Carl has just submitted his report of the Tour of Flanders sportive last weekend. He was riding a pair of Velocity A23s Strada built for him earlier this year.
The ride started in the Market Square In Bruges (you know… the one from the climax of the movie In Bruges?). We set off with 260km’s of wet roads, cold cross winds, slippery cobbles and 20% bergs a head of us the only certainty being the suffering ahead. At least that is what I expected it to be like the reality was very different.
Around 4000 (of the 20 000 plus riders on various courses on the day) headed out of Bruges on the full 260km route in perfect conditions, not a cloud to be seen and already 10 Celsius at 07:00 in the morning.
After a non-eventful, very flat and enjoyable 80k we got our first taste of cobbles. Pushing a slightly bigger gear than normal they were not a huge shock to the system although they did account for a lot of bikes judging by the amount of riders fettling on the side of the road. After the first couple of pave sections you soon got used to picking a line and going for it, they certainly would have been a lot trickier in the wet, in fact the whole day felt like cheating as conditions were that good! There was a significant cross wind when you came out of the pack, or did a turn on the front but with so many cyclists you never had to spend too much energy.
After climb 7 at Oude Kwaremont we hit the Paterberg and this is where we saw the first people walking. Not just one or two, both sides of the road were lined with walkers but the middle was clear. Well almost clear except for chap who decided he was going to remount in the middle of the steepest narrowest point in the whole ride. It was obvious what was going to happen to everyone except him, so despite much yelling to “get out of the way” from approaching riders he shrugged his shoulders and got on with it. When he fell, he took out 4 riders including a mate. Four more walkers and some excellent ammo to wind up Adam “something about having to walk on the Paterberg and thus not cleaning the course”.
The Koppenberg was next and as I wasn’t running a compact I was happy it was not wet. Getting up without walking would have been very tricky given that riders spanned the road all the way up and standing up for me was more a necessity than an option.
The bergs kept coming including Eikenberg, Molenberg, Tenbosse and then on to the Muur in 27 degree heat! (So much for suffering, I came back with a cyclist tan). I knew this climb well from watching, Spartacus ride away from Boonen several times on sky plus. Happily I was riding next to someone about twice my size and on a mtb at exactly the same point so in my own mind I was in legendary form as I went away “Take that Fat Boonen on a mtb!”. At the top instead of building on the hard earned gap I caught up with my other two mates who left me near the start of the climb and were waiting patiently, back to reality then. After a quick piccie it was off to the Bosberg and then a Downhill 11km race to the finish ensued, it was bordering on the childish, with the three of us going flat out and getting rid of any extra waffle energy (excellent food stops) held in reserve. The bike and wheels were amazing, not even a puncture amongst the three of us and the wheels still completely true despite the abuse!
We watched the pro-race the next day and the atmosphere as expected was amazing. Very similar conditions to the day before with less wind. I want to do it again under more “Classic” conditions, otherwise I won’t feel that I had the full experience but as a cycling weekend away it was one of the best.