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April 8, 2015
Photography by by Veeral Patel, Cor Vos
We’re stoked to announce that we’re making the pilgrimage back to the Spring Classics next year in 2016!
Together with BikeStyle Tours we’ve brought back the Spring Classics tour that we did back in 2012. We’ll ride the Tour of Flanders Sportif, smash the cobbles of the Arenberg Forest, ride into the velodrome in Roubaix at the the Paris-Roubaix sportif, and watch both races with guides who know all the back roads and the tricks of the trade.
This is very much a “riding tour”. We’ll be on our bikes as much as possible and riding some of the most historic roads in cycling as well as seeing the biggest races in the World.
Who: Any hardcore cycling fan who wants to make the pilgrimage to Belgium to experience the Spring Classics. Group size will be a maximum of 12 people along with a CyclingTips host (David Everett who regularly writes for us and used to race in Belgium), a couple guides, and I’ll be popping in and out as I’ll be in Belgium covering the races at the same time.
• Ride the Tour of Flanders Cycle Sport event and the Paris Roubaix Cycle Sport event.
• See two of the greatest races in the world and a semi classic:
• Tour of Flanders
• Grote Scheldeprijs
• Paris Roubaix
• Visit the Tour of Flanders Centre and Museum
• Immerse yourself in a true Cycling Culture
• Visit Flanders Fields and Ieper with the Menin Gate. 2016 is 101 years since the start of WW1.
When: 11 days, 10 nights. The trip runs from April 1 to April 10, 2016.
Where: Fly into Brussels, stay at a 3 star hotel in Ghent – the centre of the cycling universe.
Why: Because you only live once.
“When I stand in the showers in Roubaix, I actually start the preparation for next year.” –Tom Boonen. Note, the men in the Roubaix showers are nothing like Tom Boonen. These men are preparing for their next beer.
Friday, 1st April: Arrival
Arrive in Brussels and head straight to our self-contained apartments in the center of Ghent (an awesome city). There will be someone to meet you at Zaventem airport (Brussels) and get you to our hotel.
The first job will be to unpack our bikes. Staff will be helping out if you have mechanical problems or need assistance. The rest of the day is ours. Depending on our arrival time there should be time for a ride to loosen the legs.
A Welcome Dinner is provided at the Hotel Restaurant and there will be plenty of time to ask questions and meet me, the guides and of course the people who you will be spending your holiday with and a Belgian beer…or more.
Saturday, 2nd April
The Tour of Flanders is without a doubt the biggest sporting event in Belgium. On this day we’ll have the chance to ride the same course and get a preview of the atmosphere.
About 15,000 riders do this spectacular event and we’ll have the opportunity to ride either the 140km or the 60km distances.
Riding up the infamous Koppenberg
Our perfect location in Gent will help us this morning as the hotel prepares an early breakfast and we ride to the start. We will be on our way while others will be searching for parking spots!
The 140km is the choice event as it gives you a true feel of the race as it traditionally goes over all the final climbs including the Molenberg, Valkenberg, Koppenberg, Steenbeekdries, Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Kapelleberg, Foreest, Berg Ten Houte, Kruisberg, Knokteberg Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg.
Breakfast and dinner included.
Sunday, 3rd April
All of Flanders comes out to celebrate as if it is their National Day. This is the beating heart of cycling. If you are a cyclist you have to see this race once in your life.
The Tour of Flanders is a living monument to cycling thanks to its past winners and demanding parcours. Hard men shine through this race typically hit with snow, wind and/or rain… Men like Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck, Tom Boonen and Johan Museeuw.
Between the roadside and the VIP tent with televisions, beer and food, this will be your vantage point.
In 2016 the Ronde will finish in Oudenaarde for the fifth time after Tom Boonen won the first part of his famous double (Flanders and Paris Roubaix) in 2012 and who can forget how Fabian Cancellara smashed the opposition on his way to the same double in 2013. Last year Fabian Cancellara won his third ronde van Vlaanderen in the sprint.
We are assuming the race route will be similar to the 2014 event, which will include a final section of 75 kilometres built around three loops on the Oude-Kwaremont and Paterberg in combination with the Koppenberg and Kruisberg.
This loop is concentrated around four crucial hills in the Flemish Ardennes, all within a stone’s throw of each other. The ultimate final, being ten climbs and two cobbled sections followed by a straight line to the finish in Oudenaarde, will see only the strongest survive to battle out the finish.
