Winners and records of the Tour of Flanders

The Tour of Flanders, or what the Flemish call the Ronde van Vlaanderen, is the biggest day of the year in Belgian cycling, and perhaps in all of Belgium.

The cycling one-day classic is one of the five cycling monuments and looks back on a rich history that dates back to 1913.

Men’s Tour of Flanders 2023 (Ronde van Vlaanderen)

Mathieu van der Poel conquered the last editions, but initially it was a tour of the northern part of the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium or Flanders for the home riders.

This first edition was 330 kilometers long and was won by Paul Deman after 12 hours. But the distance has now totaled around 260km – which, with Milan-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Lombardy, is still a long day of cycling and worthy of its monumental status.

Flanders is live on Flo this Sunday in Canada, the US and Australia.

Belgians won the race 69 times. The first “international” star was Fiorenzo Magni – he won three editions in a row. There are now six riders with a record three wins to their name, including most recently Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara.

Unfortunately, Sean Kelly and Leif Hoste have the most second places without ever having won the Flanders. Each finished second three times.

American George Hincapie, also not a winner, holds the record number of finishes with 17. Belgian Briek Schotte has a record number of entries at 20, having won two of those times.

Gianluca Bortolami holds the record for the fastest pace, 43.5 km/h, in 2001, which was something considering the race involves some of the worst cobbled paths and climbs around the Flemish hills near Oudenaarde .

For 2023, the race starts again in Bruges, where the start took place before Antwerp from 1998 to 2016. Before that it started in Sint-Niklaas from 1977 to 1997 and in Ghent from 1913 to 1976.

Oudenaarde took over as the finish town in 2012, with a route change taking the famous finish from Muur and Bosberg to Ninove for the circuits around the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. Some hated this move, but organizers and fans benefited from a space that allowed the riders to be seen multiple times.

The route varies slightly each year, but some of the other notable climbs include the Koppenberg, which for many years was cut for being “too hard” and where in 1987 the organizer’s car rolled over Jesper Skibby’s bike after he fell. Even today you can still see riders in the background being forced to start up the climb once the group bottlenecks and slows down the climb.

Notable paved sectors are the Paddestraat (2400m), Mater-Kerkgate (3000m), Haaghoek (2000m) and the Stationsberg, which descends from the Steenbeekdries climb. The cobblestones are hard to drive, but like smooth motorways compared to the more unpleasant cobblestones in Paris-Roubaix.

Andrei Tchmil was the oldest to hit the streets at 37 in 2000 and Rik Van Steenbergen was the youngest in 1944 at 19.

Some find it best to walk away alone to be successful. Henri Vanlerberghe won with a solo escape that started 120km from the finish. Coming to a level crossing where a train was blocking his way, he dismounted, climbed through one of his carriages and continued to the finish to win his nearest rival by 14 minutes. Also the biggest win time gap.

One of the longest escapes in recent history goes to Philippe Gilbert, who drove 55km to the race alone in 2017. To make it even more special, he rode in his home country in the national championship jersey on a day that occurs once a year, Christmas and is even more honored and celebrated by the Belgians.


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