De Ronde van Vlaanderen - water bottle

The Tour of Flanders (Dutch: Ronde van Vlaanderen), also known as De Ronde ("The Tour"), is an annual road cycling race held in Belgium every spring. The most important cycling race in Flanders, it is part of the UCI World Tour and organized by Flanders Classics. Its nickname is Vlaanderens Mooiste (Dutch for "Flanders' Finest"). First held in 1913, the Tour of Flanders had its 100th edition in 2016.

Today it is one of the five monuments of cycling, together with Milan–San Remo, Paris–Roubaix, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the Giro di Lombardia. It is one of the two major Cobbled classics, anticipating Paris–Roubaix, which is on the calendar one week after the Tour of Flanders. The event had its only interruptions during World War I and has been organized without hiatus since 1919, the longest uninterrupted streak of any cycling classic.

Six men hold the record of most victories, making the Tour of Flanders unique among the major classics. Belgians Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman, Johan Museeuw and Tom Boonen, Italian Fiorenzo Magni and Swiss Fabian Cancellara each have three victories.

Since 2004, a women's race, the Tour of Flanders for Women, is organized annually on the same day as the men's but on a shorter distance.

The Tour of Flanders was conceived in 1913 by Léon van den Haute, co-founder of the sports newspaper Sportwereld. In the era it was customary for publishers of newspapers and magazines to organise cycling races as a means of promoting circulation.

By the beginning of the 20th century, cycling was in a poor state in Belgium. Velodromes were closing and national championships on the road or track were no longer organised.[5][6] The one major Belgian race, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, was in the French-speaking South. As the gloom increased, Odile Defraye became the first Belgian winner of the Tour de France in 1912.[7] He was a 20-year-old Fleming and, although he rode for Alcyon, a French team, he symbolized a potential rise for Belgian cycling. Defraye's victory inspired August De Maeght, mayor of Halle and director of the press group Société Belge d'Imprimerie, to publish a Dutch-language sports magazine called Sportwereld.[5][8]

Sportwereld's most prominent cycling writer was Karel Van Wijnendaele, a young sports journalist and passionate cycling fan who had tried cycle-racing himself. The first issue appeared in time for the Championship of Flanders on 12 September 1912.Van Wijnendaele became the editor of Sportwereld on 1 January 1913.

The Tour of Flanders has started in four different cities – Ghent, Sint-Niklaas, Bruges and Antwerp. The start of the inaugural event in 1913 was on the Korenmarkt in Ghent's historic city center. Ghent, the largest city of East- and West-Flanders, hosted the 1913 World's Fair at the time of the race. Later, the official start in Ghent moved to the fashionable Albert Hotel, close to St-Pieters Station, where riders signed on. Until the 1950s a Sunday Mass was held for riders before the start, as the race was often held just before the Holy Week or on Easter day. In 1977 Sint-Niklaas replaced Ghent as the starting location of the race, mainly because it had more space to accommodate the growing number of spectators on its large market square. Race briefings were held in the monumental city hall. By 1988 the start had grown into a highly mediatized two-day event with a spectacle presented by Flemish television on the evening of the race. In 1998 the start of the Tour of Flanders moved to Bruges, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its illustrious history and medieval architecture, as part of the city's promotional campaign. The move from Sint-Niklaas to Bruges brought criticism unrelated to the route change. Until then it had been a tradition that spectators could mix and meet with riders before the start. Nonetheless, most Flemish fans and traditionalists were enthusiastic of the new starting place, praising Bruges' historic site and its closeness to the coast, which made it possible again for the race to pass by the seashore.

As from 2017, the start of the race is in Antwerp, Flanders' largest city. The move will mark the first time the race passes through the province of Antwerp, as well as the first start outside the historical County of Flanders. The change was considered revolutionary, and the decision caused great division among Flemish cycling fans.

The finish in 1913 was on the velodrome of Mariakerke, part of greater Ghent, but failed to have the aspired success. It moved in 1914 to the Deeske Porter velodrome in neighbouring Evergem where, Van Wijnendaele recounted tongue-in-cheek, "there were a good 20 spectators more than the previous year." Wetteren hosted the finish from 1928 until 1961 with some interruptions during World War II, when it was moved to Ghent. Fiorenzo Magni won his three Tours of Flanders in Wetteren's city center. From 1962 to 1972 the finish was in a residential neighbourhoud in nearby Gentbrugge, on the outskirts of Ghent.

From 1973 to 2011 the finish was in Meerbeke, part of the municipality of Ninove, some 20 km west of Brussels. For 39 years the race finished on the Halsesteenweg, with a finishing straight of 400 m, going slightly uphill in the final meters. In September 2011, it was announced that Oudenaarde would be the new host city to finish the Tour of Flanders, thereby ending a 39-year tradition of finishing in Meerbeke. The new arrival was part of a restyling of the race by new organiser Flanders Classics, which also saw the introduction of "loops" in the course. Many fans and followers were upset with the altered race finale, and the organisation's decision was met with resistance.