Muur Money

The Tour of Flanders might not visit the Kapelmuur in Geraardsbergen in 2020 following a row over money. Apparently the race has been charging the town money and now local politicians want to spend the money elsewhere.

As a recap, the Kapelmuur in Geraardsbergen, sometimes just known as the Muur (“wall”) has long been the iconic climb of the Tour of Flanders. This is down to its severity with a peak gradient of 20% and protruding pavé; to the chapel at the top which serves up religious approximations; and because it was long the penultimate climb of the race and often a decisive final attack would determine the winner. Still all this dates from the 1970s when the race started to use the Muur so it’s a relative novelty.

In 2012 the climb was dropped from the route after the finish was moved to Oudenaarde, about 40km to the west, largely so the race could have finishing circuits that pass lucrative VIP tents and because Oudenaarde paid for the privilege. With the finishing circuits the race route was too far to the west to make a detour for the Muur even if it wanted to. Geraardsbergen even held a symbolic protest march at the loss of the race.


The climb was added back to the route in 2017, in part because the start was moved to Antwerp and so it became easier to use during the route. Since then it’s come with about 95km to go, the part in the race where you might want to settle in on the sofa to pick up the race for the afternoon and it’s still a tactical point in the race.

Now it’s off the route because of a row over money. Apparently the inclusion in the race came at a price with the town of Geraardsbergen paying for the race to swing by. The idea being that the Ronde puts the town and its Muur on the map, maintaining it as a tourist destination for wielertoeristen who want to try the wall for themselves and along the way they’ll eat, shop and possibly even stay in the town. So race organisers Flanders Classics could charge for this, it makes sense when viewed like and knowing the start and finish towns also pay for the race.

Elsewhere in Belgium things have been in the other direction. Heuvelland council started asking for €300 to cross the Kemmelberg, loose change for Flanders Classics but the problem was more one of locals being fed up with so many other races. The Flèche Wallonne has altered course when Ham wanted about €500 for fear if it paid one town then every mayor en route would join a queue to get paid.

However with the Muur it’s not so much a trend as more a local cost-benefit analysis. Mayor Guido De Padt (that’s him in the picture above with the sash around his waist) saying he’s already had to close the local outdoor swimming pool and paying the race is too much, he’d rather spend the money locally on different things. Interestingly the race replies it might still go via Geraardsbergen, presumably because it’s too late to redraw the plans, revise policing and so on… but if there’s no payment then it’ll just skip the Muur.

The amount in question is significant, €50,000 apparently. This kind of money can get you a stage finish of the Giro, or a Tour de France stage start. Obviously the Geraardsbergen mayor can’t substitute the Ronde for a grand tour stage, the comparison is more to say it’s a lot of money for the race to merely pass through. Host the Giro and the Tour and there’s hotel rooms for the night for thousands of people, international media, a village for VIP meet n’greets and more. The Ronde, while a great race, thunders through.


What price the Muur? If the Muur was “only” added in the 1970s it’s because of societal changes all around. Roads were being tarmacked meaning the race needed to actively hunt down difficulties and at the same time TV was becoming essential for pro cycling. These climbs have now come to define the race and to skip the Muur feels like the race is losing some of its cultural heritage. Losing it from the route in 2012 was bad but could be explained as the course changed. Now if it’s dropped in 2020 just because of a row over money then it’s a very different look, especially if the race will even visit Geraardsbergen but make a point not to use the climb. Flanders Classics might end up €50,000 down but the race will surely be poorer for it.

48 thoughts on “Muur Money”

  1. The price is like the Muur itself– too steep. You’d think the organizers will want to avoid that “different look” of going to town without hitting the climb. Hoping face will be saved and they’ll ride it in 2020.

    (last photo) Brian Holm with the toeclips, Phil Anderson on the left…1989?

  2. Another conflict between business and sport, sadly. Flanders Classics from their start had an odor of greed IMHO and now it seems the rotten egg’s been cracked wide open.
    I’m glad my dream of seeing all 5 of cycling’s monuments has been completed so I don’t have to contribute anything to the coffers of these greedy operators, the kind of people who’d set up flaming hoops for the riders to go through if they thought there were some extra euros to be had and they could get away with it. 🙁

  3. De Ronde should be paying the town £50k, it makes such a difference to the race’s iconography in the modern era. It’s not the same without it.

    If the organisers decide to go through Geraardsbergen but skip the Muur just to thumb their nose at the Mayor, it shows the contempt they have for fans of the sport.

