You might remember quite a while ago I posted that I had decided to challenge myself, by signing up for the Ronde Van Vlaanderen 129km Cyclo.
Well, that was on the 2nd April, and…. I did it!
I was a bit worried as I’ve essentially done no training for this ride (see my Jan-Mar ride post) – due to weather and ill health. I have however lost some weight which seems to have helped massively.
We travelled to Zeebrugge on the overnight ferry from Hull and arrived in Oudenaarde bright and early on Friday 1st April. First thing on the itinerary was the obligatory visit to the RVV museum, which had been updated this year as it was the 100’th edition of the race.
We popped for a hot chocolate, and then went back to the vans and did a carpark quick change so that we could go on a little leg stretch and visit the Koppenberg. It was a bright sunny but cool day so it was lovely to get some fresh air after being in the van/on a ferry. Yet again I was unable to ride up the Koppenberg all the way, but it is really steep and some of it was very wet so I wasn’t very surprised!
After the ride about we headed to our B&B which is a beautiful 6 bedroomed place a short drive from Oudenaarde. We went to a local grill, had steak and it was goood. We discussed, at length, what we were going to wear – the weather was set to be cold but warming up to about 20ºC.
Stu got up early to head off as he was going to do the 227km route so had to get to the meeting point for his bus to Brugge. I got breakfast with the rest of our group and we went off to the start line. It was a lot colder than expected, but we’d been reassured that it would warm up.
I set off at a steady pace, very aware that this was going to be quite a challenge for me and that some of the climbs were going to be very taxing – I was going to need to conserve my energy! I did however have a bit of a plan – have a little bite to eat every 10 miles. Nak’d Bits are excellent for this, so I had 8 of them in a bag in my jersey pocket. Mentally to keep me going I broke the ride down into 20 mile segments as well, so it didn’t feel quite so daunting.
I felt good for most of the ride, again I couldn’t get up the Koppenberg, but this time there was just too many people. By the time I made it to the Taienberg I was starting to wonder if
I was going to be able to pedal up many more of the hills.
As it was, the Oude Kwaremont was closed when I got there due to a chap being ill, and when I made my way to the Paterberg there was actually a queue at least 400m before the beginning of the climb. I figured I’d just walk as fast as I could – at a couple of points I was running. Wearing mtb shoes on a road ride suddenly pays off when you’re trying to run up a slippery cobbled climb! The last bit of the ride is a bit of a killer – along a road back to Oudenaarde and usually against a head wind. This was tough but I set myself a goal of trying to keep my speed up to about 15mph and it paid off. I eventually finished with an average speed of 13.5mph which I was really pleased with as last year I did the shorter route at 10.5mph. And in all honesty, I could have gone further. I was glad I didn’t have to, but I could have, if I’d wanted to.
I dashed back to the van, got changed and made it back to the finish in time to meet Stu and have a celebratory cone of chips and mayo (and he had a couple of beers).
We went back to the same grill place that night and had more steak, I told you it was good!
I have to admit, climbing stairs for a couple of days was pretty hard.
On the Sunday we headed into town and watched the mens race come through, then popped off to the Eikenberg and watched them go past, then we went to Brugge and saw both of the races finish. After that it was back to Zeebrugge and onto the waiting ferry to come home. What an ace weekend!