Hundreds of thousands of cycling fans make the Tour of Flanders what it is today so the atmosphere on this final circuit will be amazing!
We will first go to the start in Brugge where we have a VIP Breakfast and most importantly a VIP pass into the riders enclosure where we can see the riders signing on and getting ready. Once the race has started we will be on our way to the Oude Kwaremont and our VIP area to see firstly the womens race pass and then the final 3 circuits of the mens race, culminating in the finish at Oudenaarde.
Our VIP area is provided by the organisation of the race and will have all the ingredients for a fantastic Belgian atmosphere: The Ronde live in front of you on the Oude Kwaremont, beer, frites, lots of proud Belgians and a TV!
After seeing the finish we will return to Gent for an evening free in the town. Our hotel is situated in the centre of Gent so the restaurants are only a short walk away.
Breakfast and VIP lunch included.
Monday, 4th April
Today we’ll ride to Oudenaarde for a visit of the Tour of Flanders Centre and Museum followed by lunch in the beautiful town square. After lunch we will ride from Oudenaarde out to the Koppenberg to ride this famous climb and take some photos on relatively quiet roads. While we’re here we will do some other famous cobbled climbs from earlier editions and stopping for an obligatory bike shop visit before continuing back to Gent along the canal.
The interactive museum looks for the spirit and the heroes of the Tour. The museum has a multi-media approach with magnificent audiovisuals, projections and computer simulations. Every visitor gets the chance to experience the Tour himself. You can feel the excitement, the suffering and the happiness. The Tour plays an important role in the Flemish social life. You can cycle next to Schotte, Merckx or Museeuw and you can feel the cobbled stones and hills.
Tuesday, 5th April
Today we will ride some of the interesting parts of the Gent Wevelgem course including the famous Kemmelberg which is about 12km from Ieper. We will drive to Ieper and do a ride that has been devised which covers significant points of interest from WW1 in Flanders Fields.
On our way we will stop to see the Tyne Cot Cemetery. Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) burial ground for the dead of World War I in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front. The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom in perpetuity by King Albert I of Belgium in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire in the defence and liberation of Belgium during the war.
It is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war. The cemetery and its surrounding memorial are located outside of Passendale, near Zonnebeke in Belgium.
The name “Tyne Cot” is said to come from the Northumberland Fusiliers seeing a resemblance between the German concrete pill boxes, which still stand in the middle of the cemetery, and typical Tyneside workers’ cottages – Tyne Cots.
After visiting the cemetery we will continue to Ieper either by bike or car for some lunch and then onto the Kemmelberg and a tour of the area south of Ieper. When we return to Ieper we can have a shower at the Sports Centre and stay on for the evening returning after the Last Post at the Menin Gate.
Every evening (at 8 pm) since 1928, the Last Post has been sounded under the imposing memorial arches of the Menin Gate. The Last Post is the traditional salute to the fallen and is played in honour of the memory of the soldiers of the then British Empire, who fought and died in the ‘Immortal Ypres Salient’ between 1914 and 1918.
Breakfast and Dinner included
Wednesday, 6th April
In the morning we will see the second of the great races in our week at the Flanders Classics, the semi classic Grote Scheldeprijs (a sprinters race which Cavendish has won three times). Being midweek between Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix it is expected that the top riders will come out to contest this (the oldest race in Belgium).
We will go to the start in beautiful Antwerp this morning with hopefully a little time to look around before we head off to see the race on one of the cobbled sections. This will be followed by a ride around the final circuit of the race and lunch before the race passes through the finish in Schoten for the first of 4 times. We will stay in Schoten until the finish and return to the hotel afterwards.
Between watching the race on TV’s in the pub and running to the roadside when the race comes past multiple times
The Grote Scheldeprijs is a Belgian semi classic cycling race which starts in Antwerp and finishes in Schoten. The event is seen as a race for sprinters, held on flat roads over roughly 200 kilometres. The race is one circuit of 155 kilometres into the countryside of Antwerp province followed by three circuits of 15 kilometres based on Schoten. The route includes seven cobbled sections varying between 1300 and 3000 metres.
Breakfast and lunch included.
Thursday, 7th April: Brugge
We can’t go all the way to Belgium without visiting Brugge! So this morning we will head off after breakfast by vehicle to Brugge where we will spend the morning and early afternoon. After a lunch we will head back to Gent by bike making a ride of 70kms.
