Flanders feeling.You got it yet?

Mar 11, 2009
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I am a nervous wreck. The full gitters I had the week before my wedding times ten. My wedding was a given. The detailed planning my wife indulged in, meant only the second bottle of cheap red, given free to my greedy uncle, could upset the big day.
Now my nerves portray the full excitement of Flanders week. Tomorrow at 5am, I will board a budget airlines, pay the GDP of a rebel African state for a mucky coffee and arrive in the holy land of cycling. The Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) is the bike race around the hellish cobbled climbs of Belgium?s north, fierily independent province of Flanders. A monument of the European professional calendar. The hardest day on a bike- ever. The little Italian professional climbers have a stomach ache this week. The English track lads slept in and the dog ate every single French pro?s license. Flanders is for the real men who shave below the waist.
Stijn Devolder surprised everyone by his breakaway at 25 kilometers from the finish last year. Devolder never got more than 20 seconds lead, but held on to beat Nick Nuyens and Juan Antonio Flecha and become bronzed in the eyes of the nation. Flecha, poor Flecha, regardless of how many times he reaches the last 10k in the leading group of gods, no one ever rates his chances. Could this be his year? His year to survive 7 hours over farm tracks and holes in the Pave designed to destroy carbon rims. Could it be the turn of Silence-Lotto captain Leif Hoste? Finished second in the Ronde van Vlaanderen an agonizing three times in his career, Or can Big Tom Boonan show the world he is the Lion of Flanders once again.
For us English speakers, we stick to calling it the Tour of Flanders, to annunciate the Ronde van Vlaanderen correctly you need to be born with a beer in your cot and stones in your shoes. Yet I love it and my nervous stomach is the proof. Not only the daft language sets the Flemish apart, their passion for this day is tremendous. With 20k to go on Sunday the Muur-Kapelmuur in, Gerardsbergen will have 30,000 Flemish people in the village sounding of for their heroes, and me. I will have seen them off in Bruges, 6 hours previously. Interviewed all the riders who will speak to me. Photograph all the riders picking their noses that won?t and settle down on the grass in front of the big screen and pretend to be a local.
Twice I have ridden the course. 120 km of hard flat roads tire the legs before the first off the 19 ?Bergs?. 19 cobbled climbs where you churn the lowest gear in the pleasure- pain happiness zone. 19 climbs over the last 140km. A massive day in the saddle. Sheer class. Talent tested to the limit.
I am nervous for the riders as well. Nervous for Filippo Pozzato, winner of the first stage in De Panne as well as the E3 Prijs. Could it be him? Butterflies for
Heinrich Haussler of the Cerv?lo Test Team. HH has already chalked up four wins as well a close second place at Milano-Sanremo this year. The strongest rider wins Flanders, not someone who just gets lucky. Soo exciting.
Flanders is like a dream for the winner and all of Belgium and a nightmare for the rest of the riders. Only room for one lion of Flanders. On Sunday I will be there to hear him roar. Can?t wait.

myles@bikepure.org
http://www.bikepure.org





Bergs:

Kluisberg: Buissestraat, Bergstraat, Kluisbergen-Ruien. Climbs 66m from 27m to 93m. Maximum 11 per cent. First climbed 1955
Molenberg: Molenberg, Zwalm. Climbs 32m from 24m to 56m. Maximum 17 per cent. First climbed 1983.
Oude Kwaremont: Broekstraat, Kwaremontplein, Schilderstraat, Kluisbergen. Climbs 93m from 18m to 111m. Maximum 11 per cent. First climbed 1974.
Koppenberg: Steengat, Koppenberg, Oudenaarde-Melden. Climbs 64m from 13m to 77m; Maximum 25 per cent at inside of bend, otherwise 22 per cent. First climbed 1976.
Taaienberg: Taaienberg, Maarkedal-Etikhove. Climbs 45m from 37m to 82m. Maximum 18 per cent. First climbed 1974.
Berg ter Stene: Stene, Horebeke. Climbs 68m from 32m to 100m. Maximum 9 per cent. First climbed 1957
Leberg: Leberg, Brakel-Zegelsem. Climbs 39m from 60m to 9m. Maximum 15 per cent. First climbed 1977
Berendries: Berendries, Brakel-Sint-Maria-Oudenhove. Climbs 65m from 33m to 98m. Maximum 14 per cent. First climbed 1983
Valkenberg: Valkenbergstraat, Brakel-Nederbrakel. Climbs 53m from 45m to 98m. Maximum 15 per cent. First climbed 1959
Muur-Kapelmuur: Abdijstraat, Ouderbergstraat, Oudeberg, Gerardsbergen. Climbs 77m from 33m to 110m. Maximum 20 per cent. First climbed 1950
Bosberg: Kapellestraat, Geraardsbergen-Moerbeke. Climbs 40m from 65m to 105m. Maximum 11 per cent. First climbed 1975.
Tenbosse: Olifantstraat, Brakel. Climbs 28m from 45m to 73m. Maximum 14 per cent. First climbed 1997
 
Mar 10, 2009
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Best Classics Post I've read! You've now taken my excitement for Sunday and multiplied it by.... uhhh, a LOT! Have Fun! I hate you! :D
 
Apr 4, 2009
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Great post BikePure.
I will toast you with a Belgian beer tomorrow !

Anybody know a website (other than cycling tv) where I could possibly watch the race.

Thanks !!
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Mar 11, 2009
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This is my favorite classic and I am counting down the hours. I doubt I will get much sleep tonight. I wish I was there to see it but, someday I'll get there to see it and ride the sportive.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
im just pleased eurosport are giving us decent coverage from 1pm...

worried about robaix though.. not seen the listings yet and last year it clashed with the belgian figure skating qualifiers or something, and we only got about half an hour of p-r :(
 
Mar 11, 2009
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After

Last night Brugges? Medieval market square thundered with euro pop at it?s worst. The Belgium people can produce cycling world champions by the trailer load; but they aint got a handle on rhythm and rock. The big haired denim on denim- on shoulder padded, leather ballads, were enough to counteract all the respect I was developing for their brewing industry.
10 hours later and 30,000 filled the square looking for a glimpse of Boonan. Regardless of Devolders win last year, big Tom was Quickstep?s favourite and the supporter?s idol. Yet, no one thought it was to be plain sailing there were other contenders. George circled the Columbia enclosure looking fit, handsome and already beaten. All the Italian camera crews stood outside the Katusha bus looking to interview their hopeful Fillippo Pozzato. The French journalists clutched at straws and shouted beleaguered questions at any rider with onions round his neck and dreamt of Hinualt. While the Spanish hacks lit candles and fidget with beads outside the Rabobank bus for Juan Antonio, praying that he might just win the 93rd RVV.
I stood and chatted to Dan Lloyd of Cervelo test team in the security of belonging, under their massive bus awing. The previous hour and a half made me realise how town centre religious preachers feel. The Saturday afternoon gospel sermon to those who don?t want to know. Sounding out the end of the world and repentance. I visited five team buses and was met by the similar reaction to the preacher: bowed heads, total invisibility. Real looks of pity as I spread the word for BikePure and Dope free cyclesport. The doping problem in cycling is whispered in the major league. Thankfully, the evidence for its existence is on the decrease. It is a side of the sport few, understandably want to talk about on the morn of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. I console my self with a handful of sincere discussions, signings and a cheer from three Swedish guys in the crowd who see my Bike Pure jacket and raise their fists aloft to reveal a trio of beautiful blue wristbands. Rockin.

