Great news for fans of gravel cycling and the Spring Classics: a new Flanders Gravel event is set to launch this July, featuring routes that include the classic cobbled climbs of Flanders stitched together by gravel and off-road trails.
Launched by Flanders Classics - organisers of the world-famous Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) spring classic road race - in cooperation with LtD Gravel Rides, the inaugural "Flanders Gravel" event will be held on 2nd, 3rd and 4th of July 2021.
LtD Gravel Rides, incidentally, is founded by recently retired pro racer turned gravel ambassador Laurens ten Dam - and that's not the event's only connection to the rich history of Flanders.
Event headquarters are in Oudenaarde, the capital of De Ronde and a heartland of cycling. "Gravel history will be made," say the organisers, "with Flanders Gravel opening up the gravel world to the iconic Koppenberg, Patersberg, Kluisberg and Oude Kwaremont cobbled climbs. It's set to be a monumental gravel experience."
The July dates should mean riders enjoy better weather than usually experienced by riders on the Flanders spring sportive - although of course, sunshine is never guaranteed.
What entrants can rely on is a challenge, with routes of 80, 120 and 160km on offer. Expect "the nicest ingredients of the Classics" combined with "surprising" gravel and unpaved roads, with Oude Kwaremont and the Koppenberg among the climbs to test your legs.
Lunch is included, along with fresh coffee at the festival area, and tickets start at €54.95 for the Saturday or €154.95 for the "Weekend Warrior" package including camping on site.
A back-up plan is in place if Covid restrictions prevent the event running in July, with a fallback date of 16-18 October already in place.
"We hope to see light at the end of the tunnel", explains Flanders Classics' CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel. "So, we have been working hard in the background to launch this event.
"If all is well we will welcome participants to Flanders in early July. We have also set up an alternative date of 16th to the 18th of October.
"Riders opting for the day ticket - the Saturday Troopers - will set off in the morning of the 2nd of July from the iconic downtown square in Oudenaarde to head out for their 80, 120 or 160 kilometers ride. Flanders Gravel focuses mainly on the recreational rider. We look forward to a weekend where the gravel bike will be the centre of attention combined with the relaxed and unique gravel ambiance.
"Topped off with routes that will bring the riders to undiscovered cobble stones, our famous bergs and unique gravel sections. If you successfully complete the Flanders Gravel event, you have truly earned yourself the title of Gravel Flandrien."
Flemish finish-line festival
The finish of the Flanders Gravel event is in middle of the Flemish Ardennes, in the shadow of the Koppenberg and Oude Kwaremont climbs, made famous by de Ronde.
The organisers say "A characteristic homestead situated between these iconic hills will provide the stage for the Flanders Gravel finish line."
Entrants can look forward to entertainment in the form of DJs, live performances, a bike expo, catering, a campfire and most certainly the famous Belgian beers.
Riders who opt for the Weekend Warrior ticket can pitch their tent from Friday onwards in a designated area near the finish line. Additional special arrangements for the Weekend Warriors are planned on the Friday night and Sunday morning.
Co-organiser Laurens ten Dam, founder of LtD Gravel Rides, is thrilled to be part of this Flanders Gravel event.
"Gravel riding is getting more and more popular in Belgium," he says. "Working with Flanders Classics assures the riders of the best overall experience - the best of road and cyclocross history mixed with authentic gravel DNA. The Flanders Gravel event offers a challenging bike ride in a region that lives and breathes de Ronde.
"Hopefully health conditions will allow us to enjoy our iconic gravel ride in July. Afterwards we all can relax around the campfire with a beer in our hand, music in the background, talking about the great adventures we had during the ride. Gravel riding is enjoyment. Who can say no to that?"
For more information and to registration for the event, visit www.flandersgravel.cc.