Walking around Brugge is like taking a step back in time. From its 13th-century origins as a cloth-manufacturing town to today, Bruges has changed little. Swans glide down the winding canals and the stone houses look like they’re made of gingerbread. Brugge has made the transition from medieval to modern with remarkable grace. In the Middle Ages, Brugge was among the wealthiest cities of Europe. Unlike so many European cities that have had been ravaged by war, Bruges has remained unscathed with its monumental buildings intact. UNESCO has recognised the cultural importance of the historic centre by awarding it World Heritage status.
Friday, 8th April: Ride the Arenberg Forest To Roubaix
All the action today will centre round the famed Arenberg forest, The Wallers Forest and the section near Orchies. Friday is the traditional day for the teams to do a last reconnaissance of the important parts of the course we’ll likely see many of the teams out on the pavé.
When we were here in 2012 we looked so pro that the TV crews couldn’t tell us apart from Boonen!
So we will head down to Arenberg and see many of the teams pass through there before heading across to the Roubaix velodrome to see where we will be finishing tomorrows Cyclo Sportif ride and then go to the club house for some retail therapy and possibly a beer in the bar.
While we’re here we will collect our entries for the ride tomorrow.
We will offer an easy ride around the flat lands of Northern France in preparation for our big ride tomorrow. We won’t be doing many of the pave sections today.
In the afternoon we will head off to Brugge for the evening.
In the VC Roubaix Club House we can soak up the atmosphere of years gone by where you can buy your a piece of pave of perhaps some club clothing.
Saturday, 9th April: Our own Paris Roubaix – Sportif
For the second time this week you will have the opportunity to ride the same route as the pros the day before the race. Only after you ride these cobbles will you be able to appreciate the difficulty and torture of what the professionals experience at Paris-Roubaix.
Paris-Roubaix Cyclo Sportif gives every cyclist the opportunity to experience the magic of Paris-Roubaix! Just a day before the real Paris-Roubaix, the Paris-Roubaix Challenge is conducted under the same conditions with the same cobblestones and the finish on the Vélodrome… Does it get any better? Trouée d’Arenberg, Carrefour de l’Arbre, Roubaix velodrome.
The Paris-Roubaix Cyclo Sportif offers a ride to the heart of the legendary history of cycling. Regardless of what route you choose, you will finish on the track of the fabled Roubaix Velodrome. There will be refreshments and you can take a shower in the very same place where the winners of the pro race (from Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault to Tom Boonen) wrote some of the most beautiful chapters in their careers.
We will have an early breakfast and head down to Roubaix around 7.00am to the start and all going well we will be on the bike by 8.00am. You can start any time you like before 10.00am and sometimes it’s good to start a bit later to avoid the rush at the start.
Saturday, 10th April: Paris Roubaix – the real thing
This morning we will head off to Paris Roubaix, the Hell of the North or l’enfer du nord as the French say. You’ll have had the chance to experience firsthand the difficulty of the massive cobbles and you will see the race with new eyes.
There is no other race in the world like the Paris-Roubaix. The French race is known for its torturous pavé sectors and the many stories of pain and destruction that they hold.
After 260 kilometres and around 50 of pavé, the race ends with one and a half laps on Roubaix’s outdoor track.
Win in Roubaix, the third of cycling’s five Monuments, and you are considered a god. Riders like Roger De Vlaeminck, Fausto Coppi, Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser, Sean Kelly and Tom Boonen have tamed Paris-Roubaix’s pavé for the well-earned status.
After a hard day on the bike yesterday we take it easy this morning. We already have seen two starts this week, Flanders and the Scheldeprijs. After breakfast we will head for the first cobblestone section of the day. Through the afternoon we will visit several sections of pavé along the route where we’ll see up close the difficult conditions that take their toll on the riders as the day wears on.
The chase begins!
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
Tour cost is per person twin share and includes:
The cost of the entire trip is $5750 AUD. Single supplement is $750AUD. For this we’ll get to experience the trip of a lifetime as well as a few surprises along the way that we’ll keep in our back pocket.
Any questions? Email me at editor [at] cyclingtips [dot] com [dot] au.
To register your interest please pre-book at this webpage and leave a deposit.
If you want to see what our 2012 trip was like, have a read of these posts:
A ride through Flanders
The Lion of Flanders