I agree that the focus in cycle sport should be on the racing, not rumored enhancement and at 9.45 the 248 riders depart to an explosion of hope and passion. Ahead is 265km. 140km of a run in to sap the energy before the last half of climbs to the finish. The ?Tour of Flanders climbs ARE the race. All the Flemish towns have evolved from defensive settlements atop the few, scattered rises in a flat country. These towns have steep ascents, and most are cobbled. There are modern twisty roads up the ?Bergs?, but the climbs are preserved for the few times a year cycling transforms an empty, stone surfaced cart track into a stadium of wonder and noise.
The race hits the Molenberg and already riders are gone, cursed by their directors and forgotten. At the Wolfenberg all is together at the front and like a comets tail at the back. By the assent of the holy Kwaremont, the seven intervening cobbled section have done serious damage, The best 240 classic riders on the planet, now number under half that. All have raced through 180 km of concrete country roads to have a vision of pain and broken dreams. I photograph the leaders on the climb and cry with empathy for the back markers, fighting the 25 sprockets and the 10% gradient.
There are constant attacks but it all seems just a battle of erosion. With 50 k to go and the length covered of most pro races there at 80 riders in contention. Dan Lloyd is in the mix but every one knows it is all ablaut the last hour and a half. No matter how many 6-hour sessions the starters all did, by the Valkenberg with 35 to go, attrition has left 40 riders remaining in with a chance of the podium. The other 200 fine, professional cyclists genetically discarded. Cervelo?s Henrich Haussler, Hammond and Hushhovd in my nursery rhyme brain provide The Quick step director with a tongue twister, as they mark his men?s constant attack. Pozzato never leaves Boonan's side and when they both get clear, Pozzato runs out of courage and wont work.
Such a day, racing around the concrete back roads of Belgium. Thousands of cars, all looking to see the event at multiple points. Finally, ignoring the finish, I land in Geraaldsbergan for the fine De Clerc?s tearoom and of course, the Muur climb. The most famous of the race whole race is furiously hard at the bottom; then steepens a lot, before it reaches the toughest bit, around the chapel at the summit. If a rider can shell his follow contenders and reach the top alone, a whirlwind of adrenalin and supporters energy will propel him the 20k to the finish line a victor.
Quicksteps Chavenel and Devolder had taken it in turns to test their two break away companions legs on the Tenbosse and when Devolder attacked on the lower Muur, it was like a rocket launch. Down two sprockets, out of the saddle and eyes focused on the cobbles, one meter ahead and half a meter up. Chavenel grimace as the choice had obviously come from Peiters in the team car.
Devolder charged ahead and by the time he hit the big ring climb of the Bosberg (big ring for him, 39 by 16 for me on Sat!) he was 35 seconds clear and fixing his jersey. His fellow companions were swept up in the closing minutes and then with a K to go Henrich Haussler launched the same attack that nearly won him Milan SanRemo two weeks before and held of a rampaging bunch for second. His attack timely avoided a terrible crash where his team mate Thor touched wheels or a barrier or five other fallen riders but ultimately the ground at 80kph, to break his wrist.
It is a magical affair the RVV. If you race, if you follow pro cycle sport or if you are like the half a million Belgium folk who just come to see the race, Some time in your life make the effort to arrange the vacation on the last Sunday of March: to see the finest pro cyclists in the world, be overcome and vanquished. Most of them even look normal suffering up the Koppenberg. Greatest one-day show on earth.


myles@bikepure.org

http://www.bikepure.org


Results
1 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step 6.01.04 (43,455 km/h)
2 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo Test Team 0.59
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Silence-Lotto
4 Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - Slipstream
5 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha
6 Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank
7 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Team Columbia - Highroad
8 Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
9 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago
11 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
12 Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
13 Roger Hammond (GBr) Cervelo Test Team
14 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team Saxo Bank
15 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Rabobank
16 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Silence-Lotto
17 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Quick Step
18 Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas
19 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago
20 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
21 Gerben L?wik (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
22 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Silence-Lotto
23 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha
24 Andreas Klier (Ger) Cervelo Test Team
25 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
26 Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana
27 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence-Lotto
28 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Barloworld
29 Fr?d?ric Guesdon (Fra) Fran?aise Des Jeux
30 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank
31 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step 1.08
32 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas 1.11
33 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank 1.14
34 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia - Highroad 1.44
35 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence-Lotto 3.02
 

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