Biking’s monuments are legendary occasions, characterised by the most important rivals battling it out on essentially the most brutal parcours, with the Tour of Flanders maybe essentially the most thrilling of all of them.
Few races on the calendar match the significance and status of De Ronde and its gruelling cobbled sectors and relentless hellingen (climbs) are among the most well-known sights in professional biking.
In a race typically greater than 250km in size for the lads, and these days 150km for the ladies, the affect a 2.2km piece of cobbled highway in Kluisbergen may have on the result may come into query – if it wasn’t the famed Oude Kwaremont.
Not as steep because the punishing Koppenberg and Paterberg climbs, however equally as vital, the Kwaremont is the longest cobbled climb within the race and breeds an intense tactical battle as one of many key factors on the route for the reason that controversial redesign in 2012.
The Oude Kwaremont as we all know it has been used within the race since 1974 and it means ‘outdated’ to separate it from the Nieuwe (‘new’) Kwaremont which runs parallel to it and continues to be utilized in races reminiscent of final 12 months’s Dwars door Vlaanderen.
The Nieuwe Kwaremont was a cobbled highway however has lengthy been paved and makes up a part of the N36 principal highway from Berchem to Ronse – much less thrilling than the cobbled again route into the village.
By way of significance, nevertheless, the Kwaremont’s has risen considerably since 2012 when the course was redesigned to complete in Oudenaarde as a substitute of Meerbeke which hosted the race’s finale from 1973 till the modifications.
Since 2012 the Kwaremont has been accomplished thrice within the males’s race and as soon as within the girls’s and its ultimate ascent together with the Paterberg has change into a crux level of the race.
From 1973-2011 there was a distinct duo of climbs that determined Flanders – the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg. Their iconic standing brought about controversy as some individuals believed their removing meant the race was now not the Tour of Flanders.
For the previous 5 seasons, they’ve change into the ultimate two climbs at Omloop het Nieuwsblad on the run into Ninove, which takes place this 12 months on February 25.
The climb itself doesn’t begin on cobbles and its steepest part is simply 11.6% and comes within the center part, which in comparison with the Paterberg maxing out at 20.3% and the Koppenberg at 22% could seem comparatively bearable, however it’s removed from it.
Annemiek van Vleuten put the strain on in the direction of the top of the Kwaremont in final 12 months’s girls’s race however the SD Worx duo of eventual winner Lotte Kopecky and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak gave the Dutchwoman no likelihood to get away earlier than they reached the Paterberg.
As soon as the worst appears to be over, the riders battle with the false flat part with out time to get better and that is typically the place the ache is highest. The legs are filled with lactic acid from the early gradients and the unrelenting cobbled highway retains coming and coming – as do the rows of followers screaming at their heroes.
Races have been received and definitely misplaced right here proven in final 12 months’s version the place Tadej Pogacar put the hammer down on the second ascent of the cobbled sector and ‘slaughtered’ the 2021 winner Kasper Asgreen after he tried to comply with the two-time Tour de France champion.
Asgreen did take the Strava KOM for the sector at 4:33, however solely as a result of Pogacar had misplaced his bike pc in an earlier crash. Van Vleuten has the QOM at 5:44 from the 2019 version of De Ronde.
Lately retired Niki Terpstra used the Kwaremont as a launching pad in 2018 as he caught the breakaway and left them in his mud to change into the primary Dutchman to win the Tour of Flanders in 32 years with second-place finisher Mads Pedersen the closest, however even the extremely versatile Dane couldn’t maintain onto Terpstra’s wheel.
His footsteps had been adopted the next 12 months without warning winner Alberto Bettiol who rode everybody off his wheel on the two.2km part, stayed forward over the Paterberg and was capable of maintain sufficient of a spot on the run into Oudenaarde to take his first skilled victory at considered one of biking’s greatest races.
Hours previous to Bettiol’s triumph got here compatriot Marta Bastianelli’s victory within the girls’s race the place she additionally confirmed her power on the Kwaremont and blew up the primary group, earlier than sticking with Annemiek Van Vleuten and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and outsprinting them to the road.
The opposite key side to the Kwaremont outdoors of its personal issue is the race into it, and the race after it. The climb is regularly the juncture between a livid struggle into the sector’s starting, and a determined chase after finishing it and being dropped.
It’s the penultimate ascent of the Kwaremont the place a rider’s probabilities can evaporate as they full a brief downhill earlier than turning proper onto a highway no wider than a motorcycle path, inflicting riders to lose vital positions only for not arriving on the entrance.
Pogacar was guided into this very important part of the race by Matteo Trentin in 2022 however he was unable to do away with eventual winner Mathieu van der Poel who did sufficient on the Kwaremont to make contact with the entrance group earlier than the Paterberg.
Additionally, for those who would not have the legs on the ultimate ascent of the Kwaremont, you definitely received’t have them on the Paterberg and can probably know your race is over earlier than even getting onto the ultimate 13km run to the road.
Can Pogacar make the distinction on the Oude Kwaremont on the 2023 Tour of Flanders? Or will another person dominate the two.2km sector on their strategy to victory?