One of the most special things about the Tour of Flanders is the vast amount of fans that line the edge of the roads, cheering on the riders as they make their way up the brutally steep bergs and over the bone-juddering cobbled sections. The waving flags, tireless chanting, the smell of frites, and the hectic fan zones add something unique to this race which is a spectacle already within itself.
The Tour of Flanders brings together all the elements that define the cycling culture of the Flemish region: steep bergs, cobblestones and passion. This Belgian region is a territory that knows how to care for and protect the cobbled roads that are part of its history.
To celebrate the return of the highly-anticipated Monument race, we look at six of the most popular bergs in Flandrian history.
For many editions, the Molenberg was a crucial point in the of the Tour of Flanders. The poor condition of the cobblestones and the narrow path can cause a lot of damage to the peloton. It's a climb of just over 400 metres with an average gradient of 7%, but positioning is vital to maintain a chance of being in the leading group.
This hill could be decisive for of any rider who was not placed in the top fifteen. It was included in the Tour of Flanders for the first time in 1983 and, like many of the climbs near Ninove, it has been losing prominence since 2012. Even so, it is still a regular part of the route, albeit far from the finish line, quietly reminding us of its identity.
The most feared ramp in the region. The iconic snapshot from the lowest point of the Koppenberg shows how the cobblestone path draws a sinuous line thorough the forest. It’s a berg with a deep history in the Tour of Flanders, first included in 1976 after Walter Godefroot – double winner of the race in 1968 and 1978 – discovered it a few years earlier.
The Koppenberg's brutal inclines meant that some people suggested it unfairly affected the race, and that the surface was dangerous. In 1987 when Jesper Skibby slipped and fell on the Koppenberg, and the car following him ran over his bike, these claims were vindicated.
The hill was taken out of the race for 15 years in the until a new surface of Italian cobblestones was laid and the road was widened in 2001. While this changed the climb, the Koppenberg still remains a tough challenge.
The Taaienberg has been fixed hill on Flanders route since 1974, with the exception of 1993 when it was omitted due to reconstruction works. Just over 500 metres long, it has ramps of around 16% and its cobblestones are rife with a history of great attacks. The hill emulates the lively Flemish atmosphere and its fame has grown in the last fifteen years, largely thanks to three-time winner of the Tour of Flanders, Tom Boonen. The Belgian's successive attacks on the climb in races like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Harelbeke as well as in De Ronde, transformed his name to 'Boonenberg' among the fans.
The Oude Kwaremont has been part of the Tour of Flanders since 1974 and has been climbed 68 times. It was included to replace the Kwaremont, that after its complete asphalting in 1965 and the cobblestones were covered, it lost its personality. The 2,200 metres of the Oude Kwaremont run parallel to that original route. It is not the hardest wall, with an average of 4.8% and a maximum of 11%, but its 1,500m on a narrow cobblestone road is what makes it stand out from the rest. Since 2012, it has also been key for the race, because of three passes in each edition of the Tour of Flanders.
The Paterberg is a true reflection of De Ronde's connection and importance to cycling culture and points to its social roots in the Flanders region. A local farmer who was keen to have the race run through his field was responsible for the construction of this 360m cobbled hill with an average gradient of around 13%. It has been part of the Tour of Flanders since 1986, although its notoriety grew from 2012, when it became the last climb. After more than 240km of racing, the rider's faces show a mix of blank stares, exhaustion and concentration as they approach Paterberg's last left turn for the final push.
One we miss: Muur-Kapelmuur
After finish of De Ronde moved to Oudernaarde in 2012, the Kapelmuur has gradually lost its prominence, but its history in De Ronde means it warrants a mention (although it's not part of the parcours in this 2022 edition). A historic peak, it was included for the first time in 1950, and from 1981 until 2011 it was a revered climb. The iconic chapel at the top and the spectacular final turn can be seen in some of the most famous photos of the race.
For many, the removal of the Muur from the route was a sacrilege and fans were happy to see it restored in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions, but a long way from the finish line. The Muur has been a stage for some great attacks throughout its long history, such as Fabian Cancellara's 2010 attack on local hero Tom Boonen.