Vlaanderens Mooiste Best of Flanders
21“Only those who are in top condition can say that the Ronde is not hard. For everyone else, it’s the Way of the Cross.” Andrea Tafi, Pro Cyclist
The Way of the Cross, Via Dolorosa, was up the hill Golgotha, a painful walk by Jesus carrying his cross after being whipped so forcefully there was little skin left on his back or face. A Belgian Spring is something to endure in itself as a bike racer; but add the best of the hardmen and bodacious roads and it becomes something of Via Dolorosa.
In the season of Easter, Tour of Flanders is a Monument indeed to cycling’s greatest sufferers. First held in 1913, the race grew famous for its harsh weather, short but cobbled steeps – hellingnen, and heroic finishers – flahute.
Belgian dominance is six times any other nation. An American has never won it. Only Hincapie came near, first of the chasers, achtervolgers, over a minute behind two Belgian escapees. The course meanders through Flemish country. This in itself presents a challenge as many turns through many towns keep the pace crit-like. Well into it, some of the passages of Flemish Ardennes are remarkable. Dozens of connected, short steep sections with narrow entrances offer narrow windows of recovery in between. These steeps are but 300-2200 meters long whose average gradients of 4-14% belie their stiffest points. The Koppenberg is the best known of the hellingen and the race often separates here setting up winning attacks after other steeps ahead. Grimaced faces with helmets askance bear witness to poignant stretches of pain.
Cobbled classics of the north include the Ronde, Paris-Roubaix, semi-classic Gent Welegem, Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kurrne. These races are all characterized by brutal battles for the front since no winners come from behind.
Prayer for Tour of Flanders Ronde van Vlaanderen
“Drench the plowed fields…With rainfall…bring her to blossom and fruit…All through the wild meadows …Set the little hills to dancing…” 22Psalm 65:11-13
We are thankful for an ultimate display of suffering in the Way of the Cross. We confess we enter into little of this way. We ask for greater understanding of the way toward victory and ask blessing upon Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Ponder Can I race like a Belgian fighting for the front? Affirm I fight to dance up gnarled little hills. Watch how preparation for suffering makes you a conqueror.
21“Tafi still not right,” Latest News for April 2, 2003 Edited by Jeff Jones www.cyclingnews.com
Tour of Flanders Museum in Oudenaarde – Centre Ronde van Vlaanderen www.rvv.be/en/museum
22The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson