Hear from former Paris-Roubaix champion, also third at the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2003 and real Classics specialist, Stuart O’Grady talking all things Flanders!
Stuey will be hosting our Spring Classics experiences this April, including the recently launched Flanders Weekend. His experience, expertise and firsthand knowledge will certainly not go amiss on tour.
Find out what he has to say about the iconic one day Classic, below…
What’s so special about the Ronde van Vlaanderen?
The Ronde really is one of the coolest races of the year. The entire country is in party mode for one of the most historic and difficult races on the calendar.
If you stand on the podium at the end of this gruelling race, you gain instant ‘hardcore’ status from your fellow riders!
It’s one of the most challenging days you can have with the small roads, constant change of direction and super steep cobbled climbs.
Although the cobbles aren’t anything like Roubaix, they are constantly changing in their difficulty and it can get really dangerous when racing.
Your favourite Ronde van Vlaanderen race memory?
Finishing 3rd in 2003.
This was a huge moment for me personally. It gave me the confidence after years and years of trying to be competitive in the final of these one day Classics, that I did have what it takes.
It gave me the belief that i could potentially win one of these big races if everything fell in my favour in the years to come.
Favourite Flanders climb?
I wouldn’t call any of them my favourite as they hurt so much when you’re racing over them!
But the Muur van Geraardsbergen was probably the most iconic and hardest when the race used to finish in Meerbeke. Racing up such an incredibly steep cobbled climb after 250kms was so hard….But so cool if you were having a good day.
Preferred Flanders cobbled sector?
I didn’t really have a preferred cobbled section, but the one I really struggled with the most was the Stationsberg section.
It is long and is only at around 5-10%, but you really need big power on this section.
Most challenging section or phase of the race?
From km 100 to the finish line. You have to stay so focused on everywhere you put your front wheel. The roads are constantly changing, the wind blowing different directions. It’s a crazy race.
Greatest difference to Paris-Roubaix?
The climbs. Roubaix is fairly flat, whereas Flanders has 20+ climbs. All different lengths and difficulties.
In Flanders you can use slow down tactics on the climbs to ‘block’ the roads so teams are out of position for the following sector, whereas in Roubaix, the roads are wider and you race 50kmph + over the sectors.
They’re both incredibly hard and have their own personalities.