Reaction to altered Tour of Flanders route continues

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Reaction to altered Tour of Flanders route continues

Repositioned Koppenberg likely to inspire positive racing, says three-time Ronde racer, Daniel Lloyd

Changes to the route of next year’s Tour of Flanders continue to draw reaction from the men who have contested arguably the most prestigious of the Spring Classics.

Organisers of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen announced last week that the parcours, which changed significantly as recently as 2012, would be altered again in 2014, with the finishing circuit introduced two years ago to be scrapped.

The continued absence of the iconic Muur Van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg climbs, however, has come under fire in some quarters, with Britain’s Roger Hammond, who finished seventh in the 2010 edition, telling this website that he no longer felt any connection to a race he had watched as a child and contested as a professional.

Fabian Cancellara continued a tradition of victories for ‘hardmen’ at the Tour of Flanders. Three-time Ronde contestant, Daniel Lloyd, said he is looking forward to next year’s race on a new course. pic: ©Sirotti

Now another a British rider to have ridden the Flandrian ‘Monument’ has given his opinion on the altered parcours.

“I think the new route looks good,” said Daniel Lloyd, who contested three of the last five editions of the Ronde, racing in the colours of the Cervelo Test Team in 2009 and 2010, and for Garmin-Sharp in 2011.

But he added: “I still personally prefer the original route. So much happened in history over the Muur and the Bosberg. If it works, why change it?”

I think the new route looks good. I still prefer the original route. So much happened in history over the Muur and the Bosberg. If it works, why change it? – Daniel Lloyd

Last year’s inaugural race on the new course ended in victory for Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), who won a three-up sprint against Pippo Pozzatto (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing), after the trio broke clear in the final 20km.

Lloyd, who had ridden with Boonen and Pozzato in a leading group of about 10 riders in the 2009 edition of the race, said next year’s route would place the climb of the Koppenberg closer to the finish than ever before – just 45km from home. “General consensus seems to be that it will encourage more positive racing again, and I’m inclined to agree,” he told RCUK.

The Oude Kwaremont will again feature three times in the Tour of Flanders. Lloyd said the race “kicked off” there in 2009. pic: ©Sirotti

The Oude Kwaremont will again feature three times in next year’s race. Lloyd said the race had “kicked off” there in 2009 when he and all eight of his Cervelo Test team-mates, riding in support of Thor Hushovd, had raced in the lead group. This year, Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard), used the final ascent of the cobbled ramp to launch his decisive attack.

This Swiss rode alone into Oudenaarde in April, continuing a tradition of victories among the sport’s rouleurs, a year after Boonen claimed a record-equalling third victory.

Lloyd said he had always looked up to riders who could hold a position at the front of the Ronde, those he described as “the hard men” of the sport. He had found himself in a leading group of six riders that included Sylvain Chavanel in the 2009 edition, but had been unable to follow the Frenchman when he attacked on the Berendries.

Lloyd, who counts the Ronde as his favourite race, said the wind had previously played a role as the race headed east to Ninove, but said of the 2014 course, “with the almost circular last 50km, that won’t have so much of an impact.”

While the continued absence of the  Muur and Bosberg has drawn criticism, many of the iconic climbs of the race, including the Steenbeekdrires, Taainberg, and Kruisberg, remain.

“All in all, I’m looking forward to it,” said Lloyd.

The 98th Tour of Flanders will be held on Sunday April 6, 2014.

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