|Rise and shine at 5.30 after a very good nights' sleep , eat something - bike and biking stuff were already in the boot from last evening - so I was out at 6am and on my way to Ninove. The sky was slightly veiled but still the waning moon kept me company during that precious moment before dawn.
Arrived at Ninove at 7am, the crowds were already pulling in. The Police made a good effort to lead us to a parking space in the local Industrial Area. Very well done and only a few hundred meters from the big road so getting out later would be no problem. But, first I have to ride this "Tour de Flandres" thingie. Set up the bike and myself and at 7.22 I was on my way towards the start and from there onwards. The plan was to do the 140K ride. There was also a 75K ride on offer which skips all the hills save the last 2 or 3 ones.
The first 30k or so is a connection between Ninove and the real "Tour de Flandres" parcours, which we enter just before the first 'real' hill of the day, the "Molenberg" .. Ok, here we go again.. let the mountains come to me (or something along those lines.)
I took it fairly easy, as I usually do this soon into a ride and just before entering Kluisbergen, having stocked up on some Isostar at Oudenaarde, I strayed from the 140K route to ride onto the 260K route because for one reason or another the 140K "misses out" on two hills, the "Kluisberg" and the "Cote de Trieu" , also known as the "Knokteberg" . This part of the race is in the province of Henegauwen, so not really on Flandres territory.This excursion into Walloon area means an extra 16K loop, hence perhaps the reason why the 140K gives those a miss.
During the ascent of the Knokteberg someone comes riding up next to me, says 'Hi Adri' and introduces himself as Berthold. I knew Berthold only 'virtually' until today . He posts a lot of interesting stuff about Ardennes rides at the 4Bikers.be forum. It is a pleasant surprise to meet him here and now, because next Monday I plan to ride in his favorite playground, the Theux area. We were to stay more or less together during the entire remainder of the Tour. More or less because I soon discover he is a very strong climber and I have to let him go on every climb. He has the courtesy to wait for me at the top and we ride the connection towards the next climb together, talking about lots of stuff. I really felt happy having him around, so thanks Berthold for the company and for waiting for this old man after every climb.
In all, I believe there were 18 marked climbs, the only one I couldn't ride - because of the masses - was the famous "Muur" of Geraardsbergen. By then the 75K had joined the other distances and the crowds were really overwhelming and sadly not everyone can climb these hills. Some were at the end of their forces . Sadly but I don't really mind putting a foot down because someone blocks the road. Not unlike some others who were yelling all kinds of nasty things because they could not pass. Darn a-holes , why don't they enter the race tomorrow if they are THAT good !
In all, the weather was just right, a bit frisky at the start but during the first 4-5 hours the sun was warming things up nicely. The last 2 hours or so there were some more clouds - some really menacing with rain as well - but not a single drop of rain fell.
The Tour is a bit different from earlier years, and I think it is a bit tougher too. Arriving at Meerbeke and crossing the finish line felt really good, like it should. This is no mean feat .
This is surely my longest ride ever on a mountainbike - my 158K ride in Bouillon in 2000 had that honor up till now - and I was feeling pretty tired but very happy with the accomplishment.
Oh, the perineal patch from Reskin I tried out proved to be working very well, no skin abrasions at all. Very interesting, I might have to stock up on those , they seem to work wonders on longer rides.Now the only thing thats left today is relax, get some food into me and go to bed early.
I'll watch the Pro's tomorrow fly up the hills we struggled on, and hoping the race brings all the excitement of earlier years.Ride Stats : 163K and 1635 heightmeters in 6h53mins
Ride Profile (CLICK)
Flandrien.Be pic of me on the 'Muur' (CLICK)3001/21815