I thought i would give a quick write up of our weekend away in Belgium for Flanders. Myself (Andy M), Ian Williams , Trevor Lloyd and Karl Randell set out from Swansea at 5.0o am to meet our tour company Sports International Tours in Cardiff . Jumping on the coach we would travel via ferry to Belgium where we stayed in the centre of Ghent. Arriving at the hotel around 8pm we had to quickly put our bikes together and then Ian decided we needed to correctly fuel for the ride in the morning by hitting the hotel bar for a Belgium beer or two.
Next morning we were up at 5 for breakfast and had to leave for the start via bus at 5.15, confusion then kicked in when the bus drivers told us they are not legally able to drive until 7 so we had a lot of waiting around which Trev made the most of by hitting the breakfast again and again HE LOVES A BUFFET.
Finally off we travelled about 30 mins in the bus to a car park and were basically told to get off and try and find the start, we followed some dodgy sign positing to the start but were amazed to turn up to find they were taking the start down so they can put everything up for the Pros in the morning. Arriving to this caused a bit of panic ,however it turned up to be a blessing in disguise when hitting the climbs later on the day due to most riders leaving two hrs before so we had a clear run at them well almost.
Going into the ride i knew that the first 100km (227km in total) was basically flat and we needed to work together to in order to stay as fresh as possible. We managed to stay in a decent group for a while behind some Belgium riders, this didn’t last long when they hit a headwind (pretty sure one was Paul Edwards in disguise the way he stopped when the headwind hit) and the group decided to basically stop and free wheel until someone else took it on. At this moment i looked over to Trev who i could see was raring to go , his elbows came out and he went to the front followed by the rest of us and two guy Lucas and Ali from Twickenham CC. We basically stayed on the front setting a really good tempo and at times i looked around to see at least 40 plus sitting on our wheels. It was during this time that i started singing ‘Let it go’ from frozen to Trev every time someone came passed i could see the elbows coming out as he wanted to catch.
During the ride the boys from Twickenham had a tumble by hitting a post on the road bringing down a couple of other guys, lucky Ian Williams had commanded his troops to the front at this time so we were out of the trouble.
One of the great experiences of the ride was when two motorbike officials decided to ride with our group, they would ride ahead at junctions and stop traffic for us , Karl couldnt get his head around the fact that at roundabouts cars would stop and let us come around which would never happen back home.
It wasn’t long before we hit the first section of cobbles, we took a slight left and road roughly 1km of flat cobbles. i think we all new at the end of that section this was going to be a bloody hard days riding. We got over the first couple of sections and climbs ok and together.
We knew that the real test was the mighty flanders koppenberg and visually it was amazing to see but also the OH SHIT i didnt think it was that steep. Ian attacked on the climb but myself and the others were a little bit behind when a guy in front took a real nasty fall causing us to unclip. We had to walk about 20 meters to try and clip back in but chapeau to Mr Williams for riding it the whole way .
We had a little mini celebration for Karl during the ride when he passed the 101 mile marker, having not ridding past that before we gave him a pack on the back and then told him to go on ride on the bloody front for a bit 🙂
We only had one puncture during the ride with Ian picking up a slow flat, with it only 3 km away from a feed stop he decided to ride it . We hit a cobble section where he jumped in the gutter to save the tyre and wheel , however much to my amusement he kept falling off the bike because he wasn’t putting enough pressure on the back wheel.
The last climb was the mighty Patenberg , at this stage we were all suffering but where determined not to get off and to smash this climb . The amount of people walking it was unreal but we all did it, the support of “come on Swansea” was that extra push that we needed. After the last climb we had 10 km flat into the a head wind to go, after Karl had attacked on the climb and smashed everyone to bits shortly followed by Trev who lead the way on the previous climbs they start to suffer so myself and Ian powered us to the home straight where we rode across the finish together. It was a great feeling to have ridded such a hard ride together .
Jumping on the bus back then we hit Ghent for a couple of beers and pasta .
Next morning we needed to be up and ready for 6 am to see the start of the pros, at 6.30 myself and Karl were out cold when Trev came into our room saying ‘ARE YOU READY!!!’ thinking it was only 2am we got up and again jumped on the bus where we got to see the pros signing on . The sky boys were close enough to us to think shit they are skinny and child like, after heckling Luke Rowe and waving our Welsh flag we got a thumbs up and smile from him but Geriant Thomas was proper in the zone and didnt want to know . We caught a shuttle up to the patenberg to watch the pros , they put on loads of food stalls and entertainment on and plenty of beers for us , it was at this stage where we made the decisions to start drinking beer as if it was water . We were lucky that ex pro Dan Lloyd who was riding the fan ride stopped in front of us for a beer and coupe of photos. We were on the patenberg when Sagen attacked and it was great to watch these guys hitting the cobbles so hard knowing how painful it was the previous days.
We then got back to the hotel slightly (understatement) drunk and then went out again for food, beers and in my case milkshakes. Myself and Trev called it a night roughly about 12 with Ian taking young Karl under his wing to sample the Belgium delights. After passing out myself i woke up to find Karls clothes completely soaked in the bathroom i was completed baffled and just assumed that he must have had a shower fully clothed . It turned out that young Karl loves a swim in a fountain!!!! Anyway
A great 4 days aways lot of travelling but so worth it would highly recommend it, the question is now what do we do next?