Until about three years ago the first thing that came to mind when I heard the word “Flanders” was this guy…


Things are rather different now, thanks to my constantly snowballing cycling obsession.

As someone who’d always loved the Tour and Paris-Roubaix (the only two races to really grace Aussie TV screens outside of the Olympics and Commonwealth Games in the 80s and 90s) discovering a whole new world of elite races existed was a lot like discovering your favourite band has an incredible back catalogue of music. Or that your fave author has written 10 other novels you’d never heard of. Even better, of course, is that with every season that passes, things keep making more and more sense as you watch them unfold – like the Tour of Flanders, held rather defiantly just one week before Paris-Roubaix.

One of cycling’s five Monuments, the Ronde van Vlaanderen is THE race in Flanders each year, as evidenced by its nickname: Vlaanderens mooiste (“Flanders’ finest”). It was first staged in 1913, and as with many of the world’s most iconic cycling races was actually the brainchild of a newspaper publisher, in this case, Karel Van Wijnendaele, co-founder of the sportspaper Sportwereld.

Whilst the course has changed considerably over the years, the Ronde is known for its short, sharp, cobbled climbs…and fanatical fans. Total nut jobs, some of them. Unsurprisingly the honour roll is dominated by Belgians, with 68 wins. Italy is next on just 10. Oh, and only six riders have ever won twice in a row, Mr Boonen…


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