The Tour of Flanders is often called the world championships of Belgium, a region absolutely mad for bike racing, and any Belgian rider winning in front of home fans becomes a hero.
This weekend, the world championships was in Flanders, and the Belgian fans turned out in force.
An estimated 500,000 lined the fan-friendly course, which completed multiple short loops on two different circuits. Jumbo-trons were set up at multiple places on along the course, where food and beer vendors flocked to celebrate the first big event to be allowed in the area after COVID restrictions were only recently lifted.
VeloNews took a stroll around the Leuven course to capture the vibe from fans from around the world partying with each other on a warm fall day.
How much do you love beer? Enough to hand-stitch your own beer costume?
Eritrean fans, riding high from Biniam Ghirmay’s second place in the U23 race, were out in force on Sunday. Here, the Eritrean flag flies alongside French flags from Brittany and Vendée.
Leuven is home to the major Belgian brewery Stella Artois. Also, perhaps, home to Mr Studmeister.
Remember the massive crash on stage 1 of the 2021 Tour de France caused by a woman holding a sign? Yeah, so do these guys.
Yes, so are we.
After their beloved Tour of Flanders was held this year ‘behind closed doors.’ Flemish fans were happy to be outside again to soak in the race atmosphere.
Stella Artois sold a beer or two during the world championship race weekend.
Danish fans were smiling all day, as Michael Valgren raced to bronze.
But smiling even more broadly were French fans, as their man Julian Alaphilippe attacked his way into his second consecutive rainbow jersey.
Frites in Belgium? Oh yes, even for the Italian fans.
Wout van Aert’s fans were out in force around the course, from those with printed signs like this to those who had handmade signs draped from windows and balconies.
Riders completed eight laps of the Leuven circuit and two laps of the Flandrien circuit, giving fans plenty of opportunities to see the riders.
A rather stern Bavarian fan.
One of many groups of Eritrean fans in Leuven.
The world championships is a formal occasion, you know – it’s best to wear a (beer-holding) tie.
Variations on ‘the sign’ got a lot of mileage at worlds.
Mathieu van der Poel didn’t figure into the finale, but the Dutch had plenty of fans in Leuven.
World championship fans.
Peter Sagan’s loyal crew may well have the tallest flags and the tallest hats in the crowd.
Peter Sagan won three consecutive world titles, from 2015-2017. Alaphilippe now has two in a row.
Sunday in Leuven was a boisterous affair. Fans arrived in the morning and started partying early.
The 2022 worlds will be held in Wollongong, Australia.