5th April 2014
Friday 4th April
Left early to pick Rob up, car was totally packed with 3 blokes and 3 bikes in the car. Got to Folkestone early for Le Shuttle and was put on an earlier train, met Andy & Tom at Folkestone but they were on the later one. Once in Calais, fairly straightforward drive to Brugge. Andy & Tom however ended up driving to Paris and arrived about 2 hours later! Hotel ok, great location but not luxury by any means. Once all sorted just the 3 of us went for a easy spin. Never been beeped at by motorists so many times, turns out that you must use the cycle lanes whenever available. All met up for a pasta meal.
Saturday 5th April 2014
Up early for breakfast and set off for the 2 mile ride to the Stadium to pick up our numbers. We then followed the signs to the official start which became a 4 mile ride. Once there we set off;
First 50/60 miles were mainly urban with cycle lanes, lots of groups but conscious of the time (shuttle bus leaves at 7pm) myself and Phil were constantly on the front keeping the pace up. Joined by a small group of riders where a couple were on TT bikes and the pace quickened. After 70 miles the route became more scenic and then the cobbles and climbs started. The cobbles were relentless and hard work to keep any speed. The climbs were mainly cobbled and a few were very steep namely The Koppenberg, Oude de Kwaremont and the Pattenberg. Towards the end of the ride the climbs came thick and fast and the sight of the last climb (Pattenberg) filled us all with nerves as this was very steep but also relief as we were all very tired, we all made it up apart from Andy we had to walk a bit.
Easy-ish ride to the official finish, stopped for photos and a chat then went into the centre of Oudenaard for a drink, most opted for a beer! After that we then trundled down to the final stop and collected our medals! Caught the shuttle bus back to Oudenaard and then a short ride home in the dark. Finished off the evening with a very nice steak and beer.
Very pleased with the day, the organisation was first class with marshals stopping the traffic at all junctions, feed stations were full to the brim with food & drink. The weather was also perfect, in the rain it would have been a nightmare.
The start of the Pro-Race and all the teams assembled in the square right by our hotel, we wandered over and managed to sneak into the VIP area (naughty) where all the teams gathered, excellent to see all the pro’s and teams getting ready, the biggest gathering was to see Cancellara. After the riders departed myself and Phil wandered around Brugge and even went up the 366 steps to the top of the Belfry. Went back to the hotel to watch the finish of the Pro-race which Cancellara won – legend!
We then went for a ride out to Blankenberg which is a sea-side town, very flat but it was hard work with a bitch of a head-wind back home. Meal out in the evening in the Market Square, I also took some pics around the canals.
Monday, quick look around the town souvenir shopping and packed up and left around 11:30am.
15:00 – Sat in the car waiting to board in torrential rain, thunder and lightening!!
Race numbers – Me 3369, Phil 3368
Link to the official videos.. just type in the race number.