Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Belgium and the Spring Classics: April 1-10, 2011

One would think that I go to Belgium enough. Well, I do, but Tim, my husband, is a classics fanatic. Seriously scary, overthetop, watches them on DVD all the time, has numerous books on them, knows the history and just loves the cobbles. And thus, his dream vacation to ride and watch Flanders and Paris-Roubaix was scheduled. Throw in Scheldeprijs for fun, add several other people and a trip planned by Kris Schamp, pay a bunch of money and magic happens and the dream is fulfilled. Here is his dream vacation in pictures. 

Day 1: Arrival and ride around Meise, home of Eddy Merckx & the Schamps.

Day 2: Ronde Van Vlaanderen Citizen ride: 150K
The group among the 20,000 others

the line to registration.
finally getting started

had to have a bell to make it up the hills
scenery along the route
rest stops were kind of crowded. hundreds of people at each.

one of the many awesome cobbled climbs. rode them all! no walking.
a very happy, fulfilled Tim & Sue! Last 100 of miles of Flanders in the books.
post ride snacks: Belgian style
And a lovely dinner and evening following
 Day 3: The REAL thing: Watching the race!
the Pen of the pros.
Coffee while we wait on the chilly morning in Brugge.
And they are off...
Lovely rooftops of Brugge.

Venice of the north.
Had to have our first beer before noon. It was vacation after all. The BEER WALL.
Walking to our climb! Excited for the action.
Our climb for enjoyment: Steenbeekdries.
I have assumed my position.
The much anticipated leaders approach.
And the chase follows closely behind.
And the rest, including Lars Boom & Ballan.
Watching the rest in the VIP tent. Free beer, lots of Belgians, and big screen TV.
Happy and maybe a little drunk.
 Day 4: A ride in the Pajottenland & tour of the 3 Fonteinen
Sometimes you just have to stop for a photo.
We found a nice castle (Kasteel Gaasbeek) along the way. Closed, but pretty.

Tim, Mike & Jan.

The group back together again.
 After our ride, we showered and were shuttled to Beersel, a lovely little town with a (former) brewery of a very special beer. I know I said this was going to be just pictures, but I have to say a bit about this special evening. First, I love beer. I usually say I love dark beer, but this beer really blew my mind. It is very special. I think one of the things that made it even more special was our intimate tour with the owners, Armand and Lydie. Armand has a passion for his craft so deep, it nearly brought me to tears. Listening to him speak gave me an even deeper appreciation for what I was privileged to taste. And it has a very special story. Oude Gueze is a blended beer, made from aged Lambic's. They used to brew there own Lambic, but after a disaster that nearly ended and bankrupted Armand, changes were made, but he has now said, "I will brew again.". I believe him. For a more detailed explanation from a 'beer expert', I found this link: Belgian Beer Specalist.

Me getting close to the Lambic.
Tim getting even closer.
Our brilliant hosts for the evening: Lydie & Armand.

 Day 5: Ride to Gent, Flanders Museum in Oudenaarde & dinner in Brussels.
Departure from the B&B. Chilly morning. Rode the Schelde to Gent. It actually rained a bit. No pictures of the ride.
Tour of Flanders museum with a personal tour by Freddy Maertens.
Freddy wanted to be between the girls.
Emalee & I on the roof terrace in Brussels.
Tim enjoying his post dinner waffle treat.
 Day 6: Scheldeprijs and a day in Antwerp.
Stalking the riders at their team buses. Up close and personal.
Tim found his spot for the start.
And they are off.
One happy guy.
The  hand of Antwerp. Blue sky. Beautiful day.
Could we have asked for a better day?
Beers & lunch to pass the time.

Had to go to Philip's shop in Antwerp. I toured his factory in January. Yummy stuff.
Waiting for the finish.
Here they come. You can see someone down on the ground.
Cav pulls it off.
Another classic in the books.
The pedestrian tunnel in Antwerp underground.
It's a long one.

572 meters to be exact.
Antwerp by night.
 Day 7: Off to Eiper. A glorious ride that included the Kemmelberg!

Tim with the Kemmelberg in the distance. Oh the anticipation...

Tim conquered the Kemmelberg.

Our ride went into France. And back to Belgium.
Another lovely day with lunch and beers mid-ride.
And in the fields of hops we went...
Last post. In memory of the victims of war. Every night at 8 p.m.

 Day 8: Riding the hell of the North: Paris-Roubaix. The last 60+ miles.
Ready to ride.
A quick stop to say hi to Tom.
Tim in his element: COBBLES. The forest of Arenberg is where we started.
The signing of Paris-Roubaix. Much more understated than Flanders.
The cobbles were the worse I have rode. OUCH!

Tim taking his lap on the velodrome in Roubaix.
And he has won! (in his mind, at least.)
Tim hit the famed showers.
My cyclocross fan at the Roubaix bar. Fun stuff.

More beer fun.

The dinner was fabulous!
Day 9: A ride on the Belgian coast based out of Knokke.

Lunch in Brugge.
The North Sea.

Day 10: The finale: PARIS-ROUBAIX!

Tim & Kris at 1K to go.
The first winner ever of Paris-Roubaix.
It was decided to not fight traffic and try to watch in one spot and miss the entire race. Straight to Roubaix we went.

Van Summeren, the winner, on his lap around the track.
The chase was not far behind.
Amazing win!

Bye Eiper!

And that my friends, was our 10 days in Belgium. It was an amazing trip, partially due to the fantastic weather. But great riding, great people and of course, great beer. That post will follow. Watching these races in person was quite a treat. Riding the courses was even more fun. I have the utmost respect for the athletes that compete on these courses. Especially Paris-Roubaix. The 60 miles of that course we rode were much harder than the 100 of Flanders. The French cobbles were brutal. But now I am home and have to get back in the swing of things. No more mid-ride beers. Or then again...


allison said...

As a huge Pro road fan, I must say - that's f--ing awesome :)

DAK said...

That was an epic post of what was obviously epic times... well done, the butlers!