Belgium isn’t a million miles away from England, but for the second monument of the pro-cycling season, it might as well be.
The Ronde Van Vlaanderen (de Ronde for short, or Tour of Flanders for you English folk) is the Flandrian sporting event of the year.
Cycling in Flanders is a pretty big deal anyway, but come the first weekend of April, thousands of cyclists descend on the pave of northern Belgium to ride all or part of the Ronde. Everybody is out on their bike – recreational cyclists, wanna-be pros, former pros, even mountain bikers get a crack at a route.
Whichever sportive route you choose, you can glide or suffer across the cobbles and attempt the many Helling that the Ronde is so very famous for. Many people simply can’t conquer the steepest, such as the Koppenberg and the Molenberg, so on approach some tactical riding is required. Let a gap open in front and be prepared to shout your way through the carnage that probably lies ahead. Its not each rider for himself though, as fellow participants shut encouragement and may even give you a helping hand up the climb.
Carnage on the ‘bergs isn’t just limited to Saturday though. When Sunday rolls around and the pro’s take to the course, not everyone has the power and finesse of Boonen, Breschel, and of course, Fabian.
Watch the race from the route, the big screen in Geraardsbergen or the comfort of a Flemish bar, you’ll no doubt see the toil of the pave etched across the riders’ faces.
Post-race people drain from the Muur like the water from the slopes, recounting their tales of the route or the glory of Cancellara’s seated attack of Boonen to win his 3rd monument. But you get the feeling its never over, its just on pause until next year.
For 2011 La Fuga will again be touring to the Ronde, taking in the Saturday sportive of your chosen distance, and the race route from the start in Brugge to the Muur in Geraardsbergen, staying in the most Flemish of cities – Gent.