Oudenaarde or Ronse to host Tour of Flanders finish in 2012?
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oudenaarde or Ronse to host Tour of Flanders finish in 2012?

by Jered Gruber at 11:51 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
A move to either of the two cities would require a complete restructuring of the route of the race

2012 could see a very different route of the Tour of Flanders if some of the latest possibilities come to fruition. Following the 2011 edition, the contracts for both the starting city, Brugge, and the finishing city, Meerbeke (Ninove), will expire, thus opening up the floodgates for new possibilities for the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

According to Het Nieuwsblad, the towns of Oudenaarde and Ronse have both thrown their hats into the ring as possible finishes for Vlaanderens Mooiste (Flanders's most beautiful). Both towns, located centrally in the hilly section of Flanders known as the Vlaamse Ardennen, would necessitate a complete overhaul of the route if they were to be selected.

While the idea sounds intriguing, Flanders race director Wim Van Herreweghe insists to Het Nieuwsblad that this is only an idea at the moment. "Nothing has been decided. We are considering all possibilities. We won't look at next year until May, once the 2011 edition is behind us."

The possibility of a finale in the Vlaamse Ardennen is certainly intriguing, but it would go against years and years of tried and true race dynamics. There's no getting around it - the Tour of Flanders nearly always climaxes with the Muur van Geraardsbergen, and every once in awhile another one of the many hellingen will be the decider. A restructured Tour of Flanders with a finish in either Oudenaarde or Ronse would likely see one of the early cobbled menaces like the Oude Kwaremont, the Paterberg, the Koppenberg, or even a climb like the Cote de Trieu as possible deciders. While the chance at seeing the race come down to the Koppenberg is indeed tantalizing, the idea of completely revamping the route of the Ronde van Vlaanderen is one that the organizers will not take lightly.

"There is not only the matter of Meerbeke, but also the unique finale with the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg. The entire process will be studied. It is perhaps good to think through everything thoroughly."

It will be interesting to see if the organizers will change a finale that has worked for decades to include a new finale that will also certainly work as well. Is the magic of the Muur only in its place as the penultimate climb of the Ronde van Vlaanderen? To an extent yes, but look at the Koppenberg, fifty kilometers earlier in the race - it has a vaunted spot in the pantheon of the sport's most diabolical climbs, and it never decides the race.

It's an interesting thought, though objectively, unlikely. Tradition is hard to part with, and there's nothing more traditional than the 1-2 punch of the Muur and the Bosberg.


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