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Greetings from Torhout! The Ronde Village Thru Patrick Verhoest's Lens

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Part of the celebration of the Tour of Flanders is the "Dorp van de Ronde" designation, whereby the race organizers designate one town along the route for some special festivities, as a way of highlighting how individual villages contribute to de Ronde. This year's selection is pretty special: Torhout, in West Flanders, not far from Brugge where the race starts. Torhout is famous in Flemish racing for being home to Karel Steyaert, better known under the pen name Karel Van Wijnendaele. All he did was found SportWereld in 1912 and take the lead in creating the inaugural Tour of Flanders in 1913. His writings did a lot to promote the "Flandrien," the unheralded, hardscrabble cyclist who perseveres through the hardness of Flemish life and the racing that characterizes the area. Van Wijnendaele is unquestionably the godfather of de Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Torhout is also home to our Patrick Verhoest, who has gone out for a look around his hometown as it readies for Sunday's celebration. Op de flip!

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If there was any doubt about who the celebration is focusing on, here's the official signage. That's Van Wijnendaele's image surveying his creation. More on Karel:

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This is a classic photo from the earliest editions of the race. Van Wijnendaele is the figure on the right, and in the background is the Wijnendaele castle, center of the village (part of the Torhout district) from which KVW drew his pen name. The man, the myth... he's sort of everywhere at the moment.

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And my favorite...

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Like I said, he's everywhere. Also everywhere are the classic Flemish-style cartoon paintings of the various cyclists. Here's a sampling to hold you over:

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Nice to see Grace Verbeke get some love. Here's another local boy, crosser Klaas Vantornout:

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The rest speak for themselves, though what message they convey isn't always clear...

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You could just go to the pub...

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Or you could go to the museum...

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There are dozens more draping the village in art, but you get the idea.

Photos by Patrick Verhoest