Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Koppenberg Circuit Race

Good luck to the Vic’s Espresso racers in the Koppenberg Circuit Race this Sunday March 29, 2009 in Superior, CO. More info at 2009 Koppenberg Circuit Race. Our local race is named after the famous 22% cobbled climb in Belgium, although here the 17% climb is on dirt - race viewing should be fun.


What is Koppenberg? – a steep hill in Belgium

In Dutch, Koppenberg means Heading Mount, it is a 77m high 600m long hill in Oudenaarde, the Flemish Ardennes of Belgium.

The climb is part of the Ronde van Vlaanderen or Tour of Flanders which takes place this year on April 5, 2009 from Brugge to Meerbeek 261.5Km to the south. Strategically the climb typically has little importance in the race, other than sometimes splitting the field and increasing the effort during the 22% climb and the crosswinds encountered at the top. Too far from the finish, the drama and effort are the attraction, plus it is the rare race when you will see a pro walking his bike up a hill. Koppenberg is known for its rutted cobbles, dirt gutters and narrow steepness.

What makes Koppenberg so famous? - a little history

Koppenberg was first used in the Tour of Flanders in 1975 and annually until 1987, when an incident involving a Danish rider Jesper Skibby halted the climbs inclusion for 15 years. What happened? Well Skibby was in the lead by 2 minutes but fell onto the cobbles half way up the climb. The race commissaire was forced to make a quick decision as the peloton approached rapidly behind his car. He decided to drive forward and over poor Skibby. He hit only Skibby’s wheel, destroying it, (with Skibby still in his pedal clips) but it could have been far worse. The words "Remember Skibby" traditionally painted on the road at the summit of Koppenberg is a reminder of 1987.

Here you can see Graham Watson’s poster version of Skibby toppling. I’m not sure what came first the car or the topple.

Road improvements in 2002 resulted in widening the road 10 feet and re-paving it allowing the climb to be re-introduced once again, this time until 2006. Following further resurfacing in 2007, it was again included in the 2008.

The Koppenberg hillside is also used for the annual Cyclo-cross Koppenberg race.

What is our local Koppenberg?

Course: Koppenberg Circuit, a 5.5 mile road race circuit (3-8 laps), 300 ft elevation gain per lap including 2 miles of dirt road. Also includes a very short, but very steep dirt climb, 17%.
Date: March 29, 2009, 8:00am
Location: Superior, CO

I couldn’t find any other race in the USA using the name Koppenberg, so here in the United States it looks like we are the next best thing to being in Belgium.

See the Gradient of the real Koppenberg climb at Climb by Bike - that's a lot of red on that graph.

See a Pro walk a bike up a hill on the Koppenberg 2006, Belgium – “Get On Your Bike!” This is when being a fan is so much more fun then riding a bike. (video)

Also this Sunday 3/29/09 is the Criterium International – for any of you Jens Voigt fans.

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