  4. Yep 89 but think that’s Etienne de Wilde wearing the Belgian champs jersey. Quite the guns on those 80’s classic men! Looks like Gert Jan Theunisse in the mix behind. Ah those were the days!

  5. I love the period b/w photo. is Phil Anderson the TVM rider on the left, and who is the Ariostea on the right with the elegant but ineffective Campagnolo Delta brakes?

    • “… elegant but ineffective Campagnolo Delta brakes?” I never much cared for the look of these but they were used by plenty of top riders who won plenty of races, including BigMig. I’m not sure “ineffective” is the correct description. I remember back-in-the-day when some of our bike shop customers had ’em, the guy who owned our shop was pretty damn good at adjusting them, which wasn’t easy. First thing you had to do was find a 2.5 mm (I think) hex key! I never did get the hang of it, just handed ’em over to him to play with. They were certainly a “love ’em or hate ’em!” component.

      • It was a 3.5mm allen key (Hex Wrench) for the Delta brakes which if the workshop monsters ate the one that came with them was a real pig to go out and buy! And if you didn’t cut the inner cable completely flush with the mechanism, the front cover wouldn’t fit properly; I think they would consider that to be” artisan craftmanship” these days. An old acquanitance of mine had several sets and said they were best for “slowing down” rather than stopping! Still, as you say, plenty of the top boys used them in the mountains and big races

      • Like the Nuovo/Super Record, I think Deltas had some kind of allure that bypassed rationality. Other brakes might have been better but Campy stuff had that cachet that couldn’t be matched, even if the performance didn’t quite measure up.

        • I met someone who had them on a vintage bike and once you remove the metal cover to open up the internals you see they’re centre-pull brakes only the compact triangular shape means there’s not much room for the mechanism to get leverage, there’s not much stopping power.

          Look further back and that must be one of the first hard shell helmets ever in a race.

          • In fairness, even the side pull calipers back then didn’t really work for stopping power that well. Some things on bikes haven’t improved too much since the glory days, but the cheapest dual-pivot Tektros you can get online will outperform basically any center-pull or single-pivot side-pull caliper from back then.

            It’s the one part on my old De Rosa I’m thinking of replacing.

          • SYH – I’m reminded of this every time I climb on my vintage Bianchi, but when it comes time to descend on an unpaved road I’m glad the old (in this case long-reach Shimano 600 sidepulls that came on the bike) calipers take a firm squeeze, making locking a wheel much, much easier to avoid compared to my bikes with modern (well, sort of) dual pivot Campagnolo Veloce/Daytona/Athena brake calipers.
            Back-in-the-day Campagnolo stuff had a quality the others couldn’t match – it might have lacked a bit of “performance” but it performed consistently for a long, long time vs the rivals.
            I think that’s a harder case to make these days, but I still prefer it to anything else. When we approached them about becoming an official supplier I made what was probably the worst sponsorship pitch ever: “We love your stuff. We’ll keep using your stuff even if you tell us you’re not interested in helping us. But we think you should become one of our official suppliers anyway.” We’re happy they did 🙂

        • Larry talks of Campagnolo quality. I bought into the dream too with very expensive Record and Super Record components in the late seventies. A fatigue crack initiated in a rather roughy milled weight-saving flute on the right crank arm had me careering across two lanes near Beckermet in 1980 or so. Fortunately the road was calm and I – just – managed to stay on board. From memory the difference between the S Record and Record seat pins was just four milled flutes. In both cases, a little weight off and a lot of turbulence gained!

          • I remember those, everyone had them in the 1980’s – there was a stress-riser in that spot and cranks with a lot of use often developed cracks there including my own. At our shop we inspected them carefully and filed away the cracked material, though we did see a few failures.
            Type “Campagnolo Recall” into your favorite search engine and then do the same for their competition. Nobody’s perfect (you probably remember their titanium BB spindle, a special event/use item that was prone to failure when used regularly) but if I have a choice I choose Campagnolo – for myself and my customers.

          • Is this where I express my love of Italian frames with vintage Japanese parts? I’d kill for a classic Columbus frame with Suntour Cyclone or Superbe, and love those Shimano 600 equipped Bianchis…

  6. The ronde route into and around Oudenaarde, is quite boring. You can place many climbs (spoilt for choice) in that area, easily, but the fact the organisers prefer the beer VIP tents and income, is to the detriment of the race, and it’s history.
    The Ronde & the Muur are both iconic, the passion of Flanders, the soul of brutal cycling.
    I heard a while ago, that when they changed the route to bypass Geraardsbergen – it was solely about money.
    I also suggested to some councillors back then, they could use some old muur pave blocks, since them up into small thin sections, add a small metal plaque on them “I climbed the Muur” etc and charge a modest fee, and put some to the town and some to the preservation of the climb.
    The Muur is as vital to the Ronde van Vlaanderen as some of the more famous cobble sections on Roubaix.
    Profit is one thing, selling the soul of a race, another.

