Former and current pros discuss which editions of the Tour of Flanders began their love affair with the race

The Tour of Flanders is going for over 100 years now, but some editions stand out above the others. Cycling experts weigh in their favourites victories in the Belgian one-day race.

The race morphed through the years from one around Ghent to a Flanders festival with global followers. In 2012, the organiser moved the finish from Ninove to Oudenaarde. No longer did the Muur and Bosberg decide the race, but the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. Regardless of the parcours, the stars shined.

“The 1969 edition with Eddy Merckx stands out for me,” team Quick-Step‘s boss, Patrick Lefevere said. “He escaped for 100 kilometres in bad weather. His sports director Lomme Driessens said, ‘You’re crazy and you have to stop.’ Eddy replied, ‘Get lost.’

“I was a kid, about 14 years old, ready to start my own cycling career. Of course, didn’t move 20 centimetres away from the television. And we were one of the lucky families to have a television at home, but it was black and white.”

Eddy Merckx

Merckx was a two time winner of the Tour of Flanders Credit: Paul Coerten / Cycling Weekly Archive

“I only started watching the Tour of Flanders when Museeuw won,” Tom Boonen (Quick Step Floors) explained.

“I didn’t grow up watching the races every week, but I did a race there as a junior rider in 1995 and after that, I stood and watched Johan Museeuw win.

“I was 16-years-old, that was the first time I was at the Flanders finish line and that was the first time I realised there was a big race in Belgium. Now they made it up to something almost from another world.”

Boonen said that he hopes that he can inspire another boy as Museeuw inspired him in 1995.

“That’s why you do sports, to stimulate people to go out and participate themselves. It’s not only entertainment, it’s also to stimulate young people to go out and ride their bikes and do what they want. If you can get someone off the couch, it’s already a success.”

Boonen won the race in 2005, 2006 and 2012. In 2006, he raced into Ninove with the rainbow jersey of world champion on his back.

“My favourite was 2006 with Boonen in the rainbow jersey,” said Wilfried Peeters, who placed 10th in 1998. He is now a sports director with team Quick-Step.

Tom Boonen attacks on the Koppenberg in the 2006 Tour of Flanders (Watson)

“Boonen was in the breakaway with four or five from the team, also Paolo Bettini was there. All the other riders followed, but on the Valkenberg, Leif Hoste started pulling to go alone and Tom followed. At at the end of the Valkenburg, they are with two and Tom went with the jersey.

“When Eric Vanderaerden won in the Belgian jersey, I was impressed. It was all-day rain. It was very bad weather, cold, rain. Not every rider can ride like that in the rain.

“I was watching on TV and inspired. It was my last year as an amateur. I signed my contract in July and turned professional in 1986.”

Eric Vanderaerden in the 1985 Tour of Flanders (Watson)

“Many Italians have won over the years, but Alessandro Ballan’s 2007 victory remains in my memory,” said Italian professional Matteo Trentin.

“I was standing in a bar and they flashed the image of Ballan sprinting to win. I think I rode my bike home, and that night, they played it over and over on TV. Ballan sprints to victory.

“The image remains locked in my head for ever. These days are something little boys do not forget.”

“It was my first time, when we raced on the old parcours in 2008,” Niki Terpstra said. “I was in front of the peloton on the Muur. I remember that moment, I had goose bumps. I was suffering like an idiot, but I was enjoying it. Then I realised I was in love with the Tour of Flanders.”