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Cobbles Courses: Where Are They At Now?

Cobbles Courses: Where Are They At Now?

In trying to contextualize this year’s Cobbles Season, I’d like to check in on where things are now and where they are going with respect to courses. I’m not here to preview all of the cobbled classics or their courses right now; if anything, this is a post about whether it is or isn’t worth investing into deep analyses of these courses anymore. And to spoil the ending… it might not be.

Let’s dive into where the course designs stand these days and how they got there. Oh, and this is probably a good time for my annual mention that I wrote a book about these races in 2016, and while a lot has happened in the last seven years, it’s not a bad primer on the history of these races, all things considered. Buy on Amazon or ping me for a more direct connex. Anyway…

Ronde van Vlaanderen

The Tour of Flanders is not only the main event, it’s the cool kid who the other kids check out what s/he is wearing before deciding on their own look. So let’s start there. And I have news!

RvV men 2023 map

Awww… the Ronde van Vlaanderen is back to Bruges! A five-year agreement was reached and officially announced about a month ago — I confess, I missed it til now — which will bring the race back into the County of Flanders every other year, after six editions starting “overseas” in Antwerp, though Belgium’s largest municipality will still alternate in as the even-year start-line host. Culturally, that’s kind of a big deal! It opens de Ronde up not only to the beautiful start in the Grote Markt of its most famous lovely city (though Antwerp was great too), but also to West Flanders.

This latter point is not to be overlooked. Exactly zero of the six editions starting in Antwerp made it as far west as Gent — which is in East Flanders, as was about every single kilometer of every Ronde since 2017 (minus Antwerp and maybe the odd diversion into Brabant or Hainault for a few meters).


Photo by DIRK WAEM/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

Well, that’s not a “tour” of Flanders. And I’m not accusing the Sinjoren of bad faith, it’s simply that West Flanders is about 100km from Antwerp at a minimum, so unless you wanted your Tour of Flanders to really just be a bunch of guys touring Flanders, the…

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