Tour of Flanders 2003
Wind and distance sorted out the group, the Mur de Grammont (Grammont Wall) chose the winner.
It was the crosswind, especially, that left riders exposed and after every curve of the narrow streets and at the summit of every wall, it wreaked havoc in the muscles of pursuit riders who had to respond to each acceleration of the leaders.
At every curve or tightening of the roadway, riders stuck in the middle of the group had to go through endless sudden slow-downs that then, of course, turned into violent and prolonged accelerations as the long pack line struggled against crosswinds to fill holes left by cyclists who just couldn’t keep up with those just ahead of them.
It was essential for racers to have memorized the course’s maze-like series of curves, switchbacks, lanes and alleys as well as to keep track of wind direction: the Belgians had already won this classic race 61 times; followed far behind by the Italians and the Dutch with 9 victories each.
The Mur de Grammont (Grammont Wall) stage saw two “neighbors” climb the 20% grade with power and agility: Peter Van Petegem and Frank Vandenbroucke.
Ten riders followed, but kept losing ground in the final 15 kilometers left before the finish, victims of the fierce headwinds they encountered.
The final sprint was undramatic: much more powerful and faster, Van Petegem was just too powerful and too fast for Vandenbroucke despite the latter’s demonstration of significant reserves right to the end.