The Ronde van Vlaanderen, aka the Tour of Flanders, is a race that almost every rider in the women’s peloton wants to win. It’s up there with the Olympics and World Championships, and that’s partly because of the long history of the men’s race – if you talk about Flanders, pretty much every cycling fan has an idea of it. But it’s always been a bit of a paradox for fans – a glorious race to watch in person, a fantastic experience for the peloton… but very hard for us to see, until now.
This year, everything changes – and in really exciting ways. Not only will we get a whole hour and a half of the women’s race, unrestricted, with English commentary on Proximus TV, but Sporza, the host-broadcaster, will also be split-screening key moments of the women’s race into the men’s coverage, which is going to give us an incredible audience, and the ability to present the race in different ways to different viewers.
Believe me when I say this is a game-changer, a real milestone for women’s cycling. First, because it’s Flanders, and secondly because for everyone who says “showing women’s races is just too hard” (never mind that tons of other races manage it) lose that argument. We’ve demonstrated, with statistics, over and over and over that the audience is there – and when a major broadcaster at one of the biggest races in the world, shows it can be done, there are no more excuses any more! Life’s fantastic!
So, how do we watch and follow the race?
I’ll be updating this guide as I see more – and of course, please do share any good links etc in the comments, or on twitter, and I’ll edit them in.
The race is on Sunday 3rd April, and it starts at 11:06 CEST (10:06am UK BST; 7:06pm Aussie AEST; 5:06am N American EDT) and the live broadcasting starts at 13:45 CEST (12:45am BST; 9:45pm AEST and 7:45am EDT). It’ll be streamed with Dutch commentary by ex-pro Liesbet de Vocht on Sporza, and in English, with former sprint superstar & Wiggle High5 boss Rochelle Gilmore, and José Been, on Proximus TV – here’s the page for the direct stream – you’ll need to install Silverlight to watch that, but it should be un-restricted on the day. If you have problems seeing that (if you’re on a tablet or phone, eg) CyclingHub.tv will be putting up a stream too – click the right tab. It’ll also be shown on Italian Channel RAI Sport 1.
The race is due to finish between 14:45 and 15:10 CEST (from 1:45pm BST; 10:45pm AEST; 8:45am EDT) and if you need streams for the men’s coverage, so you can watch the split-screening too, check out your local broadcasters, or you can always find streams here and here.
More ways to follow the race
We can also follow the race before the coverage kicks in on twitter. The Ronde van Vlaanderen has a great twitter, there are the hashtags #UCIWWT (for the Women’s World Tour) and #RvV, for both men’s and women’s – but for me, the easiest way is my twitter-list, which I update with accounts who live-tweet from all the major races. I’ll be chatting about the race on twitter too – so if you have any questions, please do ask me, I love talking women’s cycling
More race information
There’s lots of information out there, and I’ll be updating this as I go, but let’s start with the course, and the timings for where the race will be when. More route detail from page 2 of the Roadbook (thanks Velorooms!)
I’ll add in more previews with details of the route too (in brief? Climb 1, Wolvenberg, is at 46k, and there are 10 official climbs in total, and 5 sets of flat cobbles – and the last climb, the infamous Paterberg, is only 13km from the finish!) but there’s a preview thread here on Velorooms.
The race is Round 5 of the 2016 Women’s World Tour, and you can catch up on the action so far on the UCI portal – check out the latest WWT Chronicle, and take a look at the current standings. To catch up with the World Tour so far, my collections of videos and media from the gravel roads of Strade Bianche, cobbley Ronde van Drenthe, hilly Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Flandrian Gent-Wevelgem.
And if you want some pro riders’ views on the race, check out my interviews with Martine Bras and Loes Gunnewijk from this year, with Ellen van Dijk just before she won in 2014, and Emma Johansson the same year.
This is so exciting – and it’s just the start of a month with some great live women’s cycling in it – to find out what else we can watch, check out my guide, which I’m so happy to say, I’m adding to all the time at the moment! Genuinely, we’re in an incredible place for women’s cycling.
I need to shout-out to Flanders Classics for pushing this, and Sporza for streaming it (thank them both on twitter via those links!). And I want to give huge credit to the cyclocross community too, because Sporza started streaming women’s races over the winter, and realised wow, the viewing figures were really good, and added more and more races, and I’m sure that contributed to us getting this race streamed. Big love to all the people who made that possible, too – and to all the other women’s races that have been streaming over the last few years, and showing decent highlights, demonstrating the audience is most definitely here. When I started writing about women’s cycling, we were losing races in swathes, and things were really depressing – it’s glorious to be in this happy time for the sport
Of course I’ll put up a collection of videos and media here after the race, and I’ll be adding things to my women’s cycling Tumblr as I see things too. I’m funded to do this kind of thing by my wonderful Patreon supporters, who I’m so grateful to – you can join them, from $2/€2/£1.50 a month, over here.