Cycling in Flanders: Amplifying a Legendary Tradition

The Goal

Cycling in Flanders wished to raise awareness of its Flandrien Challenge using accurate and seamless data, plus encouraging visibility by leveraging Strava.

Cycling in Flanders, a brand under Visit Flanders, has been at the forefront of promoting road and gravel cycling in the Belgian region since its inception in 2013. As Dries Verclyte, a representative of Cycling in Flanders, quipped with a half serious tone: “It is dedicated to the people in Lycra who like to suffer.” Rooted in the ethos of embracing challenges and the spirit of resilience, Cycling in Flanders embarked on a journey to amplify their visibility, foster community engagement, and establish their legitimacy within the cycling world. Central to this endeavor was their Strava integration, a decision driven by the platform's popularity and unparalleled connectivity within the cycling community.

“Our central mission at Visit Flanders is to say ‘You're not a real cyclist until you have ridden a cobbled climb. Our mission is to get everybody with a road bike to come over to Flanders and cycle at least one of those cobbled climbs once in their lifetime,” says Dries.

Dries Verclyte and Ewoud Lagring of Cycling in Flanders emphasize Strava’s pivotal role in amplifying their mission: “We develop routes with cobble climbs, we support events, museums, and we develop projects like the Flandrien Challenge, which is fully Strava integrated,” explains Dries.

Photography courtesy of: Cycling in Flanders

How Multiple Strava Features Have Supported the Flandrien Challenge

With a keen understanding of the cycling landscape, Cycling in Flanders seamlessly integrated Strava into their initiatives, most notably through the Flandrien Challenge.

This challenge, deeply rooted in the region's cycling heritage and conceived at the start of 2020, epitomizes the essence of resilience and determination, traits synonymous with the term "Flandrien." The primary goal of the challenge is to complete 59 segments in less than 72 hours across bergs and cobbles in Flanders. Segments include legendary climbs like the Muur van Geraardsbergen, the Oude Kwaremont, the Koppenberg, and the Paterberg.

Once a cyclist has completed a segment, they unlock a badge on Strava and on the Cycling in Flanders website “to show where you’ve been, not how fast or how high you cycled or climbed. It’s about where you cycled,” Dries emphasizes. On top of the virtual badges, every Flandrien Challenge finisher has their name engraved in a cobblestone and placed in the Centre Ronde van Vlaanderen in Oudenaarde, where all the pros are. “You can literally have your name on a wall of fame,” says Dries.

On top of the virtual badges, every Flandrien Challenge finisher has their name engraved in a cobblestone and placed in the Centre Ronde van Vlaanderen in Oudenaarde, where all the pros are.

By leveraging Strava's API and its Flyby feature, Cycling in Flanders seamlessly integrated the platform into their website, enabling cyclists to track their progress during the Flandrien Challenge or other routes and accomplishments in real-time, and letting them playback their activity on a map and timeline. As Dries points out: “We worked with the API so you could just connect your Strava account to the Cycling in Flanders website and see that you completed this bucket list climb, which is really nice.”

Moreover, Strava's integration enables Cycling in Flanders to easily track and validate participants' progress, ensuring the integrity of the challenge.

The Flandrien Challenge clearly demonstrates Cycling in Flanders' innovative approach to blending the digital and physical realms. Aside from virtual badges and names etched in cobblestones, the challenge also delineates 59 iconic segments on the roads of Flanders. “We marked the segments on the road,” explains Dries. “When you approach a segment, you see the Flandrien Challenge name of the climb, the statistics about it, and then you have the Strava line at the start of it and one at the finish line at the end.” Strava's live segments feature play a pivotal role in this challenge, providing participants with real-time feedback.

Additionally, the challenge nurtures camaraderie in the cycling community on Strava and beyond, with celebratory posts in Cycling in Flanders’ Strava Club, like the one marking the 1,000th Flandrien Challenge finisher.

Beyond the Challenge

Beyond the Flandrien Challenge, Cycling in Flanders harnesses Strava's social features to inspire and connect with cyclists worldwide. Through their dedicated Strava Club, cyclists can share their routes, celebrate achievements, and engage in meaningful discussions. “When people do the Flandrien Challenge, they share their routes on Strava or tag the Club in their post. It’s a nice way of inspiring others to go out and try the routes themselves, and to see what the Flandrien Challenge and Cycling in Flanders are about,” says Dries. “The social aspect via Strava is definitely important.”

This social side not only fosters a sense of community but also serves as a powerful marketing tool, amplifying Cycling in Flanders' visibility and attracting cyclists to the region.The brand also leverages Strava's Route Embeds to boost regional awareness for their cycling community, which simultaneously functions as a multifaceted tool. It streamlines the completion of the Flandrien challenge, and offers dozens of Strava Routes with detailed Points of Interest for the community to try their hand at cycling on the most classic Flandrian routes that have created numerous cycling legends over the past 100 years.

Cycling in Flanders' integration with Strava exemplifies the symbiotic relationship between technology, tradition, and territory. By embracing Strava's platform, Cycling in Flanders has not only enhanced its visibility and legitimacy but has also fostered a thriving community of cyclists united by their passion for exploration and resilience.

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