Ronde van Vlaanderen – Flanders 7
As usual some of the best idea’s start as a bit of joking around between colleagues in an office, but this one ended with a mixture of guys from Ridgeback, our UK Distributors Madison and a few fellow cycling mates putting our names down for the Ronde van Vlaanderen (or Flanders as its better known here in the UK).
This is an event that gives everyday riders like ourselves the opportunity to ride some of the roads & climbs that we’d only normally sit staring at on TV. With 3 distances available 87km, 138km & 244km (only suitable for those wishing to test their own sanity & endurance). We opted for the 138km – which would prove more than hard enough.
Madison Brand Manager Oli Collins was the Ridgeback contingent for the weekend, riding a converted Flight Titanium. A set of drop bars and cable operated disc callipers were retro fitted, together with a set of Continental 4 season tyres and Oli’s trusty San Marco Concor Saddle. The Titanium Flight proved a pretty sound choice, especially over the cobbled sections where any little help to soften the impact to your hands, arms and derriere is gratefully received.
The adventure began with our group of 7 Road tripping with 2 cars piled high with bikes & kit down to Hesdin in Northern France where we were kindly supplied with accommodation. . Friday morning was a reasonably relaxed affair as we pedalled out for a steady 35miles in beautiful sunshine & quiet country lanes (I say ‘reasonably relaxed’ as 7 guys riding together inevitably results in a macho Sprint finish, or King of the Mountains competition … and it did). The remainder of the day seemed to be taken up with quite possibly the largest pre-race feast I’ve partaken in.
Saturday was somewhat cooler & windier but that would take nothing away from what proved to be a exciting, challenging route. Starting in Oudenaarde we set out into the Belgium countryside & villages, Cobbled sections and short sharp climbs of the ‘Bergs’ beckoned. Riding a road bike across cobbles simply isn’t comfortable and a different technique was employed by each rider, for me opting to cover the ground as fast as possible seemed logical, if nothing else the bone shaking is over so much quicker.
Our plan to start very steady and enjoy the day lasted approximately 1km, with so many thousands out on course it’s easy to sit with a larger group of riders hurtling along … well that’s until the climbs when it’s every man for himself. The infamous Koppenberg arrived soon after the first drink station, topping out at over 20% with narrowing cobbled surfaces, the sheer number of riders caused bottlenecks that frustratingly meant a few foot dabs as we ascended. Fast flowing descents allowed for a breather in between climb. Our band of merry men split up as legs tired, meeting at the final drink station everyone was however still in fine spirits. This was to prove vital as the climbs from the 105km mark inflicted serious suffering, a mixture of fatigue combined with a sugar come down off the Belgian Waffle diet was taking its toll. The final 2 climbs – the long cobbled drag of the Oude Kwaremont followed by the Pateberg (approaching 25% in parts) were enough to see many of the days riders dismount, but undeterred those of us that could hauled ourselves over for the flat, windy run into the finish line.
This is an event I can’t recommend highly enough, especially in the dry. I should imagine its a little more nerve wracking in the wet. We all enjoyed it so much so that next years already in the calendar.
Thanks to the organisational prowess of Chrispy Smith, Andy ‘I’ve been sneaking in some training’ Lou for driving & the fine company of the Collins Brothers, 60kilo Copeland & Richard ‘tape it to your top tube’ Walters.
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