Riders and fans now totally familiar with the UCI Road World Championships roads
Friday 24 September 2021
Shortly after the final official recon by the riders who will battle it out for the rainbow jersey on the road between Antwerp and Leuven as of tomorrow, it was the turn of the cycle racing fans. A sold-out Flanders 2021 Ride Leuven offered some 3,000 people the opportunity to explore the city loop in Leuven and the Flandrien Loop of the World Championships on a partly car-free circuit. On a beautiful late summer afternoon, they were treated to 60 or 100 kilometres in the wake of their heroes and this weekend’s future world champions.
Sports enthusiasts set out in large numbers from the OHL site in Leuven between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Immediately after the start they were introduced to the local loop in Leuven, which will be ridden eight times by the elite men on Sunday. And, of course, it included a memorable passage under the arch marking the official finish of the 2021 UCI Road World Championships.
For the first time, St. Antoniusberg made the cycle racing fans toil and sweat. With an average gradient of almost 6% at 230 metres, it served as the ideal preparation for the subsequent slopes facing the course participants: the Keizersberg (290 m - 9% max. - 6.6% average), the Decouxlaan (975 m - 6% max. - 2.5% average) and the Wijnpers (360 m - 8% average and 9% max.). After getting a taste of it, the enthusiasts continued their journey to the dreaded, yet beloved Flandrien Loop.
There, many a smiling face transformed into a painful grimace as they made their way up the Smeysberg. This slope also promises to be one of the decisive factors in the 2021 UCI Road World Championships in Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s road races. With a gradient of 8.84% over 700m, rising to as much as 16%, it’s inevitable. The Moskesstraat, which was three kilometres away for those cycling the shortest distance, did not give the cyclists time to recover, because it too is a hellish climb, increasing to 18%.
After a challenging S-bend in Overijse, followed by the Taymansstraat and the Bekestraat to conclude the circuit, one final explosion of power was needed to contend with the cobblestones. Tired but content, they were able to continue on their way to the start and finish site at the OHL domain, where they could find a well-deserved refreshment, take a shower or visit the Business Park that had been set up there. With a goodie bag full of fun gadgets and plenty of World Championship dreams and memories, a few hours later the participants headed home, walking on air.