A Load of Old Cobblers
FANCY TAKING ON THE PROS IN 2011? THE TOUR OF FLANDERS SPORTIVE (FIRST SATURDAY IN APRIL) IS ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR SPORTIVES IN THE CALENDAR. WITH OVER 17,000 RIDERS TAKING TO THE COURSES.
There is a choice of three road distances and three MTB routes, with the mid-distance 140km road route missing out the opening flat section but still including such classic climbs as the Koppenberg, Oude Kwaremont and the infamous Muur, with its leg breaking 20% sections.
If you have your eyes on the full 259km, bear in mind the early start: a shuttle bus runs from the finish town of Ninove to the start in Bruges leaving 05:30 sharp. This service is open to pre-registered entrants only.
Why we like it
- Belgium atmosphere is great
- Chance to ride over legendary cobbles
- Cheap to enter – between 13 – 20 euros
- The organisers are fully prepared for international visitors and are very helpful at the start and feed stations.
- See the pro race the next day
- Excuse to drink Belgium beer
Ben from Condor has tackled the cobbles on two successive visit to Flanders in 2008 and 2009.
"I just love the cobbles, the atmosphere and watching the pros race the following day on the course I've also ridden. On Sunday I went up to the Muur, and watched the race unfold with a pint of Leffe and screaming Belgium fans. Fantastic."
How to ride it
Take the channel tunnel or ferry.
Collect your rider pack from the HQ in Ninove on Friday afternoon / evening.
Be mindful of the weather, in 2009 we almost got sunburnt but in 2008 it started to sleet halfway round the course. It is difficult to get accommodation in Ninove (the start/ finish town) but there are plenty of towns in the area just a couple minutes drive or ride.
- Major climbs
- Oude Kwaremont
The Hell of the North – Paris Roubaix - 6th June
Tour of Flanders has super steep climbs but its cobbles pale in comparison to the Paris-Roubaix course. Unlike the race the sportive is run bi-annually by Velo Club de Roubaix and has three route options. The full route of 255km, medium route which includes all the cobbled sectors at 190km in length and short 98km.
Why we like it
- Epic, dangerous, grueling, brutal, romantic, beautiful. The list of superlatives goes on.
- Cobbles are a riding experience – they suck the life right out of you
- Despite being as flat as a pancake it is as much a test of rider and machine as the mountainous sportives
- Great organisation – salami and cheese at feed station
- Souvenir cobble (not to be used as a door stop) when you complete the event
- The residents who gave a welcome clap, cheer or shout of ‘Bravo’
How to ride it
- The event is a point to point sportive so it can make it logistically difficult.
- Download an entry form on the organiser’s website (online registration coming soon).
- We stayed in a small town called Villers St Paul, one of those Parisian overflow settlements that’s all out-of-town shopping centres and ring roads and no centre. Our hotel, an Ibis, was next to a drive-thru McDonald’s and a Resto Marché, an establishment owned by the supermarket chain Intermarché. Imagine if Tesco did restaurants, but better.
- Organizers offer a coach from Roubaix to the start for around 25 euros.
Sporting Tours offer a fully supported service.