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12-03-2020 | Frank Jansen

Question: is the Tour of Flanders really a cyclo?

A reader sends us an interesting question: “the organizers of the Tour of Flanders (Flanders Classics) say this event is a cyclo. Is that true?” It’s a common issue: many organizers misuse the word cyclo. In this article we explain why we disagree.

Not a protected word

The word ‘cyclo’ is not protected. You could compare it to a word like ‘sustainable’. Everyone has their own definition. Anyone can call their product sustainable. To that extent is Flanders Classics is not to blame.  

The exact definition of a cyclo simply doesn’t exist. It’s not in any dictionary. If you look on the internet, you’ll find very few descriptions. They do exist, however. In my e-book: cyclo’s for dummies (Dutch) I describe a cyclo as ‘a cycling event with time registration and a classification”. That seems to be a good starting point, but in reality it’s a bit too narrow.

At CycloWorld, we use the following three criteria

  • time registration on >50% of the route
  • mass start
  • classification(s) and award ceremonies

Not that straight forward

That doesn’t mean all our problems are solved. Some events for instance, use starting blocks rather than a mass start. The Alpenbrevet and the Marmotte are famous examples. We still call these events cyclo’s. The Alpenbrevet is a special case anyway, because this event doesn’t have classifications and award ceremonies. 

Furthermore, some events only have time registration on a few slopes. We don’t call those events cyclo’s. However, in an event like the GF San Gottardo, a little under 50% of the track the time is registered. Still we call this event a cyclo, because they present themselves in that way. Moral of the story: there are always exceptions to the rule. Quite regularly we have heated debates amongst editors about questionable cases.

For the Tour of Flanders however, it’s cut and dry. There is no mass start. There is no time registration. There’s no classification and award ceremony. It’s a clear example of a sportive, rather than a cyclo.

How about gran fondo?

The Italians use the word 'gran fondo' for cyclo’s. ‘Cyclo’ and ‘gran fondo’ are interchangeable, and therefore we use both words. For events like the Tour of Flanders, we tend to use more generic terms like ‘event’, or ‘sportive’. 


Our Belgian friends are a bit careless in using the word cyclo. The Tour of Flanders is a sportive and not a cyclo and that’s the end of it. 

** Update **

We just got the news the amateur version of the Tour of Flanders is postponed. Read more Corona updates in our live blog

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