Flanders 2021: Cycling’s Homecoming
Sep 20 2021 07:19 pm CET

Flanders 2021: Cycling’s Homecoming
Flanders 2021: Cycling’s Homecoming
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The 10th edition of the Road Cycling World Championships has just started in one of the most traditional places in the cycling world, the Flanders region.

By Marcelo Hernández

There is no place that we can properly say is the birthplace of professional cycling, since it emerged and consolidate as a sport in several countries at the same time. But there are some regions, roads and places that are quite significant to cycling history, and one of those landmarks is, of course, Flanders. This region hosts, since more than a century ago, some of the most prestigious classics in the calendar, being the Monumental Tour of Flanders the biggest of them all. Not only that, Flanders has been the birthplace of several legends of this sport, such as Eddy Merckx or Tom Boonen, to mention just two of them.

Therefore, to celebrate a Road World Championship in the region feels like a coming home moment for cycling, as it felt the previous six times that the Worlds were held in Flemish soil. During the 100 years of the journey of the World Championship fans have being delighted with magnificent races and incredible victories in roads across Europe and the World, but coming back to Flanders has a special vintage flavour, a scent of old times, and the warm feeling of the narrow winding roads, the steep climbs and the cobbles.

It is necessary to first state that the World Championship won’t feature the most iconic climbs of the Tour of Flanders, such as Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Muur Kapelmuur, among others. Instead, the race will be facing the northwest of Flanders, to Bruges, for the Time Trials, and east of Brussels for the circuits in which the road races will be decided. But don’t worry, the road races will include what Flanders is most famous for: cobbles and climbs. Actually, several sections of the route, including several climbs, are ‘borrowed’ from the traditional route of the Brabantse Pijl.

A curious feature of the routes of the road races is that they will include some combination of two circuits: the first one named “Leuven circuit” that circumvolves the centre of Leuven city, and the second one located to the south, near the border with the Wallonie region, called the Flandrien circuit. This second circuit is the one with the hardest climbs, and roads that are commonly featured in Brabantse Pijl. The Elite Road Races (Men’s and Women’s) will jump from one circuit to another at least twice, which must be somewhat a logistical nightmare for the race organizers and the caravan, but will be also a challenge for the riders since the climbs will start very far from the finish line.

The race, as it is usual in the World Championships, will be difficult to control but the early arrival to the climbs (in the Men Elite race the first climbs will start at 56 km, with more than 200 km to go) could add to the unpredictability. This because the Belgian ‘Muurs’ and ‘bergs’ are tricky ones, as we have seen along more than 10 years of Flanders Classics: they have some steep sections that will diminish the strength of heavier, fastest riders, while the high overall pace of the race could also hurt lighter more climber-style riders.

Of course, we have already seen the cobbles classics and how the Classics specialists (most of the which will naturally be present on the Elite races) thrive under these circumstances, but we are talking about a World Championships race: a National Team roster can’t always be put together with the same balance and strength among the riders like it happens in a WT team, and if you also consider the uneven quotas among the different countries and the lack of radio communications, the chaos could break early on the races, both for men and women.

So, the race is set for very exciting and probably visually striking races. Both, if the rainy-day forecasts come true or if they don’t, these World Championship races will surely deliver some impressive images for posterity. And the fans won’t be disappointed about the battle that is going to be unleashed on the Flandrien roads. No matter who wins, cycling is coming home.





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