The revamped Tour of Flanders route met with a mixed reaction when it was unveiled in November. Argued to be better than the initial 2012 revamp, there are still the purists who long to see the Muur and the Bosberg return. But on its first showing, the new finishing circuit certainly provided plenty of edge-of-your-seat drama. The Koppenberg is now closer to the finish than ever before, the Kwaremont is still a decisive climb and the Patersberg is a final obstacle tough enough to cause race-defining splits.
And so it proved, with riders spat out, leading contenders forced to bridge ever more difficult gaps and attacks followed by counter-attacks aplenty. That the final result was still in doubt as they passed under the flamme rouge is testament to the success of the route. The finishing circuit is short enough for a well-timed attack to stay clear, as it proved, but long enough to cause splits in the front group and a spirited chase to still be in the reckoning until at least the final five kilometres – as again it proved. It may not be the Ronde many fans grew up to love, but it is still a circuit capable of providing enthralling races.