The blue loop (78km) is the shortest, but by no means the easiest route. It includes mean classic hills like the Oude Kwaremont, the Koppenberg and the Taaienberg.
Three: that’s how many times riders must climb the famous Oude Kwaremont during the Ronde. The Oude Kwaremont is the longest cobbled climb of Flanders at 2200 meters long, and 89 meters of climbing. While it averages a nice “easy” 4% gradient it’s maximum gradient of 11.6 % lies in the middle of the climb – it’s not an easy feat to recover from that over cobbles.
“Kwaremont-dorp is a picturesque
painter’s village that attracted several
artists after the Second World War.
And even today, the streets are still
lined with art galleries and cafés. Bar/
brasserie/restaurant 't Palet and the restaurant pub In de Zon are just a few examples. Definitely worth a detour!”
The ‘bump’ of Melden, as the Koppenberg is locally known, is guaranteed to add suspense to the Ronde, every year. Not surprisingly it has been listed as a national monument. This hill and over 100 acres of surrounding countryside add up to one the most beautiful natural hotspots in the Flemish Ardennes.
Artist Vladimir Tanghe once counted the number of cobblestones on the steepest part of the Koppenberg: 66,240 cobblestones over 2760 rows at an average of 24 stones per row. On the entire hill there are even more cobblestones.
You didn't travel that far to ride in the gutter?
The 860 m climb starts going gently uphill from the center of Ronse. The upper – and steepest – part of the climb has a roughly-paved cobbled surface, totaling 450 m of cobbles. The climb was first included in the Tour of Flanders route in 1973 and has become a fixed location in the route since the race's restyling in 2012. In recent years, it comes at 26 km from the finish in Oudenaarde, as the last climb before the iconic Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs. The Kruisberg is also regularly included in the Three Days of De Panne, E3 Harelbeke.
In the Ronde van Vlaanderenstraat in Kwaremont you can greet Karel Van Wijnendaele, founder of the Tour of Flanders. But also keep your eyes on the road. All the winners of the Ronde are indicated on the asphalt.
Time for some post-ride Belgian beers. Santé!