|Left home at 6am to arrive in Ninove around 7. Long car queue already coming from the E40 but all cars were guided very well towards a parking space . Riding to the start of the 140K Tour de Flandres for amateurs , the sky was clouded and it wasn't more than 10 degrees. Also a chilly wind out of westerly directions would interfere with the ride during the first part. Its a tradition this ride takes place one day before the PRO's ride this heavy and demanding race over Flanders backroads. An easy warmup session getting from Ninove to Sint Lievens Essen were we would join the official Tour de Flandres circuit. The first real hill would appear about 35K into the ride, Sint Blasius Boekels' own Molenberg. I took my time to stop and take some pictures on the first couple of hills. The hills in the Tour de Flandres aren't very long, but at times they are very steep and some of them, like the Molenberg , the Oude Kwaremont ,the Paterberg, the Taaienberg, the Koppenberg , the Bosberg and the Geraardsbergen wall, are on cobbles. This makes it not easy to find a good rhythm during the climb. There are also some very long cobble sections on the flat , or faux-plat, like the Lippehovestraat , the dreaded Mater section, long and at times irregular with a lot of thrown water bottles - some together with the bottle holder - demonstrating that some bikes either offer no comfort at all or their riders use very light and brittle material. My Hilset performed well, but the lack of front suspension and the use of carbon in handlebar and front fork made this the harshest ride ever for me in the Tour de Flandres. The back of the bike offered more comfort - given the stiff and light SL wheels and my 2.0 Marathon Supreme tyres pumped to 2.5 bar. The titanium frame did its best and later in the ride I actually began to feel more comfortable in my hands as well. Perhaps they were just more numbed. Good thing I mounted a 12-34 XTR cassette in the back, which only had me shift to my 22 in front at two occasions. On the 22% section of the Koppenberg and also out of precaution because of the slow riding speeds caused by the crowds on the Geraardsbergen wall. Amazingly I could ride each and every hill. Usually the crowds clutter the road but this year I either was very lucky or the walking riders just were more friendly, letting those that still wanted to ride just enough space to pass. The section between Oudenaarde, where we received a large and plentyful rest stop, and Kluisbergen was new. Instead of taking the busy road they took a parallel bike path, on tarmac, following the trajectory of an old railroad. The long cobbly Oude Kwaremont climb - nearly 2.2kms - was the first of a very difficult triplet. With the Patersberg not long after that, my GPS gave 18% as the highest inclination on this one, and then the "Beast of Melden" , the world famous Koppenberg which is listed as being 22% at its steepest section. My GPS only reached 18% for this one but it sure was steeper than the Patersberg. After that, there are still more than 10 hills. Some were on tarmac, like the very steep Berendries or the Valkenberg, some are on cobbles like the Muur in Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg which is usually where the descision falls during the race on sunday.
The second rest stop at the Brandweer in Brakel was a very crowded affair, we had to queue for about 15 minutes. This is because all of the distances the Tour the Flandres for amateurs offers, 75, 140 and 260K come together here. Still, it was very well stocked and the drive-by fashion to collect your food and drink was better than leaving your bike somewhere unattended to go and get your grub. From here on, the biking crowds became even more populated. And not with the strongest bikers I must say. This nearly caused a standstill at the Geraardsbergen Wall but luckily I managed to slip between two walking bikers. The Bosberg is a hill that I like so I could ride really strong on that one. By now I began to feel the toll of the many kilometers and obviously the numerous short and steep hills. I did eat and drink well but as I would see later on my Polar, having used more than 5500 kilocalories takes its toll. I was glad to see the end, this was only my second 100+ ride of the year, and probably the longest I will do this year as well.
The bike performed well, except for the Mavic Crossmax SL rear axis which is again showing signs of play so that the cassette moves around a bit . This causes some vibration and noise when freewheeling . I had this a couple of years ago as well, and it means getting a new axis. This is the Achilles heel of all Mavic wheels I'm afraid. For the rest, no problems and in all a good riding time, taking into account the 15 minutes walking session in Brakel.Still the organisation had everything very well covered. Lots of police and volunteers to guide the - reportedly - 19000! bikers over the busy roads. I'm sure a lot of car drivers might have felt a bit frustrated that not they, but the bikers, were king of the road for one day in Flanders. Also, as I said before, the rest stops were stocked to the brim with lots of food and drink, pity the crowds are getting so big, especially at the 2nd rest stop in Brakel, that long queues formed. Not a easy task to conceive a better way to give this huge amount of bikers food, drink and their control stamp though. Now all thats left is for a Belgian to win "Vlaanderens Mooiste" tomorrow.Pictures taken during the ride:
Ride Stats : 149K and 1490/1507 heightmeters (Polar/Garmin) in 6h30minsMap of the Ride:2466/20875
04-04-2009, 00:00 geschreven door Big Bad Wolf