Kapelmuur (also known as the Muur van Geraardsbergen) was for many years, the most iconic climb in the Tour of Flanders. Positioned as the penultimate climb, it was often a springboard for attacks that saw winners get lucky. It was taken off the route for the Tour of Flanders to much derision but reappeared in 2016. It has often featured in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad instead, making sure that this iconic climb is still raced regularly. The current Omloop route (2019) sees riders race The Muur van Geraardsbergen ahead of the Bosberg. With the finish line just 10km further on. In contrast, at the Tour of Flanders the climb is shoehorned into the middle of the race. This has reduced the impact the climb has on that race.
The Muur van Geraardsbergen aka Kapelmuur
Found in the Belgian city of Geraardsbergen, the climb rises 100 metres. The cobbled surface makes the gradient feel even tougher. The domed chapel at the summit makes the climb such a focal point. It also makes it easy to recognise when watching the races. The thousands of cycling fans that congregate on the climb’s corners also make the climb iconic with the atmosphere. It has often been the point for winning attacks in races when it has featured.
The climb suits powerful riders due to its short length. This has seen the likes of Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen dominate it before their retirements. Going back a couple more years, Belgian favourite Johan Museeuw would often crest Kapelmuur first.
The climb lasts for 1075 metres with an average gradient of 9.3%. The peak gradient tops out at a brutal 19.8% near the summit.
Other races that feature the Muur van Geraardsbergen
The climb was also featured in the 2014 edition of Omloop het Nieuwsblad. Ian Stannard managed to beat local favourite Greg van Avermaet to the line by just centimetres. Greg Van Avermaet outsprinted Peter Sagan for the win in 2016. In recent years, the Muur is summited ahead of the Bosberg and a run into Ninove for the finish line.
The Women’s Omloop het Nieuwsblad also naturally uses the climb due to the similar parcours to the men’s race. It’s also a regular feature at the Lotto Belgium Tour where a stage finishes at the top of the Muur right by the chapel that gives it the alternative name of Kapelmuur. Lotte Kopecky won here in 2021.
Each of these riders relies on huge bursts of power to reach the summit quickly. Those considered as more traditional climbers often struggle with the battering they receive from the cobbles. The heavier riders with extra power stand more of a chance of winning.
Cycling the Muur van Geraardsbergen
It is possible to cycle Kapelmuur all year round. Whilst the road is shut to cars via a small bollard, it is very rare for the cobbled road to be shut for bikes. The only time you’re likely to be unlucky is when there is a race or event taking place. The majority of British riders end up completing the climb as part of the Tour of Flanders sportive that takes place before the race each year. The longest route of the sportive takes riders over the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg before returning to the area that contains the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg.