2017 sees the 101st edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (or Tour of Flanders in English), one of cycling's legendary Spring Classics. The day before the pros battle it out a sportive is held to allow the public to share the experience of riding the famous cobbles. Those thinking of riding Vlaanderens mooiste ("Flanders' finest") had best be prepared for some serious endurance riding. For a taste of what to expect, read our report on riding the 2014 sportive here and check out our tips for first-time Flandriens.
2017 sees a couple of changes to the recipe, the most major of which is a new start location in Antwerp for cyclists riding the 237km and 200km long routes.
In addition a new distance has been added for 2017, so that riders can now choose from four options: 237km, 200km, 141km, and 74km.
Each route features a generous helping of the trademark Belgian cobblestones to tackle. How tough the route is depends largely on the weather - it can be anywhere from close to freezing to 18 degrees in Belgium in early April and bad weather can make the Tour of Flanders pretty tough for even highly experienced riders.
Entries for the RvV Sportive are now on sale at http://www.sport.be/werideflanders/2017/en/.
There are feed stations roughly every 30km along the route, stocked with energy bars, waffles and fruit (mainly bananas and orange segments).
You may want to fit new bottle cages to your bike that will hold your bottles tightly over the cobbled sections - although it is nothing like Paris Roubaix in terms of roughness of surface plenty of riders in previous years have said they lost bottles thanks to having plastic lightweight bottle holders or carbon ones that simply didn't grip tightly enough.
Cobbled highlights to look forward to include:
If you go to ride this event make sure you book yourself into the hotel long enough to experience the pro riders in the actual Tour of Flanders the next day. This is the race that stops Belgium...when Fabian Cancellara won in 2014, 85.7% of the population of the country watched his victory either live or on television!