    • Look, your comment suggests that this race makes millions for the owners… but in reality it doesn’t. They don’t make much at all, so obviously they have to make some decisions based on financial reasons. Every top sport has a steady income stream (seat sales), except cycling. So if cycling has found a way to sell seats (ie. VIP tents), then every fan has to applaud that venture – otherwise the fans clearly don’t understand how poor their sport is.

      I agree with your suggestion that the Town Councillors need to find ways to connect with the fans and make climb a huge part of their Town’s tourism budget and strategy, but that strategy also must include tossing the race organisers a tiny fee (50,000 euros is a tiny fee – but is huge to the race organisers).

      • Where does Kev suggest millions are being made? As to “found a way to sell seats (ie. VIP tents), then every fan has to applaud that venture” there will be no applause from me, sorry. One of the greatest things about road cycling is it’s free to watch from the roadside, even if it’s the sport’s biggest event in July in France. Should spectators have to buy a ticket to watch from the roadside on the Stelvio or Tourmalet? NEVER!
        I will say something positive about Flanders Classics though it’s faint praise – they have yet to sell out to ASO.

        • Larry, you are being deliberately obtuse. Kev s point is it takes money to put on a bike race. It has to come from somewhere and as far as I know, the teams contribute nothing to the races production costs. If revenue can be generated from a 2-3 km stretch of a 260km race that remains free to public for 255 kms, wheres the harm?

        • Larry – do the guests of your tours’ pay you or are you doing your tours from the good of your heart? I’m not trying to be personal, but Kev (not me) is suggesting that Flanders Classics should not chase any reveue and that chasing revenue is selling out. I’ll never suggest that Larry’s travel company is selling out, in fact I think he’s doing a great job of honouring the places and races he visits, but it is still a commercial venture.

          Premier League, La Liga, World Cup Soccer, Pro Tennis, NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. all make MILLIONs per year (seat sales and TV deals), yet only some races make thousands of dollars. It’s ridiculous to accuse any race organizer of selling out – and I don’t think we’d accuse a Premier League owner of selling out just because they make millions per year.

          • You’ll find plenty of fans in England accuse their clubs of rampant commercialism, even those from successful teams. Liverpool fans organised a walk out a few years ago over ticket prices.

            Flanders Classics own the race and they’re entitled to charge what they want but I’ve got little doubt it’ll damage the race’s wider appeal and, ultimately, commercial success if they drop the Muur. I hope they don’t.

          • I’ll let Kev defend his comments, perhaps I should have just posted +1 and left it there?
            Of course we charge money for our cycling tour services, but I can also tell you the vast majority of the funds are simply passed on to hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies, etc. We consider our business to be good stewards (and careful shoppers) of our clients’ vacation money – using our passion, knowledge and energy to find the best roads to ride on, the best hotels to sleep in and the best places to enjoy food and wine so they can just “pedala forte, mangia bene” with their only questions each day being how far do they want to ride and what do they want for lunch.
            At the end of each season we’re very happy if there’s money left in our accounts after everything has been paid for, but when there’s not (or not much) I remember our mission is/was really to share the joy of cycling in Italy with others rather than to get rich.
            I consider Flanders Classics mission to be similar, after all they’re stewards of a MONUMENT, something they didn’t invent anymore than we invented the Passo Stelvio – they just currently control the rights to it as the organizers. Did they buy those rights from the UCI? I don’t know but keeping the race and tradition going should be mission #1, covering your costs #2 with making a profit #3. Sponsors/advertisers are sought, TV rights sold, etc. All fine with me.
            But screwing around with the course (and tradition) to extort funds from towns on the route and to facilitate your grandstand/VIP beer tent revenue is not on my list anymore than asking our clients for a percentage of their tour package price be handed over in cash as a “tip” at the end or their stay or steering them towards a certain place to eat that’s not as good as one just up the road, but kicks back a portion of the sales to us. Plenty of our competitors do one or both.
            I believe there’s a fundamental difference between sport and business and try to dilute the former with as little of the latter as possible and believe custodians of one of the 5 Monuments should do the same, though I understand plenty may not agree.

