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After getting through this season along with house moves, babies being born and turning 40, James decides to celebrate...

One minute I was sat there chatting on Twitter with a mate, and the next I had entered the Tour of Flanders Cyclo event.

I am not sure how it happened. The Wife was telling me "its your dream to ride it, you have watched hours of it on TV and you should do it" 

Then, with a single wave of my credit card I was in the event (middle distance) and starting to look for ferries and accommodation. 

I think most young cyclists (as I was back in the early 1990's) dream of this race and of riding Belgian roads. To think that by sunrise on Easter Sunday 2015 I will have had the opportunity to try and fulfil that aspiration is blowing mymind a bit to be honest. 

So now things are getting a bit more serious this winter and time spent in the saddle will become vital as I want to be able to ride the course with some degree of fitness and performance in my legs. 

Anyone know where there are any cobbles in Huntingdonshire for me to practice on? 

 

James has been blogging for road.cc for 5 years and racing bicycles (averagely) for 20 years. 

13 comments

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David Arthur @d... [968 posts] 5 years ago
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Nice one! Great event, you'll love it. I'd suggest going over early and riding the Bosberg and Muur on the Friday (or staying over and doing them on Monday) as they're not included on the new course, but they are iconic climbs that need to be ridden

You don't need cobbles to practice on really, they're pretty smooth, and you soon get the hang on them on the day. What you want is lots of hill climbing on short and steep climbs to replicate the many climbs on the course, and hone your explosive climbing power.

Oh, and start sharpening your elbows too...

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S13SFC [161 posts] 5 years ago
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I'm doing it as well. Can't wait.

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turboprannet [303 posts] 5 years ago
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I did it this year (full distance). weather was amazing, crowd were great and the route was superb.

Probably the best day on a bike I've ever had. A bit surreal at times forming pelotons with total strangers who can't speak English and blasting up hills you've only ever seen on TV but I'd do it again if I could commit to training for it.

The cobbles weren't bad at all, we did laps of Queen Square in Bristol as training and that was sufficient.

We stayed in Ghent which was convenient as a base and good night out.

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HulaBoy [35 posts] 5 years ago
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I did it this year with my Brother and have signed up to do it again in 2015, this time alone- my Girlfriend is coming and we'll go onto Bruges for a few nights after.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Ghent, about 12 miles away.
Amazing hotel, perfect location to get to Oudenaarde and the start.
You can park in the Industrial Estate and roll from there about 200 meters to the start line.
Advice would be to set off EARLY.
As early as you can.
The cobbled climbs get very busy quite quickly, we set off at 6.30am and rode nearly all of them but a mechanical meant that we lost an hour and the difference in crowds was huge.
We couldn't ride the Patterburg as there was simply too many cyclists dismounting and causing it to snarl up.
Remember that the official finish isn't as you cross the line into the town market square, you can stop for a photo on the podium and get a drink but don't stop your Garmin there as the actual sportive finish is about another 2 miles away.
We used 25mm tyres and ran them at 85psi front and 90 rear and had no punctures.
I used Pro Bartape and padded Gore Xenon mitts and was absolutely fine, some people had such thick bartape it would've made their hands ache!
One chap actually had pipe lagging on his bars!!! Ridiculous.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather but you could see how it could be extremely different so take everything with you and check local weather reports the night before and in the morning.
One other thing, if you start really early and it's dark you have to have lights- even tiny flashers are ok, but the officials and police CAN stop you riding... I don't know if anyone actually has been but better safe than sorry eh.

We watched the Pro's on the Sunday from Koppenberg.
We parked on the main road and walked through the village and up, dead easy.

If you want any tips or what not then don't hesitate in asking!

You'll absolutely love it.
Best ride I've done.

Next year I'm riding Wiggle Dragon, Flanders, and Le Etape Du Tour!
I must be sodding insane...

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Metjas [362 posts] 5 years ago
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I've not had the chance the ride the actual Flanders sportive but have ridden the route a few times at other times of the year, usually weekdays, and you'd be lucky to come across more than a dozen other cyclists. It's quite amazing to ride up these iconic climbs alone, in peace. No doubt the adrenaline of being part of a top sportive pushes people on to conquer some of the tough climbs.
David, i like your assurances about smooth cobbles, of course is there any other type?  1
I would certainly recommend Ghent as a base, great place with fantastic restaurants.

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S13SFC [161 posts] 5 years ago
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4 of us doing it and we are all staying in Ghent from the Friday to the Monday.

We intend to roll out early to beat the rush and enjoy some cracking beer on the Saturday night.

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mmag1 [31 posts] 5 years ago
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No Hunts cobbles that I'm aware of, but the occasional lap of Grafham on your road or cx bike should help you sharpen up. Clubruns are enough to get round the middle distance cyclo and battling the wind on the busway reminds me of riding along the Schelde.

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David Arthur @d... [968 posts] 5 years ago
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Metjas wrote:

I've not had the chance the ride the actual Flanders sportive but have ridden the route a few times at other times of the year, usually weekdays, and you'd be lucky to come across more than a dozen other cyclists. It's quite amazing to ride up these iconic climbs alone, in peace. No doubt the adrenaline of being part of a top sportive pushes people on to conquer some of the tough climbs.
David, i like your assurances about smooth cobbles, of course is there any other type?  1
I would certainly recommend Ghent as a base, great place with fantastic restaurants.

There are the RoubaiX cobbles which are ridiculously insane, but somehow still brilliant fun. Flanders cobbles are more uniform and far smoother

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mylesrants [515 posts] 5 years ago
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Super. Road and race over those bergs. The absence of the Muur in Geraardsbergenkeeps me awake at night

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HLaB [298 posts] 5 years ago
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You could drive to Lincoln Jimmy; Gallows Hill, Culross is too far. Expect everything weather wise, last year when I did the long one it was -3deg at the start and snow at the end; this year it was 20deg and sunshine  35

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James Warrener [1086 posts] 5 years ago
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HulaBoy wrote:

If you want any tips or what not then don't hesitate in asking!

I will probably take you up on that  1

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RevereGreist [1 post] 5 years ago
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Chiming in here. I did the full distance sportive in 2012 and again this year. It was tough coming from Wisconsin to ride such a long distance in early April, but after many hours on the trainer and three long rides in frigid temperatures in March, I was prepared and even managed to crack seven hours (moving time of 6:57) this year.

I keep going back, so obviously I think it's a wonderful event. There are lots of people, but everything seems orderly and most are very friendly. The cobbles aren't bad, and in fact serve to remind you where you are and the very special thing you're doing. As have others recommended, I would arrive a few days early and ride the famous climbs and cobbled sections on your own. On the day of the sportive the climbs -- especially the Koppenberg, Oude Kwaremont, and Paterberg -- can be crowded.

As for places to stay, Ghent is a great option, but Kortrijk and Deerlijk also are good. Ideally, you'd stay in Oudenaarde, but every hotel there is booked for months in advance.

I'm going to do the LBL sportive this year, but will miss Flanders, and will certainly take time to ride there during my visit for Liege.

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James Warrener [1086 posts] 5 years ago
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Cheers Revere Greist. Brill first post  1