Want to experience the Tour first-hand? Plan carefully. Here are 10 tips.
1. CUT THE TOUR OFF AT THE CHASE
. If you want to cheer on your favourite cyclists in various locations, then hop on your bike. The website www.derondeinoudenaarde.be lists several suggested routes for people who like to see the pack race by in a blur in various locations. Depending on your condition you can easily see them live up to seven times! So keep checking this page when the route of the Tour is published.
2. HAVE SOMEONE DRIVE YOU
The Tour attracts 750,000 people every year. Have someone drive you if you prefer a stress-free experience. Every year the Tour organisers have a number of shuttle services that ferry fans to and from the route. The Province of East Flanders offers this free service! If you want to make sure that you do not run into traffic queues anywhere then take the train. The station of Oudenaarde is easy to reach and from there you can take a direct train to Ghent.
3. HANG AROUND IN THE MARKET SQUARE
Did you know you can see the race live four times and still be in the centre of the action? If you walk up and down between the market square of Oudenaarde and the arrival area you will see the race pass by and be able to witness two finishes (men and women). And what's more, you can enjoy some entertainment thanks to the many street artists and cycling collectives. Hungry or thirsty? Enjoy a drink or a snack on one of the many terraces or pubs around the market square. You can also buy a cap of your favourite cycling hero in the merchandising and entertainment area. If you're up for even more entertainment then pop into the public tent near the finish line.
4. VISIT A "PUBLIC" VILLAGE
Do you want to get a taste of the unique race atmosphere along the route of the race but are you not necessarily interested in pitching your own tent? Then check out the public areas on Koppenberg, Paterberg, Kruisberg and Oude Kwaremont. The fields on either side of the hill are reserved for the public during Flanders' Most Beautiful Race. Besides sanitary facilities there are also various stands here where you can have something to eat or drink. And after the race this is definitely the place to be if you want to experience the frenetic and joyous atmosphere!
5. FIND A HIDDEN GEM
If you like straying off the beaten track then we have some hidden gems to recommend. In the centre of the picturesque village of Mater you will run in to the cobblestones of Kerkgate. Find a seat on one of the terraces along this section and watch your heroes come charging by. Haaghoek and Mariaborrestraat are also good places to enjoy a stunning view of the pack as it advances. Supporters of Tom Boonen will tell you however that there is only one place to go, namely Taaienberg. Here Tornado Tom always tests his legs (and those of his competitors) in the gutter. Steenbeekdries is another lesser-known hill that is nearby and also worth the effort
6. VISIT A REAL FLEMISH CYCLING PUB
In the Flemish Ardennes bike races are a part of life. And what better place to go and discuss the upcoming race or chat about the most recent Tour and other spring races than in one of the local pubs? So, why not visit one of the many pubs, in the hills of the landscape of Flanders' most beautiful race in the run-up to or after the Tour weekend. No idea where to go? Order the free "Plan Bier" map to explore 72 of the best pubs in the Flemish Ardennes.
7. GET SOME HELP FROM ABOVE
If you really want to go all out to make sure your favourite cyclist becomes the champion and takes home the trophy, then visit the Tour chapel! Say a prayer to Saint Daniel, the patron saint of all cyclists, or light a candle near the stylised cyclist fresco. The names of past Tour winners have been carved into the floor. In short, a really unique experience
8. BRUSH UP ON YOUR KNOWLEDGE
While you may think you know everything there is to know about the Tour, you may still be surprised. Pop into the Tour of Flanders Experience Centre in Oudenaarde. This is the place to go to learn more about Flanders' favourite cycling race. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the olden days, watch a Tour film on three large screens, follow Peter Van Petegem up Oude Kwaremont, experience what it feels like to drive on cobblestones on a specially designed bike, test your knowledge of the Tour in a quiz and finally, get up on the podium yourself, flanked by your cycling heroes! The CRVV is also the ideal starting and finishing point for your cycle loops. It has cloakrooms and showers, a reception desk with nice staff and excellent bike route maps. You can also find wall outlets for electric bikes and a bike pump.
9. POSITION YOURSELF STRATEGICALLY NEAR THE TOUR MONUMENT
Just like there are any number of cycling races in Flanders, there are countless cycling monuments in the Flemish Ardennes. If you want to see the Tour race by in a special location, then why not pick one of the many Tour monuments along the course? There is a special monument, dedicated to the memory of Karel Van Wijnendaele, the Tour's spiritual father, in the village of Kwaremont. Other monuments can be found in Brakel (the roundabout of the N48 and the N8), at the top of Paddestraat and next to the church in Meerbeke (Ninove). And don't forget about the cycling poem by Willy Verhegghe on the Wall of Geraardsbergen.
10. BECOME A VIP
Do you want to experience the hectic atmosphere of the Tour first-hand from start to finish? The competition organiser Flanders Classics has several special packages which offer a different experience of the race. You can choose from one of several VIP packages to turn this major sporting event into an unforgettable experience. Further information at: www.rondevanvlaanderen.be.