What originated as a Leek CC trip to Belgium to watch the 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders was soon to turn out to be a joint trip with the Sharrow after Steve Allott opened the invite to his new club. Not anticipating such a decent take up, the 7 Leek riders were soon doubled by 7 Sharrow- Pete C, Brett, Steve (Tex) Harrop, Steve Allott, David Goy and Diego.
The plan was to head over to France on the Friday morning Euro tunnel, ride the Tour of Flander Cycle sportive on the Saturday and watch the Tour of Flanders on the Sunday before heading back Sunday evening. Arranged at Christmas, this gave plenty in months to discuss the logistics, watching places and of course tyre widths! All of which was done with the exception of the logistics which resulted in a very last minute arrangement to actually get to Belgium!
Once there however it immediately began to unfold that this was going to be a great weekend. We rolled up to our hotel in Kortrijk ,which Steve Allott had very kindly booked for us, to find the full Team Sky entourage staying at the same hotel. To say there set up is impressive is an understatement.- coaches, riders, mechanicals, chefs, physios and various other staff. After checking in we got straight on our bikes and headed out for the 20 mile ride to the start of the next day’s sportive in Oudenaarde, stopping for lunch on the way. Shortly after signing on and collecting our numbers Brett suddenly realised to his distress that he was riding a sportive! However his displeasure was our amusement and we did the only thing good club mates can do in such a circumstance and rip him the whole weekend! Once back in Kortrijk we had a nice meal in a local Italian.
Waking the next morning to an excellent breakfast at the hotel we rode the 20 miles over to Oudenaarde where we met up with the illusive Diego (yes he does actually exist!) who had made his way over from Brussels. All 7 Sharrow riders set off in the cold but dry conditions to embark on the 140k of Flanders. One word…tough! We all expected the cobbled sections to be rough but wow…they are hard. The climbs are short and steep but even with the cobbles, with a clear run they aren’t too bad, however it’s the flats and descents that are the real killer. The best way to deal with them is to push a big gear allowing some decent resistance to keep your body solid and reduce the effect of the vibrations. Even then the effect is tiring and fatiguing and most of us felt the early onset of arthritis at the end of the day! At the finish food was calling and we headed straight to a local eatery for a celebratory beer and plentiful amounts of steak and chips. Back in Kortrijk and after a shower and a surreal incident involving the Sharrow breaking Team Sky’s coffee machine! It was time for more food at a lovely Thai.
The next day we woke to fantastic sunny weather and after breakfast we packed up the cars and headed out to the Kwaremont. This was a great place to watch this iconic 100th edition of the race as it was included 3 times this year. The atmosphere on the Kwaremont was fantastic (also helped by the 22 degree temps) with beers, food and coffee readily available. We watched the first time round from an excellent spot about 200 yards from the start of the cobbles. As we were waiting for the them to come round for the second time of asking we also saw the womens race come past (won by Lizzie Armitsted). After the second time round he walked down to the town at the bottom of the climb and watched the rest of the race from a bar at the back of a bike shop, with a quick sprint round the front to watch them pass on the road outside. For those who didn’t watch the race it was one not to miss with a solo win by Peter Sagan after an attack on the last climb of the day, the Patterburg.
After the race had finished it was a case or getting away as quick as we could to make the 7pm tunnel crossing. A brilliant weekend had by all. Roubaix next year!??