One of the highlights of the Tour of Flanders, the Muur Van Geraardsbergen climb, could be removed from the route once again as local authorities struggle to justify the hefty price tag of its inclusion.
The famed, wall-like climb was removed from the Monument in 2012 after organisers changed the route of the race, only returning in 2017, albeit 100km out from the finish line and therefore losing some of its significance.
The potential change, which could be effective from 2021, is due to the €50,000 cost to local authorities of having the race pass through the city of Geraardsbergen and up their cobbled climb.
The question of whether this expense can be justified has been raised by mayor Guido De Padt, with his city struggling financially, forcing him to increase taxes and also close the oldest outdoor swimming pool in Flanders.
With at least 20 races passing through the city annually, the Tour of Flanders is not necessarily a make-or-break event, according to De Padt.
"As part of the discussion of our multi-year plan, we take a closer look at everything, including the Tour of Flanders," De Padt told Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab). "That now costs us €50,000, but we are far from the finish line and after the race passes through the fans leave quickly. When the Muur was still in the final of the race it was completely different. So the question is: do we still have to pay so much?"
With other priorities such as poverty relief and housing, De Padt is torn between these pressing issues and the cultural significance of his city's inclusion in the Monument.
"We cannot save on keeping the race, the Muur is of course an important element in our city marketing. So it would be a shame if it disappeared from the Tour of Flanders for financial reasons."
As one of the biggest prizes in cycling, a number of riders have already said they will target the Flandrian one-day race as part of their spring Classics campaign, including Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and Greg Van Avermaet (CCC).
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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