Spring classics for amateurs: the most beautiful cyclosportives in Flanders


Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, E3 and many more. In Flanders hobby athletes can race the amateur version of some pro spring classics.

Following in the footsteps of the pros, hobby athletes can compete in the amateur versions of some spring classics and ride on “holy ground” in Flanders. These are the highlight events fans of Hellingen and Kasseien:

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Cyclo

Date: 27 February 2022
Start-finish: Ninove-Ninove (76 & 106 km), Gent-Ninove (140 km)
Distances: 70 km, 110 km, 140 km
Info: www.omloophetnieuwsbladcyclo.be/en/
Date professional race: 26 February 2022

One day after the pros, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad course belongs to amateur cyclists. There are three distances to choose from for this spring classic that starts and finishes in Ninove or Gent respectively. The myth of this Flanders spring classic may be experienced on 70, 110 and 140 kilometres. Those who tackle the longest distance need to conquer ten Hellinge – i.e., short, but steep climbs – and five cobblestone sections, the so-called Kasseien.

Just like the pros, amateurs will climb the Molenberg, the Muur van Geraardsbergen, with a maximum gradient of 20 percent, as well as the Bosberg, and ride over cobblestone sections steeped in history, such as the 2.3-kilometre-long Paddestraat or the Haaghoek course.

Danilith Nokere Koerse Cyclo

Date 13 March 2022
Start-finish: Nokere
Distances: 62 km, 92 km, 122 km, 157 km
Info: www.nokerekoersecyclo.be/
Date professional race: 16 March 2022

This semi-classic through the Flemish Ardennes is not quite as demanding as the E3 or the “Ronde”, but it still has its own special charm. With excellent riding skills and the right gear choice the Huisepontweg cobblestone passages are conquerable, and they’ll enable you to climb Tiegemberg and Poelberg energetically. However, some energy should be left for the day’s grand finale: The Nokereberg where the winner will be crowned. The ascent is 350 metres long, has an average gradient of 5.7 percent and a max. gradient of 7 percent.

Dwars door Vlaanderen Cyclo

Date: 19 March 2022
Start-finish: Waregem
Distances: 77 km, 120 km, 158 km
Info: www.dwarsdoorvlaanderencyclo.be
Date professional race: 30 March 2022

The bare numbers don’t give a thorough impression of what this race confronts hobby athletes with. Nevertheless, we’ll provide some: 13 Hellingen (climbs) and 4 Kasseien (cobblestone sections) need to be conquered by the riders doing the 158 km long loop. Among them is the race’s crucial point: the Knokteberg with a maximum gradient of 13 percent, which the pros ride twice.

Some even steeper passages will be provided by the climbs of ten Houte and Taaienberg. On the latter, amateur athletes may either choose to jolt over the cobblestones or evade them by riding in the concrete gutter on the side of the road. Those who consider this option a little too tough may opt for the 120-kilometre tour with 12 climbs and 2 cobblestone sections or the 77-kilometre loop with 5 Hellingen and 2 Kasseien.

E3 Cyclo – Johan Museeuw Classic

Date: 27 March 2022
Start-finish: Harelbeke
Distances: 78 km, 121 km, 157 km
Info: www.johanmuseeuwclassic.be/nl/
Date professional race: 25 March 2022

The event named after the Lion of Flanders, ex-professional Johan Musseuw, is nothing less than the hobby counterpart to the well-known spring classic E3 Harelbeke or E3Binck Bank. The race that got nicknamed “small Tour of Flanders” by pro riders also offers amateur athletes the chance to get a “stress-free” taste of the classics. There are three distances to choose from.

The longer the more difficult – due to the so-called Hellingen and Kasseien. The short, tough climbs and the cobblestone sections such as Karnemelkbeekstraat, Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg will make the legs of amateur cyclists burn and the eyes of cycling enthusiasts light up.

Gent-Wevelgem Cyclo

Date: 26 March 2022
Start-finish: Wevelgem
Distances: 68 km, 98 km, 143 km, 189 km
Info: www.gentwevelgemcyclo.be/nl/
Date professional race: 27 March 2022

While the short 68-kilometre loop is more of a history lesson on wheels leading cyclists past sites of World War I, the longer distances feature some steep hills. Kemmelberg, Monts des Cats, Mont Noir and Mont Blanchisserie are quite demanding. Just like the historic Plugstreet, which was integrated into the race only a few years ago. Be prepared for some strong wind on this cobblestone passage, which is reminiscent of the Christmas Truce of 1914 during World War I.

We Ride Flanders – Ronde van Vlaanderen Cyclo

Date: 2 April 2022
Start-finish: Oudenaarde-Oudenaarde/Belgium, Oudenaarde-Antwerp/all Belgium (217 km)
Distances: 72 km, 136 km, 177 km, 217 km
Info: www.werideflanders.com/en
Date professional race: 3 April 2022

Flandern Jedermann-Rennen
© Stefan Rachow

The day before the Ronde, fans are already partying alongside the racecourse. Especially at the neuralgic points of the race like Oude Kwaremont, Koppenbeg and Paterberg they’ll cheer on the 16,000 amateur cyclists who struggle with the notorious Hellingen and Kasseien. For some, however, momentum, atmosphere or leg power won’t do the trick and they will have to scramble up the steep cobblestone sections on foot. Koppenberg and Paterberg are considered the crucial points in the amateur race. The finish in Oudenaarde, on the other hand, is not very spectacular.

Scheldeprijs Cyclo

Date: 9 April 2022 (Saturday)
Start-finish: Schoten/Antwerp
Distances: 79 km, 123 km, 162 km
Info: www.scheldeprijscyclo.be/nl/
Date professional race: 6 April 2022

Flat through Flanders along the river Schelde. Amateur athletes competing in the Scheldeprijs, the professional race is considered the unofficial world championship for sprinters, do not have to struggle with kilometres of brutal cobblestone sections and steep ramps. There are only a few hundred metres of “moderate cobbles”.

Paris-Roubaix Challenge

Date: 16 April 2022
Start-finish: Roubaix-Roubaix/France, Busigny-Roubaix/France (172 km)
Distances: 70 km, 145 km, 172 km
Info: www.parisroubaixchallenge.com
Date professional race: 17 April 2022

For amateur athletes, too, this race will feel like the “Hell of the North”, when they are confronted with 54 kilometres of very tough cobblestone passages one day before the pros; also included in the amateur version are pavé legends such as the 2.4-kilometre passage through the forest of Arenberg or the 2.1-kilometre Carrefour de l’Abre, which has often led to a preliminary decision in the pro race.

If you want to minimise the vibrations, mount wider tyres with little pressure and ride either on the right or left side of the road or in the middle of the lane – on the raise. Riders will be rewarded for their suffering by a lap of honour in the famous velodrome in Roubaix get a mini cobblestone as a trophy to take home.