HERENTALS, Belgium (VN) – Just how big is De Ronde van Vlaanderen in Belgium?
Big enough to spawn a popular new weekly Belgian television program, titled “De Ronde,” a fictional drama, written and directed by Belgian writer/director Jan Eelen — the man behind the Flemish version of “The Office” — which intertwines multiple stories, all occurring on the day of the 2010 edition.
Each of the show’s nine one-hour episodes chronicles a different segment of the race, similar to the American series “24.” The series follows several characters, portrayed by top Belgian actors, demonstrating the way the race affects everyone from fans and the event’s workers to those with homes along the route.
To prepare for the show, Eelen placed cameras inside Quick Step and Omega Pharma-Lotto team cars during the 2010 race — as well as inside a VIP minivan, driven by former Belgian national champion Ludo Dierckxsens — splicing that footage, along with real-time race action, throughout each episode.
Over the past month the show has been on the cover of weekly magazine Humo, spawned a best-selling book, and was prominently featured over a two-page spread in Het Nieuwsblad’s 44-page 2011 Ronde van Vlaanderen Guide.
The eighth of the nine episodes airs Sunday following this year’s Tour of Flanders, with the final episode ending one week later, following Paris-Roubaix.