De-Kapel-tated – De Ronde organizers lose their heads

“The Muur [Muur van Geraardsbergen] is, of course, the biggest loss,” says Sporza commentator Michel Wuyts. “I think it’s a blunder that they have removed it. The Muur was a monument to the monument; over the years it has become a place of pilgrimage. It seems that the Ronde has been decapitated!”

News is sweeping through the cycling world that Flanders Classics, the organization responsible for the Ronde Van Vlaanderen (as well as six other historic one-day races) has not only changed the finishing city of the 2012 Ronde Van Vlaanderen from Meerbeke to Oudenaarde, but have also completely removed the Muur van Geraardsbergen (KapelMuur) and the Bosberg from the race! The new plan is to have three laps of the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg, which may make the race more difficult, but likely, less interesting and certainly, less historic.

Why, would Flanders Classics do this? Perhaps, the bottom line. VIP tents/grand-stands bring a substantial amount of revenue to the race, and having Kermesse-like (crit-like) circuits allows a paying public to see more of the race and spend more money. But at what expense to the event itself?

“Climbing the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg three times in the finale is probably in my favour,” Stijn Devolder told Het Laatste Nieuws, “but I believe that the organisers made a wrong choice by simply replacing the old finish. The Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg can not be erased from the Ronde. Besides, the finish must remain in Meerbeke,” he added. “I could win ten times in Oudenaarde, but it would never be the same feeling as finishing the job in Meerbeke.

According to a Sporza poll, the Belgian public agrees with Devolder with over 70% of respondents saying that they dislike the decision. Although I don’t have the same cultural connection to the race, I completely agree. For me, the race IS the Koppenberg and the KapelMuur, as that is where the majority of my interest lies. I understand that to some that may be like saying that the Alpe D’Huez is more the Tour de France than the Col du Tourmalet, which is and idea I don’t support and is perhaps a poor analogy, but I’d rather have both and not have to choose, and I certainly don’t need/want a Tour with three ascents of Alpe D’Huez in one year either.

Three-time Ronde winner Johan Museeuw is another who disagrees with the decision, “Of course it is unfortunate that the Muur van Geraardsbergen is no longer in the course,” he said. “It has repeatedly made the difference, it’s logical that this climb has my love and support.”

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