Written by Beerbiker
We recently headed to Belgium to take part in the above on our Lauf TGs. The attraction was all the classic cobbles & climbs used on many Belgium road races including the Tour of Flanders combined with loads of off-road sections linking it all together.
We opted for the 'Saturday Trooper' ticket & stayed in a hotel in Oudenaarde, East Flanders as opposed to the 'Weekend Warrior' camping ticket. There were many others also in the hotel including some big names, it was certainly convenient being just 200mtrs from the start & signing on.
You could start any time after 8am but in the end we ended up with the mass start at 8.15am led out by Laurens Ten Damm along with about 10 other Pro riders from Gravel, CX, MTB & Road, quite a star studded field to be honest. The run out of town was under police escort going the opposite direction along the ToF finish straight before diving onto the first dirt in the town park which soon took us out into the countryside.
With 3 distance options, 80km, 120km & 160km we opted for the 120km & started easy knowing it was going to be a long day in the office. The first half was the easier, which we also knew, & took in some great trails, the cobbles of the Varrant before crossing the Schelde & climbing the Kluisberg followed by a fast fun run through the Kluisbos. After crossing the main road we had a technical descent from Kwaremont then turned & climbed the famous Oude Kwaremont cobbled climb. After a couple more climbs we were faced with the wall that is the Paterberg, scene of many an attack on the ToF, for us it meant a little walk of only 20mtrs on the very steepest part .
From there we rolled into the lunch stop at the base of the Koppenberg where you got an amazing burger for lunch. Judy's gears had started playing up so while I grabbed lunch she went to see the official Shimano man who performed a fantastic job & the gears ran faultlessly for the rest of the event & 10 day vacation that followed.
The second half of the route for us was tough, but we knew it was going to be. Lots of climbs & lots of cobbles including a couple of hike-a-bikes on ancient wet cobbles in woods, we christened them 'lost cobbles of Flanders, that should have remained lost' .
There were some fantastic farm tracks & gravel roads made even better by the amazingly dry weather, the highlight though, the Haaghoek. We had spectated there in 2018 on the Omloop Het Niewsblad & grabbed my 1st beer as a 60 year old ! Now, also running on the same day as Flanders Gravel was the Mens U23 OHN road race, I had checked the route & times & thought we'd be around the Haaghoek about the same time, & yes we were, so we took 5 & watched the future of road racing blast through, quite a spectacle.
As the climbs came thick & fast my legs were wilting but I did enjoy the Kanairberg off road, basically at the Strava start you turned 90' right onto dirt & ran parallel with the road, much more fun. From there it was just a long slog to the finish, thankfully a lot in the shade of the forest before arriving at the sting in the tail, the legendary Koppenberg cobbled climb. 550mtrs long, 20%, rough & with 118km in the legs. It was brutal & for me a 300mtr walk, Judy only 200mtrs, then the downhill run to the finish & BEER ! & how sweet that beer at the finish was.
As for our set up, we both ran our www.laufcycling.com True Grits, me with 36 x 11/42 & Judy 38 Oval x 11/42, we also ran with our full www.beerbabe.co.uk custom pack set up even though most were near empty. Fuelling was from www.torqfitness.co.uk , beer by www.kwaremont.be The fwww.torqfitness.co.ukll on cobbles, so a godsend for sure. Time wise, we started at 8.15am & finished at 18.15pm so 10 hours ride tiwww.kwaremont.benaarde, 127km & over 1500mts of climbing. I said I'd never do it again, but within a couple of days I was gagging to have another crack, but if it had been wet !!!
Special thanks to Judy for dragging my sorry butt around for the whole 10 hours, she had such great legs compared to me.
One thing that did strike us, of the 700 starters ?, just 4 True Grits ! & the interest ours created was huge & not just at the event. We could be just sitting at a bar on any of the following 10 days & we'd get asked about the bikes & in particular the forks. I feel to crack Europe we need some 'Lauf Ambassadors'