Altered 2014 Tour of Flanders route criticised

Decision to abandon original course

The much-criticised finale to the Tour of Flanders will be changed for next year’s race, organisers have announced.

Having undergone a significant makeover in 2012, the Ronde’s new parcours had been attacked in some quarters for its finishing circuit and long, flat sections in the latter half of the race.

The circuit will be scrapped for the 2014 edition, but the triple ascent of the Oude Kwaremont and the long, flat run to the finish will remain.

Fabian Cancellara detonated the 2013 Tour of Flanders on the final ascent of the Kwaremont. The cobbled ramp will feature three times in next year’s Ronde. pic: ©Sirotti

But with the iconic climbs of the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg – removed to accommodate the finishing circuit – still absent next year, the new route has not met with universal approval.

British former pro, Roger Hammond, who finished seventh in the 2010 edition of the Ronde, held on the original parcours, said the circuit introduced two years later and its proposed successor had broken the Ronde’s tradition.

He described the original decision to alter the course as “bizarre” and said it had “completely changed the face of the race”.

“I went to see the Tour of Flanders the first year with the new circuit and I haven’t watched it since,” Hammond told RCUK. “It’s changed it so much now that I don’t feel that I’ve got any connection to it.”

The British Classics specialist, a podium finisher at Paris-Roubiax and Gent-Wevelgem, and now the manager of Madison-Genesis, said the new course had shifted the focus of the race to the Kwaremont, a change in emphasis he compared to moving the Poggio to the 40km mark of Milan-San Remo.

Reigning champion, Fabian Cancellara, detonated this year’s Ronde on the final ascent of the Kwaremont, and the cobbled ramp will again feature three times next year.

The Paterberg, which the riders will tackle twice next year, remains among the final two climbs, and will be crested for the final time next year just 13km from the finish.

In a statement released on their website, organisers said: “We received many positive comments [on the route since 2012] but we also took criticisms to heart.

“When designing the new course, we have endeavoured to maintain the strong points and refine where necessary.”

The iconic Koppenberg is closer to the finish than ever before at just 45km from home, but Hammond described the continued absence of the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg as “a huge miss”.

“If you asked the professional riders, show me your number one iconic image of the Tour of Flanders, I would say a lot would choose the Bosberg or the Muur. It’s what people recognise. They’re the two iconic climbs of the race,” he said.

Having climbed the Koppenberg, the riders at next year’s race will also face Steenbeekdries, at 39km from home, the Taaienberg, which starts just two kilometres later, and the Kruisberg, a further two kilometres on.

The lengthy run-in remains after the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs, but without the finishing circuit which saw Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard) succeed last year.

The Swiss star is likely to start as favourite for the 2014 race, which will be held on April 6, 2014.

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