After a five-year gap, the Muur van Geraardsbergen returns to the route of the 2017 Tour of Flanders. Another major change will see the start move from Bruges to Antwerp.
Taking place on Sunday April 2, the 2017 men’s Tour of Flanders will be 259.5km long with 18 climbs and five cobbled sections. The women’s race will cover a 153km version of the course.
From Antwerp the riders will head, via Linkeroever and Brecht, to Sint-Niklaas, which was the starting point for the race between 1977 and 1997. The first cobblestones of the day come as the riders pass through Herzele and Zottegem.
The climbing begins with the first ascent of the Oude Kwaremont after 115km and the route then takes in the Kortekeer, the Eikenberg, the Wolvenberg, the Leberg and the Berendries – plus the cobbled sections of Holle Weg and the Haaghoek.
The Molenberg, the Valkenberg and the Kaperij from last year’s route have been replaced by Ten Bosse, the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Pottelberg. The Muur, which is 1km long with an average gradient of 9.3%, is the eighth climb of the day and will come 95km from the finish.
“The Muur van Geraardsbergen is monumental in the world of cycle racing, and far beyond,” said race director Wim Van Herreweghe of Flanders Classics. “The return of this iconic climb is a win-win-situation for both parties: the Tour brings prestige to the city of Geraardsbergen; the Muur adds allure to ‘Flanders’ Finest’.”
“The walk to the Muur is a pilgrimage; awaiting the riders an intense ritual,” said Mayor Guido De Padt of Geraardsbergen, who somewhat bizarrely went on to describe the cobbled climb as “an ambassador for Flemish cycle racing.”
There are no changes to the race’s finale, which again centres on the Kwaremont and Paterberg. Herreweghe explained: “These last six climbs on the modern day route are typical Tour of Flanders climbs – they are all inclines on cobblestones. They produce an instantly recognisable and intense rhythm, which has yielded memorable finals in recent years.
“The most recent highpoint was only last year, in the jubilee 100th edition, when world champion Peter Sagan triumphed, forcing Fabian Cancellara to miss out on an absolute record. We just want to keep the last 75 kilometres as a feature of the race. Its instant recognisability should become a real race tradition.”