With Ronde van Vlaanderen this Sunday, we are taking a look back at some of the most memorable editions of the Tour of Flanders. The race usually favors the strongest riders, but tactics are critical at the end of an epic day of cobbled Belgian climbs. What can we learn from the history of this beloved monument classic? Here are five unforgettable editions.
1985: Mother Nature’s last laugh
The Koppenberg is slick on the best of days, even the dry days, when thin dust covers stones laid at 22 percent. Then it rains, and slick turns to impossible.
Oh, did it rain in 1985. It started as a drizzle — normal Belgian weather — then morphed into a downpour. Then it went biblical. Two hundred kilometers into the race, there were 50 riders left in the field. Only 24 finished, the smallest number in cycling’s modern era.
1992: Breakaway stuns the favorites
If you watched pro cycling in the 1990s and early 2000s, it was easy to catch a glimpse of Jacky Durand, often wearing a pirate-style bandana, always off the front in a suicidal attack. French magazine Vélo even tracked his kilometers in the break with a “Jackymètre.”
He rarely won out of those breaks, especially not on one of the biggest days of the season, a monument race, up against former winners such as Edwig van Hooydonck or Moreno Argentin, and champions in waiting like Johan Museeuw. But at Tour of Flanders 1992, an important appointment for those cycling superstars — among others — Durand’s Gallic pluck shown through and he rode the breakaway of his life to the first French victory since 1956 in De Ronde.
1998: Lion of Flanders roars for the last time
In the 1990s, the Ronde van Vlaanderen saw the emergence of classics powerhouse Johan Museeuw. Though his legacy was later tainted with doping allegations, no one was bigger or more commanding than the “Lion of Flanders” during his heyday.
During his run, he reached the Flanders podium eight times. Three of those finishes were victories, making him one of six riders to have a trio of Flanders wins.
His most emphatic victory was his last, in 1998, when he and his Mapei team pummeled the field into submission. Museeuw put down a searing attack on the Tenbosse and no one could answer.
2005: Tommeke’s first step toward legend
Tom Boonen finished third in his Paris-Roubaix debut in 2002. He won two stages of the Tour de France in 2004. Then, in 2005, the kid known as “Tommeke” took proper steps down the path to becoming a legend. He won the Tour of Flanders for the first time, and completed the double the following week by winning Paris-Roubaix. He later went on to win stages and the green jersey at the Tour, and then became world champion in Madrid. What a year. It all started in Flanders.
2012: New route, same winner
Let’s step into our time machines and zip back a few years. We find the peaceful Flemish region of Belgium overcome by chaos. Pitchfork-toting cycling fans surround the Ronde van Vlaanderen museum in Oudenaarde, demanding that the race’s new owners, Flanders Classics, return the decisive Kapelmuur and Bosberg climbs to the course (OK, I made that up). Goofballs stage a mock funeral for the departed climbs (that actually happened). Pundits question whether this new Flanders route — which includes three trips up the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont — is blasphemous. Former champions chide the new course, saying Flanders has lost its luster. Everyone wonders whether the Tour of Flanders has jumped the shark.
What nobody knows is that the updated Flanders route is so rad.