"Vlaanderen's mooiste" ("Flanders' finest"), the Tour of Flanders, a classic cycle race, one of the monuments of the sport, run in April and now included in the UCI ProTour series. The course has varied over the years, recent versions being just over 250 km starting in Brugge and finishing in Meerbeke, but it has consistently for many years focused on a series of short, sharp and often cobbled climbs in the race's closing stages in the so-called Vlaamse Ardennen area around Brakel and Oudenaarde and on the narrow lanes between them, with the final run-in via the feared Muur climb in Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg.

This is probably the most major regular sporting event in Flanders - certainly in terms of spectator numbers, it being something of a regional festival - and has strong political overtones for Flemish nationalists: the Vlaamse Leeuw can be seen flying everywhere around the course.

Like most of the races in this area, after the long, flat opening section, the hills and cobbles - and, not infrequently, the weather - tend to split the field up into small groups, and, if there is one, the final sprint is usually between a handful of riders. The terrain forces the strong riders to show their hands early; the last few kilometres before some of the narrower climbs - the Oude Kwaremont, the Molenberg, and the newly reinstated Koppenberg (removed from the race in the early 1990s after a nasty incident where a race car was forced to drive over Jesper Skibby's bike as he lay on the ground with his feet still strapped in the pedals) are among the most feared - are generally extremely hectic as riders seek to avoid the traffic jams and pile-ups that often trap the riders at the back of the bunch.

Other shorter versions of the race are run for women and men's under-23 and junior categories. As of 2006 the elite women's version is run on the morning of the elite men's race and is a counting event towards the women's UCI World Cup competition. There is also a highly popular (more than twenty thousand riders in 2007) open non-competitive tourist ride the Saturday before the big race, with options including the whole 250+km course or shorter routes covering the final stages). Which I seem to have made some commitment to ride in 2008 2010.


Update 2008: the Koppenburg was removed from the 2007 event because of a badly deteriorating surface, but replaced for the 2008 version


1913 Paul Deman (BEL)
1914 Marcel Buysse (BEL)
1919 Henri Van Lerberghe (BEL)
1920 Jules Van Hevel (BEL)
1921 Rene Vermandel (BEL)
1922 Leon Devos (BEL)
1923 Henri Suter (SWI)
1924 Gerard Debaets (BEL)
1925 Julien Delbecque (BEL)
1926 Denis Verschueren (BEL)
1927 Gerard Debaets (BEL)
1928 Jan Mertens (BEL)
1929 Jef Dervaes (BEL)
1930 Frans Bonduel (BEL)
1931 Romain Gijssels (BEL)
1932 Romain Gijssels (BEL)
1933 Alfons Schepers (BEL)
1934 Gaston Rebry (BEL)
1935 Louis Duerloo (BEL)
1936 Louis Hardiquest (BEL)
1937 Michel D'Hooghe (BEL)
1938 Edgard De Caluwe (BEL)
1939 Karel Kaers (BEL)
1940 Achiel Buysse (BEL)
1941 Achiel Buysse (BEL)
1942 Briek Schotte (BEL)
1943 Achiel Buysse (BEL)
1944 Rik Van Steenbergen (BEL)
1945 Sylvain Grysolle (BEL)
1946 Rik Van Steenbergen (BEL)
1947 Emiel Faignaert (BEL)
1948 Briek Schotte (BEL)
1949 Fiorenzo Magni (ITA)
1950 Fiorenzo Magni (ITA)
1951 Fiorenzo Magni (ITA)
1952 Roger Decock (BEL)
1953 Wim Van Est (NED)
1954 Raymond Impanis (BEL)
1955 Louison Bobet (FRA)
1956 Jean Forestier (FRA)
1957 Fred De Bruyne (BEL)
1958 Germain Derijcke (BEL)
1959 Rik Van Looy (BEL)
1960 Arthur De Cabooter (BEL)
1961 Tom Simpson (GBR)
1962 Rik Van Looy (BEL)
1963 Noél Foré (BEL)
1964 Rudi Altig (GER)
1965 Jo De Roo (NED)
1966 Ward Sels (BEL)
1967 Dino Zandegu (ITA)
1968 Walter Godefroot (BEL)
1969 Eddy Merckx (BEL)
1970 Eric Leman (BEL)
1971 Evert Dolman (NED)
1972 Eric Leman (BEL)
1973 Eric Leman (BEL)
1974 Cees Bal (NED)
1975 Eddy Merckx (BEL)
1976 Walter Planckaert (BEL)
1977 Roger De Vlaeminck (BEL)
1978 Walter Godefroot (BEL)
1979 Jan Raas (NED)
1980 Michel Pollentier (BEL)
1981 Hennie Kuiper (NED)
1982 Rene Martens (BEL)
1983 Jan Raas (NED)
1984 Johan Lammerts (NED)
1985 Eric Vanderaerden (BEL)
1986 Adri Van Der Poel (NED)
1987 Claude Criquielion (BEL)
1988 Eddy Planckaert (BEL)
1989 Edwig Van Hooydonck (BEL)
1990 Moreno Argentin (ITA)
1991 Edwig Van Hooydonck (BEL)
1992 Jacky Durand (FRA)
1993 Johan Museeuw (BEL)
1994 Gianni Bugno (ITA)
1995 Johan Museeuw (BEL)
1996 Michele Bartoli (ITA)
1997 Rolf Sörensen (DEN)
1998 Johan Museeuw (BEL)
1999 Peter Van Petegem (BEL)
2000 Andrei Tchmil (BEL)
2001 Gianluca Bortolami (ITA)
2002 Andrea Tafi (ITA)
2003 Peter Van Petegem (BEL)
2004 Steffen Wesemann (GER)
2005 Tom Boonen (BEL)
2006 Tom Boonen (BEL)
2007 Alessandro Ballan (ITA)
2008 Stijn Devolder (BEL)
2009 Stijn Devolder (BEL)

results sourced from memory, direct observation and the 1999 Wielerrevue Jaarboek
The official race website is at http://www.rvv.be

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