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Tour of Flanders

The Flemish High Mass is called it and the cleanest all of classics. In East and West Flanders, the gardens were raised, swept the sidewalks and washed the windows, and in the cafes in the week prior to the first Sunday of April is spoken to nothing. The course. The Tour of Flanders. More than a hundred years old, but still alive.

Karel van Wijnendaele was a stroke rider, but a great entrepreneur and editor-in-chief, and a man with ideas. His magazine The sports world could use some promotion and early 1913 he started the first round. "It started in 1913," he wrote, "with 37 participants and five tracking cars over more than three hundred kilometers of bad stone roads."

The founder was a master in ticking and dramatization, he wanted to make his round a character competition to the romanticated image of the Flemish people of that time: hardworking, people in battle with the elements. "All the better," he cried when rain was predicted, "the round needs bad weather. In rain, wind and dijk, she thrives best."

Karel van Wijnendaele had long since died when Johan Museeuw won the round for the third time in 1998, but the words of the rider had his can be: "becomes guys, men from one piece, with thoughts in the head and crumb in the legs . "

Because what happened in that one hundred years, the character of the course remained unchanged. The Tour of Flanders is a competition for experienced, tough riders. In 2000 Winner Andrei Tchmil was 37 years old. After a flat, properly paved run-up of a hundred kilometers, the asphalt is increasingly taking place for murderous cash lves. Then the rugged, steep slopes come and start turning and turning. Whether it is dry (dust) or folding tattles of the rain (mud) the unevenly lying, which convex stones pains the wrists and the legs, and the seat. The roadside is littered with water bottles that have been painted out of the holders. And on the slopes with illustrious names such as the Paterberg, the Steenbeekdries, the Kruisberg and the old Kwaremont, it is sometimes so steep (up to 22%) that even the pros to stand still and bouncing against the stones.

It became a famous image of the Tour of Flanders when the Deen Jesper skibby came up on the Koppenberg in 1987. As a leader in the course, he tried to climb the dramatic poor and narrow strip of cobbles near Brouwijstad Oudenaarde. He hardly came ahead and understood why they called this part of the parkoers the martyr chamber of Flanders. Behind Skibby got the driver of the radio car in hurry, he didn't want to block the slope for the pursuers. Skibby almost fell, was then taped by the car, which then drove to death over his both wheels. Skibby could barely pull his feet out of the atts. They were dramatic images and Koppenberg disappeared from the course for fifteen years.

The images of the Tour of 1985 were also shocking. Winner Eric Vanderaerden had to be lifted and half frozen from his bike. It was fresh but sunny at the departure, but soon it started to storm and heavily raining. Far too thinly dressed finished only 24 of the 173 participants.

The Tour of Flanders is also the course in which the spectators on the sluds were full of bewilderment to Eddy Merckx that stumbled the last two hundred meters to the top. The great champion, the cannibal on foot, they had never seen that.

On Saturday before the true round is that a more common image, riders who have to get their bikes. Then cycling tourists fill the hills and the cobblestones and the hills with cobblestones. Around twenty thousand riders, including almost five thousand foreigners from thirty countries, drive the entire (more than 250 kilometers), half or a quarter of Flanders. It is a wonderful chaos, a folk festival, and from behind the gates and from the cafes where the mayor drinks a beer with a factory worker the brave enthusiasts are encouraged. On to the next Kerkdorp. Zingem, Zottegem, Zulzeke, Kruishoutem, crazy. Tureluurs become the riders in the heart of Flanders, in the heart of cycling, but in the end the finish comes in Oudenaarde and life will never be the same again.

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