One of the most special parts of the 2022 cycling season is the return of road-side spectators to almost pre-pandemic levels. In the Tour of Flanders especially, the return of crowds cheering on riders up the brutally steep bergs and over bone-juddering cobbled sections is going to dramatically lift the race's atmosphere. The waving flags, tireless chanting, smell of frites and hectic fan zones will add to the spectacle.
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. Plus, the Spring classics are the perfect way to promote tourism in Flanders, drawing in fans from all over the world.
The return of road-side fans is celebrated by riders, organisers and sponsors alike. Thanks to brands like BUFF®️ – which in 2021 became one of the main sponsors of the De Ronde – some fan zones will be reinforced in 2022. The Spanish company is also supporting women cycling with the UCI Continental women's team Massi -Tactic, and has launched an official collection of De Ronde inspired products.
As an homage to the return of the public to the Classics, we've selected six of the most popular bergs in Flandrian history to celebrate cycling culture in style.
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.
One of the bars near the start of the Koppenberg, a meeting point for many fans and a perfect coffee stop for many cyclists, such as BUFF®️ ambassador Laurens ten Dam (right)
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. Though this changed the climb, the Koppenberg still remains a tough challenge.
The public wait on the Koppenberg during the 2018 of the Tour of Flanders (Photo: Getty)
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 3-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.
Two photos of the riders' passage through the Oude Kwaremont in De Ronde 2021. The group of chosen riders (above) formed by Wout Van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Kasper Asgreen, who would end up winning.
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.
The Paterberg was one of the key points of the women's race in 2021, won by Annemiek van Vleuten
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.
The chapel crowning the Muur-Kapelmuur is such an iconic image (Photo: Getty)
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.
A partnership with a "flandrien" spirit
The collaboration between the Tour of Flanders and BUFF®️ aims to promote the adventurous philosophy and sustainability. Two of the models in BUFF®️'s Flanders collection are made from fabrics obtained from recycled plastic bottles. Above all, however, it is a collection which aims to connect with the Flandrien feeling.
For those that love classic cycling caps, the Pack Bike Cap model can be folded and stored in any pocket without losing its original shape
The collection consists of five products: two caps – a Trucker Cap and a Pack Bike Cap –, the CoolNet headband – with excellent breathability properties thanks to HeiQ technology –, the Underhelmet cap without flap and the Original EcoStretch Neckwear, with technical and elastic fabric made of UltraStretch technology, to protect the neck from any inclement weather.
Content produced in collaboration with BUFF®️. Find out more about the De Ronde collection on buff.com