Saturday, April 7, 2007

2007 Ronde van Vlaanderen

Paris Roubaix is a tough race because of the threat weather poses. Already tough roads are made almost impassable by the slightest bit of rain, earning PR its name: Hell of the North. The Ronde van Vlaanderen (RvV) is equally as tough, but rather than the course surface, it's the hills and distance that make the RvV so brutal.

This year's Ronde takes place on April 8, 2007, and new for the 91st edition is the decision to eliminate the Koppenberg. Again. Following a makeover that produced a kinder, gentler Koppenberg, it was re-introduced to the fans' delight. Race organizer Win van Herreweghe explained that the surface shows broad gaps between the cobbles making the climb dangerous especially in wet conditions. Win commented, "We do not want to allow non-sporting elements to rule how the race unfolds."


So, there it is: the Koppenberg is too dangerous. I find it ironic that the Giro organizers purposely seek out progressively harder routes for each edition of the Giro, but the orgranizers of the RvV are seeking to make the route in essence easier. All in the name of sport? The condition of the cobbles never seem to cause concern among the PR organizers. I would argue they relish in the fact that PR is the toughest, nastiest one-day race. Undoubtedly, last year's RvV was epic, especially when many of the race favorites were forced to run the Koppenberg following a pile up. It was a "Flanders of old" in my opinion.

The 2007 Ronde will include 18 climbs, one more than 2006, and will feature the new climb Eikenmolen, which is a 610m hill with an average gradient of 5.9 percent. Organizers feel that the new climb and frequency of climbs in the last 80 KMs will be enough to insure a good race. I remember the disappointment from fans when the Koppenberg was on hiatus for its makeover, at least that omission was in order to preserve it for future races. This year's decision is different: Could it be curtains for good for the Koppenberg? I guess we will have to wait and see.


Photo of RvV courtesy Graham Watson

Originally posted on December 24, 2006

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was on the Koppenberg this year (2006) - just above where the picture was taken. Boonen and Hincapie rode it along with a handful of others, but most had to portage. Epic!

Radio Freddy said...

The power Boonen displayed was awesome and must have delivered a tough blow to the moral of the other riders. I bet the roadside view must have been an incredible experience, especially with the roar of the crowd and the opportunity to witness the "Flander of Old" first hand. Thank you for taking the time to visit BKW!

Anonymous said...

Aside from the great racing, the best part of the day was the reaction of the Belgian fans. They are passionate about their bike racing. And, the ones we spoke with seemed honored that Americans would travel to their country to see the RVV. My buddies and I will be going back in 2007.

Serge said...

Like Martin Heylen said yesterday on Belgan TV: whether you are pro or contra the Koppenberg, it will always stir emotions. And everybody would be on the tip of their chair to watch how the riders ride/walk over it. Personally, I'm not a Koppenberg fan. Could it be because it's the only hill I haven't yet managed to climb without setting foot on the ground? ;-D

Carson said...

I agree that the Paris-Roubaix organizers relish that race's brutal repuation, but didn't they re-route race a few years back for safety, by running the Arenberg section in the opposite direction?

Radio Freddy said...

Carson - you are right, I believe the reason was because the course was so dry. Running the Forest of Arrenburg in reverse sent the riders uphill slowing down the pace of the race. There is nothing soft about the cobbles of Roubaix.