Like Team Sunweb’s Coryn Rivera, the climbs of Flanders are tenacious, tough, and easy to underestimate based on altitude profile alone. Rivera hails from sunny Southern California but she has found success on the cold, wet cobbles and steep short bergs of Belgium. She's the only American winner of the celebrated Ronde van Vlaanderen in the race’s 103-year history. Here, the champ takes us through the five toughest climbs of Flanders and what it feels like to tackle each classic burg.
2.2 km length
93 meters climb
4.2 percent grade (11.6 percent max)
The Kwaremont is the toughest for me. It’s just long enough and just steep enough and just rough enough that you’re gonna suffer. Even if you’re feeling good, it’s not going to be great. It’s where I got dropped the year that I won. It’s just a sufferfest, and the lead into it is super narrow. You don’t take any speed into the climb, you just kind of drag yourself over it. There are a couple of flatter spots on it, but it's just really long.
1.8 km length
87 meters climb
4.8 percent grade (9 percent max)
The roads are narrow and technical going into the Kruisberg. You already start climbing on the pavement and then transition into about 300-400 meters of super steep cobbles. They're just really rough and you can't get any speed off of it.
0.4 km length
48 meters climb
13.7 percent grade (20 percent max)
If you are fresh and you can hit the Paterberg with good legs, it’s actually my favorite. In Flanders, it’s the last climb and it’s short but so steep, so it actually feels like it goes on forever. That one is just steep and real bumpy and you have to grind it out. It’s so steep it’s almost like cyclocross and you have to find a good line. If the gutter is free and you can ride the gutter, that’s my number one line.
0.9 km length
85 meters climb
7.7 percent grade (14% max)
This one is not actually cobbled, but it’s the climb where the race really starts to unfold. It begins on something like a highway and then everyone is trying to turn onto half a lane for cars. You go from being 15 riders wide to three wide, and it's a fight to this corner. And then you have to climb.
Muur van Geraardsbergen
0.9 km length
63 meters climb
9.0 percent grade (20 percent max
The Kepelmuur is super iconic. It comes more in the middle of women's race, so you've still got some legs under you, but it's never an easy one. It's also a technical lead into the climb, going from a super wide highway to narrow streets. And it just keeps getting steeper.