Just as the Four Days of Dunkirk is in reality a six-day stage race, the Three Days of Bruges-De Panne is in fact a one-day race for top professional cyclists. By the way, there are only 18 kilometres between those two towns, one in France and the other
in Belgium, both bordering the North Sea.
From 1977 to 2017, the years when Roger Rosiers was the first winner and Philippe Gilbert the last of the race’s original format, the Three Days of Bruges-De Panne (Dreidaagse Brugge-De Panne) was the preparation event for the Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres, providing all the ingredients of Flemish cycling (wind, cobbles, and
sprint finishes) combined with the traditional conclusion of a time trial. That’s why the likes of pure time trialists such as Viatcheslav Ekimov, Raivis Belohvosciks and David Millar feature on the record books along with the winners of the
“Ronde”: Eric Vanderaerden, Michele Bartoli, Johan Museeuw, Peter Van Petegem, Stijn Devolder, Alessandro Ballan, Stijn Devolder and Gilbert.
The 43rd edition features the Kemmelberg, like in the old days, although in 2003, most of the riders boycotted the climb, citing dangerous racing conditions. At an altitude of 153 metres, it’s the highest point of the race, 111km before the finish line of the men’s race.
Organised for many years by Bernard Vandekerkhove – a former Tour de France stage winner and yellow jersey holder in 1964 and 1965 – until he passed away in 2015, the event was full of stories because of the growing intensity ahead of the
Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres the following Sunday. It was the place to be to analyse the form of the favourites, like in 2007 when Ballan won both races back to back. However, some were experts in hiding their true physical condition.
Rumours were common, including false alerts about Classics stars being sick or injured. Not everyone wanted to take part in the closing time trial with split stages on the last day, and some opted for a rest, or a recce of the finale of the Ronde
van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres.
To say the least, it was a bit odd to have a short stage race in the middle of the Classics and semi-Classics that are so characteristic of cycling in the northern part of Belgium in March and April. Organisers KVC Panne Sportief and Golazo Sports made
a profitable move to divide the three days into three events and attract a much larger portion of cycling enthusiasts in 2018: a one-day men’s race, a one-day women’s race and a Gran Fondo.
This year, the pro races are part of the UCI WorldTour and UCI Women’s WorldTour, respectively. “It says all about the history and the potential of the event,” says Nick van den Bosch, of Golazo. “We are very proud of organising
a race of the highest level for both men and women.”
It’s a similar case for more and more UCI WorldTour events: Strade Bianche, Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields, Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres, Amstel Gold Race, la Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Amgen Tour of
California, Prudential RideLondon Surrey Classic, Bretagne Classic Ouest-France, Gree-Tour of Guangxi and the three Grand Tours (of Italy, France and Spain) although with their different formats.
The inaugural winner of the women’s Dreidaagse Brugge-De Panne, Jolien D’hoore, won’t defend her title as she’s side-lined after breaking a collarbone at the Drentse Acht van Westerveld,
in the Netherlands, mid-March. However, expect to see Marta Bastianelli and Marianne Vos – who recently won the Women’s WorldTour Ronde van Drenthe and Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio, respectively – lead the charge on March
28, one day after the men’s race in which Elia Viviani is the defending champion.
The Dreidaagse Brugge-De Panne now includes two cities because it starts from Bruges - incidentally the native town of NBA French superstar Tony Parker - known by millions of tourists as ‘ the Venice of the North’ for its canals and monuments.
From 1998 to 2016 the capital city of the province of West-Flanders was the magical starting venue of the Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour des Flandres , so the regeneration of the Dreidaagse Brugge-De Panne also means a welcome return to tradition
The 43rd edition features the Kemmelberg, like in the old days, although in 2003, most of the riders boycotted the climb, citing dangerous racing conditions. At an altitude of 153 metres, it’s the highest point of the race, 111km before
the finish line of the men’s race. Meanwhile the women’s race is pan flat with a lot of seaside that promises a spectacular show in windy conditions.
The newcomer to the UCI WorldTour may be a modern concept, but it is full of tried-and-tested traditional ingredients.