The Tour of Belgium

Thursday, 4 March 2010

There’s a fourth grand tour out there, the Tour of Belgium. You might not see it immediately but look at the calendar of racing throughout March and early April. You’ve got so many Belgian races that they almost form one non-stop event.

Ok, there’s no yellow jersey so what do I mean? Well if you didn’t get a result in the Het Nieuwsblad, then you can try again in the next race, the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. This pattern repeats itself. Yesterday we had the GP Le Samyn, a transition race and coming up you’ve got the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen (3 Days of West Flanders) and the the Vlaamse Pijl too. There’s almost a race every day. Flanders isn’t a big place, it’s as if every road and farm track must be crossed. Riders must get beaucoup déja-vu.

The exceptions to this are the real monuments like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, no rider starts these races secretly planning to save themselves for another day.

All this has some consequential effects. When was the last time a Belgian won a grand tour? It was 1978 when Johan de Muynck took the Giro. Today Belgian racing is obsessed with this eight week period. Rightly so since you’ve got some of the toughest one day races. But it means few Belgians beyond April. Like French riders who aim for nothing but July most Belgians see the focus of their season directed towards early spring.

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