Tour de Flanders

Well done to Tom Kenny and John Breen who went to Belgium recently. Click the below link to read more about there trip and make sure to check the photos as well.

Tom Kenny in Flanders 2009

Tom Kenny in Flanders 2009

John Breen in Flanders 2009

John Breen in Flanders 2009

The Tour of Flanders is one of the biggest one day professional cycling races in the world. Since the Belgians are mad cycling nuts, they also put on an amateur version the day before. Participants can choose one of 3 shorter versions, or go for the full monty, and cover exactly the same course as the professionals do. After a hectic Friday schedule of travelling from castleisland-shannon-charleoi-brussels with all our gear and bikes and a few calamities over registration not arriving in ireland we finally got to our hotel around 11:30pm where had a late night snack of pasta and fruit before we retired to catch some sleep before the big cycle,with our alarm set for 6:30am we lazily woke and hit the dining room to load up on as much carbs,sugar and fruit as possible before we set off to re-register in ninove at the start line but as we came within 10k of ninove it became clear that with 20,000 people cycling that this as far as we could go on 4 wheels so we abandoned in some farmers field to assemble our bikes and cycle to the start line..the atmosphere at the start line was fantastic and amazing to see that many cyclists of every description in one spot,we registered and set off on an eventful 140k (160k to car and back and we wont add in the half hour i got lost ) the plan was trying to stay together and sit behind a bunch for the first 40k til the feed stop but with that volume of cyclists and people swerving to avoid lost water bottles and crashes it was easy to get seperated,the cobblestones were a new experience and feltike you have been strapped to a pneumatic drill with wheels and with 23k of cobbles on the circuit it wasnt unusual to see wheels loosening and bottle cages breaking,after the food break we hit the first of 16 hills which ranged from 6% to 22 % with an average max of 13 % and covered a total of 13.75k of the route and even though some of climbs were sorta managable it was how they came in rapid succession that was a leg breaker plus a lot of the “flat” sections between the hills would put a frown on your face even in ireland. The Koppenberg was 22 % and virtually impossible to cycle with the cobbles and the sheer amount of cyclists trying to maintain momentum going up it and a majority either decided to walk or were forced to after crashing,the kappel-muur with the iconic church was amazing to pass considering its where sean kelly,roche,merckx,devolder and boonen have cycled and usually thats where the big attack happens for the race.

The support along the route was beyond par and the encouragement and food and drink  from the locals was unbelievable especially if they found out you were irish and the conversation quickly turned to sean kelly and their admiration for him,after the muur was bosberg which was tough but knowing the finish was within 12k was motivation to get over it,the final stretch was flat enough and brought us back to ninove and under the winners banner for sundays race,in all this is without doubt one of the the toughest day you’ll  have spent on a bike, but was also a highly enjoyable experience. The cobbles make it like no other bike ride, and you’ll have a really great sense of achievement at the end of the day.we finished off our day with more than a few deserved pints and watched the Munster game in kitty o’sheas before exhaustion set in and we hit the leaba around 4am.

Our sunday was spent cris-crossing the belgian countryside catching stages of the pro race and at one stage threw on the hazards and followed the press cars straight into town and halfways up the muur to gain a great vantage point to see the race and were within 20 yards of where devolder made his break to win the race.

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One Response to Tour de Flanders

  1. Eamon Collier says:

    Hi John and Tom, well done. Great narrative, magic pics, can feel the burn.

    Respect

    Eamonn

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