Cobbles - ©PatrickVerhoest

Words to describe the steep, cobbled hills of Flanders don’t come easy. These vicious ‘bergs’ would be considered insane in any other country if introduced today as part of a professional race. But in Belgium they are fundamental to the sport, alternatively spiritual and demonic, unique places where racing champions are revealed and leisure cyclists try to sample history without falling over. As common as beer and fries, the stony climbs are part of life in Flanders. Here are the top five:


The fabled Koppenberg is feared by many for its steepness (19% on the trickiest parts). It’s the roughest, baddest climb in all of Flanders.


The Oude Kwaremont is not extremely steep, but merciless because of its length: 1.3 miles.


At 511 feet, the Kemmelberg is the highest point in West Flanders, named after the village of Kemmel, which lays on its eastern slopes. During World War One it was the scene of battle, but today it is the focal point of the Gent-Wevelgem race.


The Muur is to Flemish bike racing as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. This climb is hands down the most iconic of the Flemish Ardennes, and of Belgium for that matter.


The Paterberg is a narrow, cobbled road with an average gradient of 12.5% and a stretch of 20%. The current Ronde Van Vlaanderen subjects cyclists to this climb twice, with the second pass coming just before the finish. This is where the Ronde is won or lost.