          • In the same way you’d be piqued if we rode along with you on your organised tours; ‘the roads are public, we’re just going the same way as you..’; DeRonde has consistently found all the traders and restaurants in Geraardsbergen are very happy to make big money on race weekends, whilst giving nothing to the organisation. Beer tents and hospitality galore, but not one of them run by DeRonde. This hasn’t changed since the unthinkable happened in 2012 when DeRonde first came under the Spring Classics for exactly the reason that the raves could only survive with at least some control over revenue streams around the races. They tried rapprochement but once again this proves the market is not the way to work for the collective hood of a sport event.
            Turn off the water at the stop cock if you’re not gonna share what comes out the tap.

          • Plurien- “But screwing around with the course (and tradition) to extort funds from towns on the route and to facilitate your grandstand/VIP beer tent revenue” is my issue (and I thought what the subject was here) not whether Flanders Classics wants to have a beer tent to compete with all the free-riders, as you describe them. I should have added to the sponsorship sales, TV rights, etc. the right to put up grandstands along with beer/VIP tents at the finish and charge admission, as is done with plenty of events along with beer tents.
            It’s the money-grab/extortion: “Pay up or we change the course” and “Let’s change the course so it goes round and round beer tents and VIP areas that we operate. Who gives a s–t about tradition, it’s all about the money!” attitude that I don’t like along with the idea we should be applauding this. I would have marched in that protest had I been there at the time.
            If you think the current situation is fine, that’s OK with me.

          • I wasn’t suggesting for a second, that Flanders Classics, shouldn’t make any revenue. My point, (obviously done badly) was that, the Ronde van Vlaanderen (in my opinion) is intrinsically entwined, the climbs, and for the race to miss out the Muur (or even when the Koppenberg was omitted (& then neutered by “fixing it”) takes something away.
            I’m also aware, that Geraardsbergen has had some heated discussions with the race organisers, when payment was required. Few years ago, the town had an hospitality event to watch the race, as it wasn’t climbing the Muur, it was independently organised.
            Flanders Classics didn’t like that, and demanded funds, quite a well known local story.
            Geraardsbergen, isn’t any different to other councils and towns, worldwide.
            They have to balance the books, with local taxes.
            If services are suffering locally, then they have to justify expenditure to the town and residents.
            Oudenaarde, pay a lot to host the race. VIP tents generate revenue for organisation. As does the ronde tourist ride.
            I wonder if Melden (Koppenberg) pays for the race?
            I suspect it’s unlikely, if, Geraardsbergen (Muur) also don’t pay, what about the others?
            Does Flanders Classics contribute to the maintenance of all the climbs? I doubt it.
            The tv revenues they sell worldwide are lucrative.
            But they need to remember the race has a soul. If you lose that, the interest diminishes.

          • You’ve distorted what I originally said.
            I did not say, anywhere, that Flanders Classics could not make revenue from a race.
            I simply think that the way they’ve gone about it, in some areas, isn’t to the benefit of the soul of that race.

  7. This feels less like an issue and more like the sort of political news stories we used to get in August before things stopped being normal.

    It’s a silly season story to drive clicks and content and give a Mayor some coverage and I’ll be amazed if it isn’t resolved with supreme ease come the Spring.

  8. I appreciate that this doesn’t really add much to the legend of the Muur or help out with town finances but a few weeks ago I went for a nice stroll up to the chapel (good view from the top) and then had a couple of beers & a Croque Monsieur in one of the cafe-bars around the town square.

    Also, I paid a visit to the Ronde visitor centre in Oudenaarde, which I would recommend if you are in the vicinity.

    • It does make a difference because thousands of people do this. Flanders has become a tourist destination for this and there are other places like Mont Ventoux and Bourg d’Oisans/Alpe d’Huez that thrive in the summer because of cycling and the visitor it draws. This aspect is growing and many destinations are trying to promote this aspect.

      • I’m intrigued by the imbalance in the relationship between an iconic race and an iconic location. There was an edition of the Cycling Podcast a while ago where someone asked why the Alpe d’Huez was still required to pay to host a stage finish in the Tour, such is its historic status. To this Francois Thomazeau replied that the Alpe needed the exposure and revenue derived from the race a lot more than the race needed the aura of the Alpe. Evidently this is also the case with the Ronde and the Muur – or at least Flanders Classics thinks so.

        While I appreciate that towns must make a lot of money from their association with big races, I’m still surprised that the relationship isn’t more equal/healthy. Given that we as fans focus so much on geography and tradition, it’s really quite jarring that a race organiser can so casually remove a feature like the Muur.

