Oudenaarde officially launches its bid for 2012 Ronde van Vlaanderen finish
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Oudenaarde officially launches its bid for 2012 Ronde van Vlaanderen finish

by Ben Atkins at 9:31 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Tour of Flanders
 
Flemish Ardennes city wants the race when Meerbeke’s contract expires

ronde van vlaanderenThe city of Oudenaarde officially launched its bid for the finish of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, when the contract current with Meerbeke expires after this year’s race. The bid was officially presented at a press conference at the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen, the official hub and museum of Belgium’s biggest race.

Most of the sport’s ‘monuments’, like Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, are place-to-place races, meaning their starts and finishes are fixed to the same towns (although Paris-Roubaix has never actually started in the centre of Paris and currently starts in Compiegne). The Ronde van Vlaanderen, much like the Giro di Lombardia, has no ties to a particular route and so has changed a lot over the years.

The very first edition of the race started in Gent, taking in a large loop of the region before finishing in Mariakerke, one of the city’s suburbs. The start stayed in Gent until 1977, when it moved to Sint-Niklaas, before transferring to the chocolate-box city of Brugge in 1998. The finish has similarly moved around, before settling in Meerbeke in 1973.

Oudenaarde sits in the centre of the region known as the Vlaamse Ardennen, where the majority of the most iconic climbs of the area are located. Currently, the mythical cobbled slopes like the Paterberg and the Kopppenberg are places where the race can be lost but are too far from the finish for it to be won; much like the Arenberg Forest in Paris-Roubaix.

A move to Oudenaarde would mean that these cobbled monsters could become the decisive points of the race. Conversely though, it would consign the Muur-Kapelmuur and the Bosberg, which are synonymous with some of the race’s most iconic moments, to the status of just another climb on the route.

"Moving the finish of 'Vlaanderens Mooiste’ would mean, among other things, suddenly ending the tradition of almost 40 years of having the Muur van Gerrardsbergen and the Bosberg as two last climbs of the race," said the town’s Mayor Marnic Demeulemeester, according to Het Laatste Nieuws.

The route proposed by Oudenaarde would instead end with the climbing of the Kruisberg, Hotond, Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont before passing through Kerkhove and Petegem. The finish line would be on the Minderbroederstraat, close to the Centrum, on the outskirts of the town.

"A change must first and foremost benefit the Ronde van Vlaanderen itself,” De Meulemeester continued. “Precisely because we are sure we will, we propose our candidature.

“The city Oudenaarde has numerous additional advantages among other tourist areas, its location and our reputation as bike town,” he added.

As well as Oudenaarde the town of Meerbeke, which has hosted the race finish since 1973, wants to continue to do so. The town of Ronse, a little over 10km south of Oudenaarde and the venue for the 1988 World Championships, has also thrown its hat into the ring.

“We are certainly not the only candidates; Ronse and Meerbeke are our competitors but we want to do everything possible to get the finish of De Ronde to here. That's also why we have set up a support committee. The award would happen just before July,” De Meulemeester concluded.

“We do not yet know the costs but Oudenaarde wants this; that much is certain.”

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