Flanders Revisited

View from the Muur

Exactly one year after I participated in the “Peter van Petegem Classic“, I revisited the Flemish Ardennes, for another episode of the Tour of Flanders.

Like last year March, Paula was going to participate in the Belgian Mahjong Open and I was going to cycle a bit – because the weather was not that great then, I was happy that the event was scheduled a bit later in the year…

But because I wasn’t sure about the weather and (mainly) because I am not fond of riding cobbles on my race bike, I took the Bulls with me this time. In the end, the weather was just fine: a bit chilly, lots of wind, but it didn’t rain. Even most of the gutters next to the cobblestone roads – frequently used when climbing – were more or less dried up…

Saturday

Still, I was quite happy to be on the sturdy Bulls, specifically on Saturday when I tried to follow the blue loop, which has a lot of cobblestone stretches / climbs. And like last year, I failed to keep the track – there are (a lot of) sign posts missing, there were several road works in progress and I was deviated because of at least one local amateur race.

Once the Garmin loses track, it will never get back on course (or at least I haven’t figured out how to do that) and the map I have purchased at the “Tour of Flanders Center”, is good for general directions, but there’s not enough detail to navigate around these problems.

So I circled the “Oude Kwaremont” for a while – and climbed it twice – found the route again, followed it up the Paterberg and the Koppenberg, got lost again and gave up.

Still, by looking at the map, I was able to stitch together some sort of loop and I only seriously got lost around Ronse again. I then followed the main (national) road straight back to Oudenaarde, fighting the annoying – and cold – head wind for some 20 kilometers…

Garmin recording (see also the map below)

Sunday

I was going for the red loop on Sunday. But unlike yesterday, I didn’t get lost that quickly. On the contrary – the Garmin guided me perfectly for over 70 kilometers, until it crashed…

That happened in a crowded Geraardsbergen, when I passed through it on the return trip. Before reaching Geraardsbergen, I enjoyed the more scenic nature of this loop – plus, there are hardly any stretches with cobblestones and most roads are (very) quiet.

The first time through Geraardsbergen, the famous “Muur” was included, but I got stuck in tourist traffic just before that. And on the Muur, there were so many people walking – not bicyclists – that it was almost impossible to cycle…

After that, there was a nice scenic loop, including the not so easy Bosberg, but otherwise near flat, circling back to Geraardsbergen, where the Edge crashed.┬áBecause I was fiddling with my unit, I didn’t notice if and where there were any signposts, until it was too late.

As I was short on time anyway, I decided once again to take the main road back to Oudenaarde, which had some “friendly rollers” of it’s own.

Garmin recording part 1 / part 2.

All in all, I did (slightly) better than last year – more miles, but more importantly: no crashes. Riding the 29-er on the cobbles clearly has its advantages, but the “soft” (2.4/2.2 bar) and wide tires, the added weight – over 10 kilograms – and the kinetics of suspension also come with a price.

If you’re mainly interested in setting PR’s on Strava – race – segments, given the weather I had this weekend, the road bike would be the faster option.