• Once host to a Tour de France stage
• Population: 472,000
• Hosted the Olympics in 1920
Antwerp dominated international trade for centuries thanks to its flourishing sea port and the influence of its merchants. The largest Flemish city was also the world capital of sports in 1920 when it hosted the Olympic Games. At the time, Paavo Nurmi won his first four Olympic medals, including the gold in the 10,000 m and the cross country races. Since then, Antwerp has also become the capital of diamonds and rewards Antwerp’s indoor tennis tournament three-time winners with a Diamond-studded tennis racket. So far, only Ivan Lendl and Amélie Mauresmo have won this racket. In terms of cycling, Antwerp is mostly famous for its velodrome, a track that attracted champions on the occasion of the famous Six Days of Antwerp. Let us not forget two other Antwerp jewels: cycling champions Wilfried Peeters and Tom Boonen were born in Mol, a neighbouring town.
• Twice host to a Tour de France stage
• Population: 607,000
• Named European capital of sport in 2005
A place in which exchange and openness are the watchwords, the biggest port in Europe is also a major player in sporting terms. For example, it was in Rotterdam that the French football team including Zinedine Zidane won the final of Euro 2000. What’s more, the city’s leading club, Feyenoord, gave the Netherlands its first European Cup in 1970. In terms of cycling, the city witnessed Joop Zoetemelk in the Yellow Jersey in the half-stage that followed the prologue to the Tour de France in 1973. Rotterdam again welcomed the Tour de France in 2010, when the race came to visit for several days leading up to the prestigious Grand Start. During the prologue that crossed the majestic Erasmus Bridge, a symbol of the city, Fabian Cancellara beat off all the rest of the riders in the pack to pick up the inaugural Yellow Jersey of the Tour de France for the 4th time. The following day, the stage that led to Brussels was won by Alessandro Petacchi, after the riders had crossed the dykes of Zeeland and then Antwerp. This fantastic day was partially the inspiration for the creators of the World Ports Classic.