Better known as the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen cycling museum, a few hours spent here is a must for any true cycling fan visiting Belgium. Add in riding the famous cobbled bergs of the Tour of Flanders route, some fine Belgian beer, and meeting a Belgian legend and you've got a perfect weekend.
I had the thrill of riding the official Tour of Flanders Cyclosportif ride back in 2004, while taking in the cobbled Classics with VeloCassic Tours. An amazing day, I’ve replayed the images, history and awe of cycling these most fabled roads in my mind many times since. It’s a must-do ride and here’s how it looked to me…
Very few climbs in modern bike racing can still bring a bike racer to his knees. With the evolution of intelligent gearings, the steepest climbs have been tamed, well, as much as they can be. The Koppenberg, however, defies all technological advances and takes us back to a time when plodding upward on foot was just as common as pedaling.
Preview: The mighty PEZ-Crew has landed on the soils of Europe to start the 2012 campaign – opening this weekend with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Saturday and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday. Ed and Dave are by now well into the pils and frites, while Jered hopes his bike is freed from customs in time for his own race on Sunday. Here’s a look at the Cobbles openers ‘proper’…
Like winning any 'monument', winning the Tour of Flanders is no easy task, and something never forgotten by the lucky few who have conquered the cobbled Belgian bergs. I was there to witness the action in 2004 when Steffen Wesemann killed it on the Muur and outsprinted his two breakaways, and when I talked to Steffen about the win a few months later, it was like the race had just finished - here's how he did it.
It’s 1:30 AM, Belgium time, we just got the power restored after I plugged one too many cords into the hotel’s electrical outlets. BAM! Hotel blackout... courtesy of PEZ. But what a day it’s been – we rode on the Flanders’ route, and it was “TOP RIDE” material for sure. Here are the pics…
Roadside Report: While Richard was enjoying an amazing day with VeloClassic Tours, Ashley and Jered were on their bikes in search of as many photo locations as possible in the finale of Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen. They managed twelve. Let's take a photo look back at their day...
It was 1908 when Robert Wancour scored the first of his two wins in the Championship of Flanders; 102 years later the pils still flows in the square at Koolskamp as 172 'deelnemers' line up for the UCI 1.1 95th edition over 15 laps of a 12 kilometre circuit - a total of 180 windy kilometres. PEZ was on hand to enjoy one of the season's great races in Belgium.
Roadside: All eyes have rightly been focused on Italy this week, but in between yesterday's fantastic race and tomorrow's Roadside report from Ale, we'll take a quick trip back to Belgium for a little photo essay of a classic midweek race in Belgium - the Nokere Koerse.
Every year, cyclocross gets bigger and bigger in North America, and it’s getting to become the cycling discipline that the “cool kids” do now, with nothing cooler than the Worlds coming to Louisville in 2013. However, there’s a place where cross is soaked deep into the mud like nowhere else, and that’s Belgium. And since I’m living in Belgium for a few months, let’s join the craziness shall we?
Roadside: When I left off in Part One, the break was in its death throes, the field was lined out following the Knokteberg, and the day's first major berg, the Oude Kwaremont, was next on the misery list with just under 90 kilometers remaining until someone's childhood dream would be fulfilled in front of thousands in Meerbeke.
Roadside PEZ: Outside my window, it's wet, windy, and cold. For some reason, it makes me daydream of springtime in Flanders. Today, that brought a certain article to mind from a former resident and racer in the region. It was a homecoming tour for PEZ's Matt Conn in 2010 when he chased a Cancellara-dominated Ronde van Vlaanderen. Let's go back...
Part One:I have to start this by confessing: I love the Ronde van Vlaanderen more than any other race...times a million, squared. Sunday's trip around Flanders under the direction of Andy Deschuyffeleer was straight out of my one of my wildest dreams. I'll try to use words where they're available, but I remember the day most through the pictures Ashley and I shot from Brugge to the Bosberg.
Classics Preview: The Tour of Flanders defines this region, and for many fans it defines the Spring Classics themselves, but the race itself would be almost nothing without its steep nasty bergs, and of course… the cobbles. Riding the Tour of Flanders Cyclosportif lets you experience it all for yourself.
If you find yourself in Belgium in the Spring, chances are you will have to do all of the regular tourist things like sample the handmade chocolates, put mayonnaise on your frites, buy mum a lovely piece of lace, and maybe even sample a beer or fifteen. If you are looking for something a little more exciting to do, get out the bike and hang onto your PEZ cycling caps, because the biggest two weeks of racing on the Belgian cycling calendar are just about to kick off.
Race Preview: ‘It’s one thing starting the Ronde as favourite; it’s quite another thing winning it as favourite. It is a long road between Brugge and Oudenaarde, it’s stress every metre of the way; you must be able to handle that constant stress. You must be 100%, all of your team must be 100%, no bad luck whatsoever can befall you, and even then you might be beaten by a better rider on the day.’ Those were the words of Johan Museeuw, earlier this week – one of only three men in 95 editions to win the race three times.
Most of Saturday’s Flemish papers will have a 16 page pull out section – all of the kassein and hellingen (cobbles & hills) will be analysed as if for a military campaign; the form of every favourite examined by panels of experts, and past winners will be cross examined rather than interviewed. The ‘Ronde’ isn’t just a bike race; the population of Flanders is around six million; on Sunday the organisers expect 800,000 roadside – assuming that 50,000 are foreign spectators – that’s 12.5 % or one in eight of an entire nation standing beside the road to watch a sporting event.
The Muur van Geraardsbergen has decided countless Rondes. It is the epicenter of Belgium's biggest race, and it is the epicenter of the viewing experience. The climb seems almost designed for the race - it's tough, it's fairly long, and its slopes accommodate thousands of spectators. The chapel area at the top could not have been designed any better if someone tried! It's the closest to a stadium we'll ever get in bike racing. Let's take a look at the sights, smells, sounds, and feel of bike racing's biggest party.
Updated! If you ask anyone worth their salt where the race will most likely be won on Sunday, they'll say the Muur or the Bosberg. That's just how it goes. Why though? Why do those climbs always decide the race? I think it has a little something to do with a seven-climb section early on in the hellingen sweepstakes. After these crucial monsters, only the toughest and baddest of the bad asses are left to settle De Ronde amongst themselves.
Wednesday's semi-classic, Gent-Wevelgem, continues arguably the best week of bike racing of the season. We know the main themes of the race: crosswinds, Kemmelberg, likely bunch sprint - but when was the last time you really got a look at the course? Nope, didn't think so. Let's take a look at the latter part of the parcours...