Belgian is well-known for its cobblestones and cycling. Few countries can boast as many top-level cycling races as Belgium.
All the best one-day Belgian races take place over 8 weeks from late February to late April. The peak racing season kicks off with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, reaches its peak with Ronde van Vlaanderen and finishes with Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Although there are many other smaller races throughout the whole year, these are the best Belgian races that excite all cycling fans.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is one of the first races of the season. It’s used by many cyclists to gauge their early season form after coming back from the winter break.
The race begins in Meerbeke and finishes in Ninove. It covers a distance of around 200km and includes plenty of short steep hills and cobblestone sections. The riders will often have to battle bad weather conditions, as the race is in early spring when the weather can be very unpredictable.
Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne
Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne is held on Sunday, a day after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on the opening weekend of Belgian racing.
The route has lesser climbs than Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, with the last 50km being relatively flat. Sprinters such as Fabio Jakobsen, Mads Pedersen, Peter Sagan, Dylan Groenewegen, and Mark Cavendish have previously won this race.
E3 Saxo Bank Classic
E3 Saxo Bank Classic, also known as E3 Harelbeke is raced mainly in the Flemish Ardennes. It’s held on the last Friday in March to kick off the peak Belgian racing season that features Ghent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
The race starts and ends in Harelbeke after 204km with a relatively flat route that favors the sprinters. Belgian rider Tom Boonen won this race five times in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012.
Ghent-Wevelgem is the third race in the Flemish Cycling Week, which includes Three Days of De Panne, E3 Harelbeke, Dwars door Vlaanderen and Tour of Flanders. It’s held on a Sunday, a week before the Tour of Flanders.
Ghent-Wevelgem is often referred to as the sprinters’ classic for its flattish terrain. Top sprinters such as Mario Cipollini (1992, 1993, 2002), Tom Boonen (2004, 2011, 2012), and Peter Sagan (2013, 2016, 2018) have all won Ghent-Wevelgem thrice in their careers.
Dwars door Vlaanderen
Dwars door Vlaanderen is the fourth race in the Flemish Cycling Week, after Ghent-Wevelgem and before the Tour of Flanders. It’s held on a Wednesday and viewed as a warmup race for the Tour of Flanders.
Many winners of Dwars door Vlaanderen have gone on to do well at the Tour of Flanders, with Mathieu van der Poel winning both races in 2022.
Ronde van Vlaanderen
It is considered one of the most difficult one-day races in the world at 257km and 18 cobbled climbs sections. The race starts in Bruges and finishes in Oudenaarde.
One of the most iconic sections is the Muur van Geraardsbergen, a cobbled climb that often decides the race. The Muur was first used in the Tour of Flanders in 1951, and has been used almost every year. Other notable climbs include the Oude Kwaremont, the Paterberg, and the Koppenberg.
More reading : Tour of Flanders Past Winners and Records
The Scheldeprijs is a mid-week (Wednesday) one-day race after the Ronde van Vlaanderen. It’s the oldest cycling event in the Flanders region, dating back to 1907.
The race starts in Terneuzen and finishes in Schoten with a flat 200km route favoring the pure sprinters. German sprinter, Marcel Kittel won this race five times in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017. Mark Cavendish (2007, 2008, 2011) and Piet Oellibrandt (1960, 1962, 1963) have won thrice.
In 2021, the inaugural women’s edition was held and won by Lorena Wiebes.
La Flèche Wallonne
La Flèche Wallonne is the second of the three Ardennes Classic. It’s a mid-week (Wednesday) race in between the Amstel Gold Race (Sunday) and Liège–Bastogne–Liège (Sunday).
The 202km course is littered with short and punchy climbs with a total elevation gain of 3,200m suits the punchers. The Mur de Huy is the last and decisive climb of La Flèche Wallonne at 1.3km and an average gradient of 9.3%.
Alejandro Valverde won this race five times in 2006, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the fourth among five Monuments in cycling. This race concludes the Spring Classis racing season in late April before the peloton goes to the first Grand Tour of the year, Giro d’Italia.
The route is similar to Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne, with short and punchy climbs. It’s the hardest among the three Ardennes Classics at 257km and more than 4,500m of climbing.
The women’s version, Liège–Bastogne–Liège Femmes was first held in 2017 and won by Anna van der Breggen.