A wheely good evening to you all and as I sit here 5 days after my debut bike packing adventure to Belgium I still cannot believe I have done my first solo trip. All I can say is if you have never tried it then do it as it is an absolute must!!! When I was planning the trip I did not really know what to expect and the packing was a key thing, too much and extra weight is incurred and too little and I would be shopping over there. As it was I got this part down to a tee and I had just what I needed.
As i boarded the ferry at Dover there was one thing I really wanted more than anything, dry weather and bar the last 500 metres 4 days later in Dunkirk I got my wish. My first day took me up to the Dunkirk beaches and then over to Ypres my first stop over point. This was an evening ride and left me with 40 miles in the dark to Ypres. I met Tom Coley on the ferry who was also doing a similar thing to me all be it a longer trip and was great to become friends with a virgin bike packer like myself. The B&B was a welcome sight that evening and although only covered 55 miles on day one it was a challenging day with the night ride.
Day 2 I woke to gorgeous blue skies and sun streaming through the window and today was going to be a great day. First off I rode north to Tynecot cemetery. This is the largest one place that commonwealth soldiers are buried and was a moving experience to say the least. Having served in the Army myself it really brought home to me just what all those men went through serving our country those 100 years ago. After spending some time here I headed south to watch the Great Centenary War Race. The line up for the inaugural edition was good and a chance to see the pros racing on foreign soil. After watching the race in various point including race past Christmas point memorial I got back to the centre of Ypres for the finish. That evening I stayed for the incredible last post ceremony under the Menin gate before another late night ride to get to my next stopover in Avelgem. Arriving at 11pm I was met by Andy my host who I had met through warmshowers.com bike packing website. That day I had put nearly 100 miles in the legs with a fully loaded bike and was ready to sleep and that I did very well in the caravan accommodation in his back garden.
Day 3 again I woke to blue skies and bright sun, just what I needed for this days ride. Today allowed me to ditch all the bags and ride the bike in its naked state, this was needed as 105 miles of Belgian lanes, bergs and cobbles awaited me. Andy had put a great route together for me for this day and it encompassed all the famous areas of this part of Belgium. First up the Koppenberg, followed closely by the Kruisberg, Muur, Taienberg, Kwaremont and finally after 99 miles the 19 percent slopes of the Paterberg. All these climbs are steep brutal narrow cobbled climbs and the cobbles make it a challenge beyond any words one can describe. The one thing that was going for me was it was dry, I really would not want to do this in the wet!!! This ride was just superb and gave me the chance to fulfil my ambition of riding these immense roads. On getting back to base after some 8 hours in the saddle there was only one thing for it…….a piping hot bath and a couple of chilled blonde beers. Bring on day 4!!!!
So day 4 arrived and this was my final day of my mini adventure and the journey home awaited. I had 8 miles ahead to get me and my bike back to Dunkirk and today was dry but windy!!!!! The wind was battering me from all ways and the last 45 miles down the coast was a block headwind. Of course I would rather have had it behind me but it actually served as a really good training tool and allowed me to work on concentrated continuous power output. As I went through the likes of Middlekierk, Nieuwport, De Panne and Dunkirk all I could do was hope the rain stayed away. I knew from social media the UK was battered by storms all day and these were due to come across the channel to Europe so I kept pedalling and as I said earlier beat the rain by the skin of my teeth. All that was left was a ferry and drive from Dover back home to Swindon.
So my bike packing adventure was over and wow it was superb. I have already started to plan the next one and I seriously am considering the Trans Continental in 2020. If you have never done this try it as you will not look back. And all it leaves me to say is ride safe, stay safe and keep those pedals turning. Laters!!!!
So a wheely good welcome to you all and I write this on the late night train back from London having just been to the 2017 Rouleur Classic in London with my good friend Karl and his dad Roger. This is our third time on the trot and we enjoy more each year. Once again the venue was the amazing Victoria House and yet again Rouleur didn’t fail in putting on a superb night surpassing previously visited years with oozing amounts of quality, memorabilia and stars of the cycling world. From the Mavic service course cars parked up outside I knew this was gonna be a treat. Entitled Monuments it was to celebrate the great riders who had conquered on the cobbles and roads of Flanders and Roubaix.
On entering the event it was awash with the creme de la creme of brands showing their products under the dazzling lights. I could go on for an eternity but one that stood out for me was the s-works stand complete with the latest SL6 tarmac and some very nice custom frames. I know I am biased but s-works bikes, components and frames for me are the epiphany of top drawer bike manufacturing and I know my good friend Paul Jackson in Northern Ireland would not diasagree with me.
Of course any show is not just about the products but it’s meeting the pros and people from the industry that make it all tick. You can imagine my delight seeing Sir Bradley Wiggins once again. This guy is a legend and chatting to him about tattoos and bikes was just great. Every time I have met him over the years he’s always made time to talk and just generally be cool as he is.
Of course the main stage hosted a wealth of top names. From Jonathan Vaughters talking about the new Drapac team to Johan Museeuw reminiscing on all his classics victories every guest had a story to tell and entertained the packed crowd.
As the evening drew to a close all it left was one more skirt of the stands, collect our goodie bags and head off into the crisp London night air. Once again a totally amazing evening and I would recommend get a ticket for next year as rumour has it with the theme being World Champions we may see a visit from Peter Sagan, now that would be special.
Just leaves me to say thanks for reading and subscribing and please check out my twitter and Instagram. Until next time happy riding and laters!
Hello one and all and a wheely good welcome to Paul Ashman Cycling.
So what is a Classic? A novel that’s stood the test of time, a piece of music or song that is still played over and over many years after its release or a car like an E-Type Jaguar. Yes they all meet that criteria and term but ask someone in the Cycling world then it’s a different answer all together.
Tour of Flanders, Liege Bastoigne Liege, Amstel Gold and the greatest of them all Paris Roubaix……these are all classics in the cycling world. Every March and April the peleton heads for Belgium, North France and The Netherlands for the teams respective classics campaigns. This time of year can throw up all sorts of weather and it’s this that is one of the factors that makes every race a spectacle and an unknown. There is always a favourite but often this isn’t who wins and only the toughest hardest men in the sport survive to take top spot on the podium. Take last year at Roubaix who would have bet on Mat Hayman to triumph over Boonen, Stannard and Van Marche.
The cobbled classics of Belgium require an upmost amount of skill and resilience to conquer. Coupled with the bergs, some with up to 20% inclines it really sorts out the hardmen in cycling. Last year at Flanders Sagan broke clear over the Patterberg and soloed to victory. I don’t think many will bet against him repeating that again this year. He has already just a fortnight ago come second at Omloop and won the following day in Kuurne so is clearly showing he has the legs. After Flanders the following weekend is Paris Roubaix or better known as the Hell of the North. This is probably one of if not the hardest race in cycling. Leaving Compiegne in Northern Paris the parcours winds itself up through France to Roubaix via many kilometres of horrendous cobble stone sections. These rattle the bike and body like no other roads. Tom Boonen is one of the most successful classics riders of our generation and will be bidding for record 5th win in Roubaix before retiring after the race. It will bring the curtain down on a career from a man who has won pretty much every Classic, been world champion and wore the coveted Yellow Jersey. Good luck Tornado Tom!
Alongside the ones mentioned there are many other classics that in their own right command a great deal of talent and a raw edge to show you have what it takes to win. Whether the white gravel roads of Strade Bianche, the gruelling 290 kilometres of Milan San Remo or the relentless winds across the Belgian open lands in E3 or Gent Wevelgelm these races require a complete all round rider. Chapeau to every rider who enters, rides and to the few who conquer victorious.
So to my tips and these are just my opinion of who I feel and believe could come out on top.
Milan San Remo – many would disagree but 8 years after his previous win there I feel it’s the year for Mark Cavendish.
Tour of Flanders – I cannot see past Peter Sagan. He is a complete solid riding machine and his physique suited to the terrain the race throws up.
Paris Roubaix – I would love to see a home win in the shape of Luke Rowe like any other Brit. However it would be a fitting end to a glittering career to see Tom Boonen take his fifth victory here and that’s who my money will be on.
Liege Bastoigne Liege – already showing strength and good legs I believe this will be Dan Martins second victory in Liege come mid April
That’s all for now so happy riding folks and please check out Paul Ashman Cycling on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.