Such was the strength of feeling when the Tour of Flanders route was changed in 2011 that locals held a mock funeral for the Muur Van Geraardsbergen, but now the famous finale is back... although not in the same race.
Starting from 2018, the finish line of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will be in the town of Ninove, where Flanders used to finish until 2011, rather than in Ghent where it has been located for recent editions of the race.
This will mean that race organisers Flanders Classics - which also organises the Tour of Flanders - is able to use exactly the same route as the final 60km of the old Tour of Flanders route, including climbing the Muur Van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg in the final 15km.
"The last 60 km are identical to the last Tour of Flanders with the finish in Ninove," race organiser Wim van Herreweghe told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, after which the race is named.
"This finale, with exactly the same succession of climbs, is engrained in the memory many riders and cycling fans. The fact that the finish line will be painted in exactly the same place as in the past coul hardly be more symbolic.
The Tour of Flanders finished in Ninove for the final time in 2011, moving the finish line to the outskirts of the much larger town of Oudenaarde for 2012 and including the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs as the crucial moments at the end of the race, rather than the Muur and the Bosberg.
For Peter Van Petegem, who won the Tour of Flanders in 1997 and 2003 and is now the route director of Omloop Het Niieuwsblad, the chance to return to the Muur/Bosberg finale is a chance to please fans and riders, and also to create exciting racing.
"For many cycling fans, it is a happy reunion with the familiar final kilometres", Van Petegem, said. "The final with the Muur and the Bosberg and the arrival in Ninove appeals to everyone."
"The new generation of riders, who have never ridden on the old course of the Tour of Flanders, are eager for this finale. De Omloop has always had a great media appeal as an opener of the new season and that will not be less with this finale. It promises to be a spectacle."
The 2018 edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the traditional opener of the Classics season, will take place on February 24, with Greg Van Avermaet being the defending champion.
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