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Coffee stop turns into chat with Peter Sagan for one reader

"The cherry on the Belgian Bun" says Michael Marks, who was in Flanders to ride the Continental Cancellara Classic...

Heading over to Flanders at this time of year to ride the cobbles is a treat for any keen cyclist, but one reader’s trip across the Channel last weekend was made even more memorable – with a coffee stop enlivened by the presence of world champion Peter Sagan and his Bora-Hansgrohe team mates.

Michael Marks had driven over to Kortrijk from London on Saturday morning ahead of taking part in the Continental Cancellara Classic the following day, with the sportive taking in the route of the E3 Harelbeke.

Waiting to check into his hotel, Michael – who is a ride leader at the Specialized Concept Store in Ruislip and had travelled over with his cobbled Classics riding buddy Greg Robertson, with whom he has previously ridden the Paris-Roubaix Challenge – decided to go for a coffee.

“A group of cyclists whizzed past taking selfies,” he told us. “It was the Bora-Hansgrohe team, though I didn’t see Peter at that point. They stopped at the Ridder En Hove coffee shop about 100 metres away.

“I was surprised to see they left all the bikes including Peter’s custom Tarmac piled up outside, no locks,” he continued.

Bora Hansgrohe bikes outside cafe in Kortrijk (picture courtesy Michael Marks).jpg

“I went in and was somewhat surprised to see Peter, his brother Juraj and the rest of the team. 

“The team were in team colours and Peter in the rainbow jersey and Juraj in the Slovak national champions’ jersey.

“It was pretty cool – just like any club out for a Saturday ride and having a coffee and cake stop.

“I asked Peter about the E3 the day before. He was sorry he had crashed. He said he was upset he didn't get a better finish.

“I told them I was doing the E3 sportive the next day and asked what it'd be like. He smiled and said I'd be okay. The team were friendly laughing and chatting. Peter was happy to pose for pictures with anyone who asked.”

It turns out that the coffee shop is a regular haunt of the world champion during Classics season, as Michael explained.

“The story is that the owner is a big Sagan fan and previously he baked Peter a cake and had it delivered to the hotel.  Since then Peter has been taking the team there for coffee.”

Peter Sagan outside cafe in Kortrijk (picture courtesy Michael Marks).jpg

Michael continued: “Meeting Peter Sagan was the cherry on the already very tasty Belgian Bun.

“We were looking forward to a great day’s cycling, we hadn't even thought that the town would be used as a base for the E3 and Gent-Wevelgem.

“It was surreal, and Greg said I looked as if I had been hit over the head with a cricket bat  (in a good way I guess). 

“I can only liken it as seeing a premiership team playing on the local park pitches for a kickabout then en masse going to a local caff, with no hangers on, and no airs or graces.

“They were all down to earth and friendly.  It was funny to see Peter get up when they were going and pay the bill for the table.”

Peter Sagan's bike outside cafe in Kortrijk (picture courtesy Michael Marks).jpg

And as for the reason he headed to Belgium for the weekend where, like Sagan, he was riding a Specialized – though in his case a Roubaix?

“Riding the full distance Continental Cancellara Classic was probably one of the best day’s cycling I've had in a while (even if Spartacus himself did only do the short ride).

“Perfect weather, relaxed riding, bouncing over the cobbles at speed and long swoopy descents on smooth, smooth roads was the perfect antidote for the sharp climbs. What wasn't to enjoy?

“Watching a recording of the E3 brought it all back to me as I recognised the roads and the climbs. 

“It's a special feeling riding in a peloton knowing you are on a route the pros have just done a day or two before ... a man is allowed to dream after all.”

Michael, who posted his ride to Relive, added: “I hate hills – but after 12 climbs in the one day I'm ready to tackle anything now!”

