Flanders: What It’s Like To Ride…
“It’s the hardest and most challenging of all the Classics! – It’s a fun race if you can ride in the front – It takes years to learn the climbs and the course.” We talked to Matt White, Steven Rooks, and Frankie Andreu about what it’s like to ride the Tour of Flanders…
MW – “This will be my 5th Flanders, for me it’s the hardest and most challenging of all the classics ! The parcours the roads the fans the tradition all makes for one brutal day in the office. I love it but I hate it !
When I was in the break in Flanders in 2001, it was incredible people were yelling like crazy for me to hang on ! I was in a world of hurt but those people helped me drag my arse over more climbs than I would of normally.”
Is there a different mood in the bunch for this race?
MW – For all the big classics guys it’s their World championships !
How are the Belgian crowds different or unique from say French and Italian fans?
MW – They have usually drunk a fair bit more !
What will your role be here? How is your form right now?
MW – Form hopefully getting better, role get into some breaks or help out Ekimov or Max Van Hesewick
What are the key points in the race, and what is the best tactic to handle each?
MW – The race has 20 or so climbs which are all crucial but the big battle is positioning before them you have to be totally concentrated, one loss of concentration and you are in trouble for the next climb and then you are playing catch up and waisting energy and that energy is needed later !
Who do you think will be the main contenders this year?
MW – Museeuw, Van Petegem, Dario Peri and Betini
Former TDF KOM winner Steven Rooks rode Flanders 4 times in his career, but rode all the Classics several times, including a win and 10 x Top 10 places at Liege.
Why has this race become so popular with the Italians?
SR – In the beginning when the Tour of Flanders was a big hit with Merckx, and Raas, it was mostly Belgian and Dutch riders in the front every year… but in the last couple of years when I was riding, there were also the Italians at the front who could also ride a good Flanders.
SR – The Italian riders are also very good in the short steep hills because they are used to riding this type of terrain in many of their own races. A lot of their races compare to the terrain of Flanders, and I think in the last 10 years they’ve made the decision to come to Belgium because it became a World Cup race. Before that, they were not so interested. Now that it’s a World Cup, every rider from around the world wants to be there, because it’s good for your name, good for the sponsors, and good for the people to see.
SR – Most of the Belgian & Dutch people are excited about Flanders, Roubaix, and Liege, because they’re easy to follow. You can drive to the little hills which are all within about 30km of each other. So you can see the riders a few times during the day. It’s always a fight to see the riders battling one-to-one up the hills – it much different than seeing them riding in a bunch on the flat roads.
What was it like riding up the bergs in your day, with the fans crowded by the road, yelling and screaming – was it different at Flanders than at other races?
SR – Sometimes they motivated you and sometimes they were distracting, because the fans sometimes get in the way, especially standing in the smoother gutters on each side of the road.
I think it was the same as it is today. They have their favorites, and the can see them all coming up the hills. On the hills you get a better chance to see your favorite riders.
It’s a fun race if you can ride in the front of the race, if you have good conditions and you can take the hills easily, but most of the time in April you can have bad weather. Today it’s becoming windy and rainy, which is typical Belgian weather, which makes the race more exciting for the people but not the riders.
Today Steven works with the Dutch sports marketing company Mir&Mir Sports Marketing.
Tour of Flanders- This race takes years to learn the climbs and the course. Until you have learned the roads and the climbs you can never do well here. The riders have to know when to fight for position and when to rest. You have to know when the climbs are to be in the right position, at the front. This race is 80% about being in position and at the right place at the right time and 20% fitness. At this level everyone is strong so knowing the course makes a huge difference.
Check out Frankie’s racing camp on May 9-11th. More info can be found on his website https://www.frankieandreu.com.