So (sorry, apparently the dutch habit of starting every statement with ‘so’ has stuck). So, last weekend I subjected my body & bicycle to the torture of riding in the Ronde van Vlaanderen cyclo sportive, grand fondo, thing. This was the second time for me and I would like to go on the record as saying it was the last. Don’t get me wrong, the Ronde (pro race) is an incredible monument to cycle racing and an all together fun way to spend a weekend. However, there are a lot of organized amateur rides in Europe and only a couple of them require pummeling your nether regions into a bruised mess of swollen saddle soreness. I don’t care what anyone says after the fact, nobody likes riding on cobbles when they’re actually riding on cobbles. ‘Nuff said about that. Here’s the map of the route, including hill index:
I rode with a couple of good friends from Rotterdam, who were attending for their first time and apparently about 15,000 other people including George Hincapie! We rode the 133 km route, which includes all the hills (save one). This is by far the most popular route as it allows a common start and finish location (Oudenaarde) and eliminates the need to catch a 0530 shuttle bus to Brugge.
JJ & Steph administer last minute chain lube.
The morning got off to a cold start; when we woke up it was about 24 deg fahrenheit. It warmed up progressively throughout the day but was snowing on us the last couple kilometers.
The 1st hill (Koppenberg) came early in the day and was one of the steepest, including a section with a 22% gradient. Unfortunately the crowds hadn’t broken up yet and we were greeted by a bottle neck requiring everyone to climb the cobbled hill on foot. This is really difficult in plastic cleated sidis, best to work your way over to the muddy shoulder where the traction is a bit better.
There were a number of photographers along the route snapping shots of you at your best, which is where some of these pictures come from. Of course they were always on the cobbled sections & hills so all of my pictures show me with what I’ve labelled my ‘cobbles face’. It’s an expression born of cold weather, physical exertion and disbelief at my own stupidity for voluntarily doing this again.
A good example of ‘cobble face’. Hey, at least I’m not walking!
All the wonders that await you at the top of the hill, for sale by local entrepreneurs.
After crossing this finish line we took advantage of the free massage (thanks Skoda!) and powered through delicious braadwursts. After a brief game of hide and seek with our escape car we loaded up and headed back to the hotel to drain the hot water tank and bundle up in our warmest wool sweaters before heading into town for further nourishment and beer.
Of course the next day (easter) was the day of the actual race. The town was a bit less busy than last year, due to the holiday, but the racers didn’t slack off and provided a great day’s entertainment. Fabian Cancellara proved he still has what it takes by taking a masterful win over Peter Sagan. Brilliant.
Although less hyped, Marianne Vos won the women’s race. A well deserved win for perhaps the most dominant cyclist alive.
Spartacus’ team car.
We got into town in time to walk around a bit before the start of the women’s race.
Ladies on the way to the starting line.
Marianne Vos’ team car.
While walking around we saw the kid’s race roll through, very cool.
During the early part of the race we went through the museum dedicated to the race. It was definitely worth the hour or so. On display were all manner of racing relics and assorted old stuff. The film was pretty cool too.
They even have a bike rigged up on lumpy rollers as a cobble simulator!
My favorite daughter was home from Paris for the weekend so I was in a hurry to head back to Holland after the race. Instead of trekking out to one of the bergs to watch the rest of the race we watched from the safety of a nice warm pub with a bunch of thirsty locals. Very fun.
So, another successful Belgian biking weekend. Good times.
Bye for now,