All pictures courtesy Michael Marks

Whether it’s seeing Team Sky swoop through your town at full pelt on an early season training ride in the Home Counties, finding an Astana sports director in team uniform next to you at a pedestrian crossing in Piccadilly on a February afternoon, or Alex Dowsett whizzing past you on his road bike as you’re pedalling along on an ex-Royal Mail clunker complete with dog in basket – all of which have happened to the writer – what are your stories of your brushes with the pros?

Let us know in the comments below.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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WolfieSmith | 7 years ago

Had my photo taken with Kristian House once. He looked like Kristian  - I looked like a house. Skinny b**stard... 

Living in Lancashire I see Sir Brad of Wiggins now and again. He always says hello. I've thought about asking to borrow his inhaler..

Kestevan | 7 years ago

Ed Clancy's a regular round here (Holmfirth).

Nice enough bloke, and he gets a nod and a "Howdo" in the Co-op like anyone else.


fustuarium | 7 years ago

Riding through Cannock Chase one dusk and unladen Madison Genesis team car going other way. I put my hands on helmet to give my best "Fuckin big deer herd in road round the corner" They gave me a big wave and flashed their headlights mistaking it for the 'cyclists how do'. Seemed like an eternity waiting to hear a crash behind me .... thankfully there wasn't  1

billon2wheels | 7 years ago

Some years ago, on a family holiday in N Devon, I combined on a couple of early morning rides with a chap riding a super-smart bike which he told me his son had won and given to him. Said son was riding for GB juniors in Switzerland but due back in a day or two and would no doubt like to accompany us one morning. Which he did (to oblige his dad, I imagine). The son, aged 16, was Alex Dowsett. It meant nothing to me then - I hadn't a clue (and maybe only real enthusiasts would have known of him then). But he was delightful - said something nice about the aerodynamics of my forks as I recall (which I took to be a fine compliment if you were in the know). He was obviously a bit quick for us. His dad and I puffed and grunted our way along. He, by contrast, broke no sweat, casually bunny-hopped wheel-eating drain covers, rode with no hands while texting his mates, and generally handled things as if he and his bike were one. It was fun, I was impressed - and enthused to get more into the sport.

acjim | 7 years ago

I had my photo taken with Chrissie Wellington  at the LVIS Audax a few years back - utter legend in terms of palmares (if that's what triathlete's have?) and a very nice person to boot.

Liam Cahill | 7 years ago
1 like

I was riding with a club in Canada and a few of the Jelly Belly riders joined us. I ended up riding on the front chatting to Freddy Rodriguez and Alex Stieda for nearly the whole ride. Thanked my lucky stars that I'd just come off the UK race season and had great legs!

We ended up chatting about training methods for ages. I did my best to implement them, but alas, I'm still quite slow! 

peted76 | 7 years ago
1 like

My only brush with anyone famous was on the tube standing next to Shane Sutton with a BC backpack on, he got off at one stop, and turned around whilst stood on the platform and asked me if this was the right stop for 'somewhere I didn't quite catch' to which I replied a confident 'yes' and off he went on his merry and yet unsure way.

Rapha Nadal | 7 years ago

Raced with/against Sean Yates years ago in the Southern Counties Championship.  Traded a few turns but, needless to say, he utterly crucifed me and I posted a DNF!!

Grahamd | 7 years ago

Nice story but no mention of Haribos...

Simontuck | 7 years ago

I was on a sportive called the Essex Season Ender. I pulled into the feed station for a leak and noticed this bloke 'lording it' in full Movistar kit, he even had the pinarello in team colours, the lot. Luckily I was on my own so I made no remarks about it, as on the way out I got a closer look and realised Mr Alex Dowsett was actually riding a sportive like a regular cyclist. I've seen him about occasionally since as I ride lots during the week and regularly go down towards the blue egg and Finchingfield (only place where there's hills if you live in Cambridge as I do now), stIll never had the audacity to go up to him, it just seems rude.

Simon_MacMichael replied to Simontuck | 7 years ago

Simontuck wrote:

if you live in Cambridge as I do now

It was near Trumpington that he flew past me 

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