MILAN (VN) — The 2017 Tour of Flanders will return to the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen, or the Kapelmuur climb, and will start in Antwerp instead of Brugge.
The cobbled climb marked by the chapel, or “kapel,” at the top was the penultimate and often deciding climb in recent years of the race. Fabian Cancellara dropped Tom Boonen on the climb to power away to his win in 2010.
Organizer Flanders Classics took over the race in 2011 and a year later, in a controversial move, changed the finish from Ninove to Oudenaarde and added in loops around well-known climbs Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg. This April, world champion Peter Sagan of Tinkoff dropped Sep Vanmarcke of LottoNL – Jumbo on the last climb and soloed away for the final 13.2 kilometers of the 255km monument.
The re-routing meant the race skipped the Kapelmuur in Geraardsbergen for the last five years. Part of the reason in doing so was that the organization could not find space on the Kapelmuur to set up VIP tents like the ones that now blanket the Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs every year.
Instead of being one of the deciding climbs, the Kapelmuur is likely to start the final act of the 2017 Tour of Flanders. The organizer said Friday it would be the eighth climb.
“The first decisive crossing in the racers’ titanic clash,” Flanders Classics explained. “It’s a strategic location that the racers will undoubtedly mark with an ‘X’ on their battle plans; and that at only 100 kilometers from the finish.
“The last 75 kilometers remain unchanged from the year before. Thus the finale will once again be comprised of Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Koppenberg, Steenbeekdries, Taaienberg, Kruisberg and for a final [circuit], the Oude Kwaremont Paterberg duo.”
Instead of postcard-perfect Brugge, the race will set off from Belgium’s international port city of Antwerp in the north. Flanders Classics agreed to a deal with Antwerp for the next five years, through 2021. The city already hosted a Tour de France stage last year and nearly 100 years ago, the 1920 Olympics.
“Antwerp combines hip ambiance with gorgeous historical surroundings, something the Tour of Flanders has no trouble identifying with,” race director Wim Van Herreweghe said.
The race has started in Brugge since 1998. Before that, Sint-Niklaas (1977-1997) and Ghent (1913-1976) hosted the start.
“A detailed guide to the new route will be available after summer, but naturally we can already give a sneak peek,” Van Herreweghe added. “After the start in Antwerp, a flat approach along Herzele and Zottegem follows in the direction of Oudenaarde, for an initial pass over the Oude Kwaremont. Next comes a series of inclines in the approach to the Muur van Geraardsbergen, back after its last sighting in 2011.”