Cobblestone Classics

Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! WOW!

I just got back from a nine day trip that’s been in the making since November.  A trip that was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

And I absolutely must thank Goddess for her agreement, support and flawless execution of many things in order for me to leave her at home and let me take off for nine days.

Without adult supervision!

And that says something.

————————————-

Those of you that know me know that I’m a huge cycling fan.  I have been since my teenaged years, even standing in the cheering crowd during Greg Lemond‘s celebration parade in Reno, Nevada after winning the 1986 Tour de France.

That was a few years ago.

Anyway, back in November, a cyclist website that I hang around on and throw in a comment once in a while, Velominati, announced tentative plans for a week of cycling to coincide with the two biggest spring classics in Belgium – the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Rubaix.  With promise of many other neat events to fill the week, I jumped in immediately (with Goddess’ permission, of course).

To summarize (full details at the bottom):

– Riding the Paris-Rubaix course, including the last 21 cobblestone sections (the first time through I texted Goddess and declared that that day was truly the most difficult, painful athletic endeavor I’ve ever done.  More so than running 40 miles, racing an Ironman-distance triathlon, etc.).  Of course, the finish was the best part after riding 130km (81 miles) into a cold headwind over those very rough cobbles.  But the best part of the finish was actually being able to finish within the Rubaix Velodrome, just like the pros do!

– Riding the Tour of Flanders course, including some of the most iconic cobbled hills in all of cycling (complete with rain, sleet and a bugger of a cold wind).

– Meeting with, eating lunch with, and riding with Johan Museeuw (aka “The Lion of Flanders”).  The man has a checkered past, but is absolutely graceful and powerful on the bike and it was quite an experience to get pushed along by him.

– A couple of hours of track time, with coach, in the Eddy Mercx velodrome.  What a great experience, with two firsts for me – riding a fixed-gear track bike and riding in a velodrome.  I’m hooked!

– Riding the Paris-Rubaix course again, five days later and finding it much more agreeable, although still difficult.  The best part was getting out there on the same day as the pro teams as they did their course reconnaissance before Sunday’s race.  Nothing like being able to get up close to the pros while they prep their legs.

But that’s just some of the events that they had lined up for us.  Like I said, if you’re interested, a link to the full itinerary is listed below.

But for now, it’s time to get some laundry done, put the bike back together for the ride to work tomorrow, get caught up on school work and walk over and kiss Goddess once again.

So I’ll leave with this shot of me climbing the Kappelmuur, one of the more brutal climbs of the spring classics:

Photo courtesy of Nigel Manson

And here’s how the pros make it look, a moment with Fabian Cancellara, still seated, crushes Tom Boonen, who can’t even keep up while standing [the juicy part starts at 1:34].  Cancellara goes on to win the race.

By the way, that’s about how Boonen crushed the field in Sunday’s Paris-Rubaix.  It was amazing to see him fly by coming out of the Carrefour de l’Arbre with a huge lead on his opponents.  A gutsy attack with 60km (36 miles) to go sealed the deal.

All-in-all, a great week with fellow cyclists from all corners of the globe – Hawaii, several mainland US states, New Zealand, Dubai, Spain and Britain.

Let the legs recover and I’m ready to do it again!

And here’s the full itinerary, full of Belgian beer goodness!

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9 thoughts on “Cobblestone Classics”

    1. Jonathan – you can. Just contact either Alex or Willian at Pavé Cycling Classics (details on the pdf). They’ll set up whatever scope tour you’d like (and they can schedule). Once they got done with our group for nine days, they guided a father and his two sons over several sectors of the Paris-Rubaix course.

  1. Sounds like a great challenge, and I’m so happy that you were able to deal with it. Warm regards to the Goddess. Love the picture with the fellow cheering you on.

    1. Shimon, it was. I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. Even when I was in pain and suffering, I’d still smile when the photographer’s car drove by. He commented after about four hours of this – “You’re still smiling!”, to which I could only respond “How can I not be?”. It was an amazing experience.

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