On Sunday 22 May we will have the Tour of Flanders for the youth in Oudenaarde up to three times. A competition for the U19, better known as the juniors, the newcomers category (U17) and a Tour of Flanders for the girl youth (U17 and U19). “The intention is to really develop a ‘youth day Tour of Flanders’ there”, says Wim Van Herreweghe of Flanders Classics.
“Also for those who dream of one day becoming Jolien D’hoore or Lotte Kopecky. We didn’t do much for the female cycling youth, except in Gent-Wevelgem.”
National coach Sven Vanthourenhout applauds the initiative, but at the same time wonders aloud how much Tour of Flanders you can give to the newcomers – given the limited distance. “You would be disappointed”, says Van Herreweghe. “There are plenty of opportunities in Oudenaarde to include elements such as cobblestones and slopes from the great Tour of Flanders. I am thinking, for example, of the Achterberg, the Boigneberg, Volkegem, the area around Kerkgate. For the U19 it is already quite easy. The loops still have to be drawn, but with the juniors you can do the stones Jagerij and Kerkgate, the Wolvenberg completely… It will be enough for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. We always look for the same balance for the three categories: it must be feasible, sufficiently spicy and safe. Complete. It really should be the holiday of the youth.”
The Tour of Flanders for newcomers (boys) will be a round of the Belgian Cup, which will be held with provincial selections. The U19 (juniores) will be an interclub to which six good foreign teams will be invited. Maybe in the long term we will also go to the international calendar with this competition. The intention is that in addition to the races themselves, we will make a kind of initiation day for cycling. For this we are in talks with Cycling Vlaanderen, the federation of this region, and also with the Center Ronde van Vlaanderen itself.”
Unfortunately chosen day
Van Herreweghe and Flanders Classics also do not plan to completely drop the U23 (promises). “Until 2019, it was the Saturday after the Tour of Flanders. That was just an unlucky choice because you normally also spend the weekend of Paris-Roubaix. Moreover, it no longer suited the city of Oudenaarde itself, which saw the center reasonably closed for two weekends in a row. While we also have to conclude that the better juniors also immediately switch to the World Tour. If we also get such a match for U23 scheduled, then the promises may also be added again in the long run. We will keep the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for the U23 and also the Kattekoers within the framework of Gent-Wevelgem. The intention was in the first place to make a really big youth day for cycling in Oudenaarde. With Flanders Classics we want to continue to support the foundation. Three times Ronde van Vlaanderen to start, it’s not too little”, concluded Van Herreweghe. (hc)