        • Perhaps there’s a difference in how the race came to make the climb/place iconic? I don’t think anyone connected with Col du Tourmalet phoned up Henri Desgrange and offered money for LeTour to come by and hype their ski resorts but that’s pretty much what happened with Alpe d’Huez and relatively recently (1952) at that. Did De Ronde include the Kapelmuur way back-in-the-day or did the local tourist/merchant organization offer to pay ’em to race over it? Race organizers change start/finish towns regularly and those changes usually seem to be about (and only about) money, but extorting funds out of places that as much made your race iconic as your race made them iconic just seems greedy IMHO.

          • In the case of the Muur, the messiness of its history suggests to me that it appeared fairly organically, although this is a complete guess. The earliest passages at the start of the 1950s didn’t even go through the centre of Geraardsbergen, then for nearly two decades the race entered the town but skipped the Muur; various later tweaks brought us to the current route. But you’re right that ultimately the race-place relationship is complicated, and dictated by local specifics: political, financial, geographical, etc. (As an aside, I confess to feeling a bit of Kapelmuur fatigue last season, after its use in Omloop, the Ronde, TdF Stage 1, and Binckbank.)

            I wonder are there any locations that are indispensible to a race? The mayors of Roubaix and San Remo can probably sleep soundly – coincidentally each of these finish towns was introduced as a publicity exercise by the original organisers of their respective races. And even these have been played around with over the years (it seems bonkers that P-R skipped the velodrome for a few editions in the 1980s – money again). I guess when it comes to cycling the universal rule is: nothing’s sacred.

  9. 50K seems like to much. If they go through the town but not over the climb I presume it is more of a precedent thing. They don’t want all the mayors thinking they should avoid paying. Maybe by the time of the race a smaller fee may be organised and paid. If you never changed the route of the race this hill would not be included. The race existed before and can exist without it. No one will really notice the lack unless they want to.

    I am in the minority but i do personally support the decision to have the finishing circuits with paid seating for 2 reasons.

    Lots of races close down due to lack of funding and therefore any reasonable way should be used to obtain it. A race like this would have massive costs that need to be met and then a bit more.

    Personally I am 10X more likely to go watch a race like this with the finishing circuit. I would rather watch the finishing groups come by 3 times with the group getting whittled down and gaps changing then once. I think the finishing had actually provided good racing. Its the inclusion of hills at good distances and difficulty which makes the races. Which hill it is does not matter.

    • I’d wonder even about those – Paris-Roubaix no longer starts in Paris after all. RCS would face some serious push-back if Milano-Sanremo were to ditch Sanremo and just call it “La Primavera” instead, but at the same time they have fiddled around with the Piedmont race (Gran Piemonte) and Lombardy (Il Lombardia) as well as the Tuscan race (Strade Bianche) over the years with varying levels of success.

  10. Hmm, Flanders Classics trying to make money? Surely not. I’m no fan of FC, but they’re a Sports Promoter, that’s their job. Hell, the sport of road cycling is pretty poor compared to most other Elite level sports; very little in ticket revenue, and TV rights……hmmm..not doing too well there either. This something that the sport needs to address, and quickly. Someone has to put the show on the road, and it costs money.
    FC’s problem is they do everything ham fisted. They’ve made a right mess of their plans for the CX World Cup (and why the UCI gave an International series to a regional group is madness).

  11. The greed of Flanders Classics is really a terrible thing. Skip the Muur for the second time, both for money, is incredibly low ; make the people pay to see the arrival is almost fraudulent and I’ll never forgive they killed the Driedaagse van De Panne. The stage of the wednesday afternoon was always one of the best days of cycling of the year. They don’t care what they destroy to have some immediate money, but this will turn against themselves.

  12. Classics are just over history and tradition. De Kappelmuur became iconic for de Ronde, like an identity sign.
    It is difficult to say whether it is the ronde that brought is reputation to the muur or the opposite.
    Making the municipality now pay to have the race through it seems to me a bit low.

  13. With so many strong supporters there is literally nothing to prevent anyone from organising a race, turning it into a classic and just watching the money print itself whilst the public and traders flock to give you money.
    No money. No race. End of.
    Trick is to find a balance, keep the events going and build them up whilst gaining media exposure and sponsorship. Free riders do not help at any point.
    When De Ronde goes up the Kappelmuur, how many are there to watch it go by? 10, 20, 30 ++ thousand? How much does each of them spend on car parking/ travel, food, drink, accommodation, other stuff…?

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