur in Geraardsbergen have been ringing all winter and show no signs of going away. But lets ignore the politics for the moment and focus on the facts of this years race.
The main change is the fact that Oudenaarde sought and were awarded the honor of hosting the race finish. Being situated right in the center of the flemish ardennes, to the west of the old finish in Ninove, the finale of the race naturally moved to the cluster of hellingen south of Oudenaarde. These hills have always been at the heart of the race and now their importance has increased even more as they lie closer to the finish.
Most comments on the new course have focused on it being much more brutal than in previous years, mainly because of the triple passes over the Kwaremont & Paterberg but how big is the change really? On the macro level the difference isn't huge. This year is 256.9km compared to 256.3 in 2011. The number of climbs is down from 18 to 16 this year. Listed cobble-sections are the same number and the dreaded Haaghoek is out this year. They hit the first climb after 70 kms last year, this year it comes after 109kms. From the last climb to the finish there are 13kms of flat compared to 12. All in all, on the surface the differences seem negligible. So what happens when you look closer?
Let's have a look at a side by side comparison of the climbs in 2011 and 2012:
- Tiegemberg at 70km
- Nokereberg at 80km
- Rekelberg at 127km 1. Taaienberg at 109km
- Kaperij 139km 2. Eikenberg at 115km
- Kruisberg at 154km 3. Molenberg at 129km
- Knokteberg at 164km 4. Rekelberg at 144km
- Oude Kwaremont at 171km 5. Berendries at 147km
- Paterberg at 175km 6. Valkenberg at 155km
- Koppenberg at 181km 7. Oude Kwaremont at 177km
- Steenbeekdries at 187km 8. Paterberg at 181km
- Taaienberg at 190km 9. Koppenberg at 188km
- Eikenberg at 194km 10. Steenbeekdries at 193km
- Molenberg at 209km 11. Kruisberg/Hotond at 208km
- Leberg at 216km 12. Oude Kwaremont at 218km
- Valkenberg at 225km 13. Paterberg at 222km
- Tenbosse at 232km 14. Hoogberg/Hotond at 229km
- Muur-Kapelmuur at 242km 15. Oude Kwaremont at 238 km
- Bosberg at 246km 16. Paterberg at 242 km