Roadside: I’ve been fortunate to see the Tour of Flanders in person and ride the famed Belgian cobbled bergs on more than one occasion – and as we plod into a 2nd year of locked down travel, a look back at happier times might serve as a look ahead to what’s coming when travel opens up.
I’ve updated my day from the Tour of Flanders in 2012 with new big photos from an amazing day.
Getting to the start early to grab one of the few barrier-side spots pays off when the big names speed past for sign in.
PEZ-Fans will know Velo Classic Tours from reading about the experiences of myself and many of the PEZ-Crew as we’ve joined up with Peter Easton and his own crew to see a Belgium many folks just dream about in the pages of their fave cycling mag.
Phil & Paul had a big hello for PEZ fans.
Pete’s no slacker, and true to form the plan was to head out onto the Flanders course straight after the men’s start in Brugge at 10:00AM Sunday morning. With the race even more popular than before and the much anticipated showdown between Cancellara and Boonen hyped like mad in the press, plus a course design that allowed for more race viewing but less chasing – the crowds were expected to be massive. And if you don’t know your way around, that can mean valuable time lost while stuck in traffic, and missed race viewing…
Everybody’s in a good mood at the start.
The only way to really see this race is with someone who’s been here a few times before and really knows his way around. So like a bunch of giddy school kids, 8 of us jumped into the van and we were off to chase Flanders with Velo Classic Tours. And here’s where Pete’s learning to drive on the streets of New York City really pays off – sometimes you just need to pass that guy who’s holding everybody up… safely of course.
With 250km ahead, this is one race that starts earlier than some riders would like.
After a few days of cool and overcast weather, the day dawned clear, blue, but still cool – I’d heard it was only 2C degrees at the start. As usual, the central market square in Brugge was jammed with the race and thousands of fans, and as I was driving in from Kortrijk, my first objective was to run the gauntlet of road closures that encircled the city – no mean feat since I’d yet to pick up my credentials. I got lucky and talked my way past the first crossing guard, who even helped me with directions once inside the old city – as long as I hurried up and his boss didn’t see.
True to form, the big name riders wait till he very last minute to sign on. I can’t blame them for choosing the warm bus over the freezing start line, but it does make for a sort of anti-climatic sign on.
And they are off on a 6+ hour day of racing.
The plan was to stop several times at different points along the course to see both the women’s and men’s races. The women’s Ronde started in Oudenarde, and their passage on a long section of cobbles was our first stop. We hadn’t parked for more than 5 minutes when the women’s race vehicles arrived, with the world’s top pro women in hot pursuit.
I couldn’t help but feel for the few stragglers who’d already been dropped as they faced either a very long day alone, or deep disappointment… or both.
– this car mounted camera – like the ones usually strapped to the helicopters shooting the race from above. This one came by on a car ahead of the race, but was too far in front to actually see the riders – so why it was here I’ll have to report back on later.
– and young fans of road racing – very nice to see they’re growing them here at least. Watch for this little guy in about 20 years.
Then the race comes by – the pretenders about 5 minutes up…. Followed by the contenders. Shooting pics means you miss the action – but at least you get a record to go back and examine…
There’s no shortage of ways to enjoy the race, I particularly liked this rolling party bus.
After the race passed right in front of the restaurant (that black building in the above pic), it was out the back door and into Pete’s second van, which had been strategically parked so we could get to one more race passage before the finale. The second van was key, since our first van was parked on the opposite side of the closed race course. Once again… kudos VCT.
It’s not the only way to see –or enjoy chasing a classic, but it is a good one and worth checking out.
• See more info at the VeloClassic website.