A wheely good evening to you all and as I wrote this I am sat on a rather choppy ferry heading back over the channel after a great weekend in Belgium. This country really is the home of cycling like no other and absorbs everything bikes into the life of the place. Where else in the world will a car stop on a roundabout to let a bike out or cross!!!
My trip was to witness the opening classics weekend of the season and what a cracking one it was. After a delayed journey on Friday evening we got to the hotel about midnight ready for a good sleep as we knew the next two days would be full on.
Saturday dawned and it was the day all cycling fans have been waiting for, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad the first cobbled classic race of the year. This race is like a mini Flanders but no easier and took on many cobbles and bergs. After getting to the start we milled round the coaches catching up with the riders and soaking up the atmosphere. The start was in Ghent and there was a great team presentation prior to the race in the famous Kuipe indoor velodrome. Not before long it was start time and we watched the men and women roll out one after the other to embark on 200 gruelling kilometres of racing. For me and Richard we then jumped in the car and got straight to our first stop out on the course to watch the race fly by. There was a break clear at this point but all was calm in the peleton . After a stop at the feed zone we went to watch the riders ascend their 9th climb of the day, the Wolvenberg. We walked about halfway up to the point where it is a 17% incline and it certainly felt steep. As the riders approached everyone pushed to the edge of this narrow road to allow the peleton to pass. It may be steep but the riders flew up as if they were on the flat, they sure know how to climb!! For us it was a quick jaunt back to the finish in Ninove and watch the climax. Zenek Stybar one of the Wolfpack jumped with 2km to go powering to victory. Unbeknown to us at this stage this would be the first half of a double header for Quickstep this weekend. After a look round the coaches and picking up a few bidons we grabbed dinner and headed back to the hotel for a well needed rest and nights sleep.
Sunday arrived and we woke to typical Flandrain weather of cold, wind and rain, perfect for another classics race. Today was Kuurne Brussels Kuurne which generally ends in a sprint but would today buck the trend?? After a hearty breakfast we headed for Kuurne to the start. Again we were able to have a great look round the teams and buses and meet many riders. Another signature on my yellow jersey was good to get and of course some mandatory selfies. The race started and they went off at a blistering pace and I had this inkling it could be one for a breakaway rider to win. After the start we went across to the feed zone which even though yielded no goodies was great to see the race pass. On our way back to the finish we stopped for a quick look round the Flanders shop in Oudenaarde. This really is the home of Flanders and cycling in this area and a recommended place to visit if you’re ever in the area. We then headed off to the finish back in Kuurne and as per my earlier thoughts a 5 man group had gone clear. Excitement was building and with 15km to go the man from Luxembourg Bob Jungels jumped clear. With the group he left behind caught by the peleton he was up against it with them chasing him like a pack of lions. He dug in, gritted his teeth and found that inner strength to hold them off and win…..a breakaway rider had won. This was back to back victory’s for Quickstep and took their tally to 13 wins already in 2019. What was also so good to see was the second place by the young Team Sky rider Owain Doull, could this be the breakthrough ride he needs? I really hope so for this talented young Welshman.
For us we had to get back to catch our ferry which as I said is where I am sat writing this. Belgium is a great country and such a fabulous place to visit. I will be back in 5 weeks for the Tour of Flanders which really is the highlight of the classics season. Until then for me more riding and training getting ready for my Paris Roubaix Challenge and Mallorca 312 rides, both in April. Until then happy riding and from me……..laters.