Den Haag (The Hague) in the Netherlands was my home from 2010 to 2012. The Belgian border is about 100km / 62km to the south.
Belgium is home to some of the most prestigious one-day professional road cycling races. Including one of the five biggest, collectively known as the Monuments.
The Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).is one of the longest and most challenging of the Monuments. It was first held in 1913. Since 1999, there has been a Ronde Cyclosportive on the day before the professional event, where mortals can pit themselves against the course, which changes every year.
I rode in two Ronde sportives. You can ride the full 230km / 143 mi or so course. There are also shorter options of about 180km / 112mi, 140km / 87mi, and 75km / 47mi. I opted for the 75km route in 2011 and the 87km route in 2012.
This heatmap shows the Ronde courses that I rode. The 2011 sportive started in Ninove and looped to the left. The 2012 sportive started in Oudenaarde and looped clockwise to the south. Both events had 16,000 participants.
The heat map also shows the 90km ride from Oudenaarde to Geraardsbergen and back that I did the day before the sportive in 2012.
The rectangle below outlines the area shown in the heat map.
This is the sort of terrain that the Ronde covers.
This is why the Ronde is referred to as a cobbled classic. Nothing can prepare you for the first time you hit a cobbled section at speed. You hang on to your handlebar for dear life as your bike suddenly turns into a bucking bronco. The bouncing was severe enough to scatter bottles, mini-tools, gels, pumps and CO2 canisters over the cobblestones.
One of the more placid sections of the course.
Fabian Cancellara is a fan favourite. He won the Ronde van Vlaanderen three times.
The Ronde is known for its short and steep climbs.
The Muur van Geraardsbergen (Wall of Geraardsbergen) is an iconic climb. The Oudeberg chapel is at the top of the Muur.
This is the ride into Geraardsbergen.
Cycling is a national sport in Belgium. Fans line the route for the sportives, let alone the professional races. Even the helicopters are out during the sportives.
They start them young in Belgium.
It is a relief to get to the finish, where a marching band awaits.
What else to eat after the Ronde but Belgium’s favourite snack?
I made two videos at the time.
No matter how hard the ride, the memories are always sunny.