De Ronde

by Monographical Uk November. 28, 2018 106 views

It's the greatest one day race in the world, I love it, hey I even wrote and published a book about it its that special to me.

Now ok, I appreciate that non-cycling fans probably won't have ever heard of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, or to give it its more recognisable name, the Tour of Flanders, but if you ever get the chance to go to Belgium, then do so.

It's so much more than a bike race.

Over 800,000 people were estimated to be at the roadside when I went to record the race a few years ago, most of them slightly drunk on the local beer, all of them smiling, all of them passionate about this race.

My day started with an early morning breakfast and a coach and bus ride out to one of the most famous climbs in the race, the Oude Kwaremont - its a narrow cobbled farmers road for most of the year, but in spring it becomes transformed and takes on near mythical status.

The climb is quite long, with farmers fields either side of it. The cobbles are rough and rutted and you would never think a bike race would come up here.

The fans start to congregate early and a place on the barrier is a much prized asset.

Luckily when I visited the weather was kind. It had been raining, but was dry in the days beforehand and I therefore had options, the chaos of the crowd on the barriers or the more adventurous approach into the fields.

I went for the fields.

The farmers had cut back the old crops and it was a perfect vantage point.

Looking across the edge of the field to the field on the other side of the road was surreal, the cobbles themselves sunken down in the valley between us, sort of a small stadium for the athletes.

The more seasoned spectators had chairs and blankets, they had pic-nics, they were prepared.

I love people watching, studying those around me, working out who is who and what they might be up to.

Clearly my attention was drawn to these two wise old men.

Both proudly wearing their cycling caps given out by Het Nieuwsblad, the paper that sponsors lots of the races in Flanders. They were ready for the riders, peering as far forward as they could to see them approach.

Wonderful to witness.

But as I said, it is so much more than a bike race.

Don't get me wrong, it is a massive bike race, nearly 300 km in length and lots of it over the cobbles and up these small climbs - it is a race for hard men and men of immense power and strength. It is a race for my kind of bike rider.

But away from the race, there is the beer and food and the camaraderie that the fans enjoy so much. Some of them enjoy this more than the race itself.

The small hamlet (and it is literally that) of Kwaremont is swamped with people. In between the racing (the race passes three times) people crowd around the beer tents and the barbeques.

This scene is replicated on all the major climbs across the Flanders region, it becomes one massive big cycling party.

So next year, on the first weekend of April, flick over to Eurosport and enjoy what I think is the best bike race in the world.

De Ronde.

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Berckmans Peter 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Agree the best bike race. And last year it started in my hometown of Antwerp .

11 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Monographical Uk Replied to Berckmans Peter 11 months, 3 weeks ago

yes indeed it did! .... if you like that, here is a link to my book - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LW071CI

11 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
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