Tour of Flanders 2013 – Part 1

An account of our adventures in Flanders 2013 by Mick Dempsey

Having been inspired by our Chairman’s accounts of battles in Flanders in previous years, I decided to test myself this year in the Tour of Flanders, having decided last year that my performances in the high mountains during the Étape might suggest that I am not a Grand Tour rider, and that perhaps my calling lies as a one-day classics rider. And maybe my true forte lies on the cobbles and Bergs of Northern Europe in the Spring? (I have already discounted time trialling and sprinting as cycling strengths here so clutching at straws..)

Anyways we arrived in Bruges on Good Friday. In our group there was Tiernan’s man Emmet and guest riders for the day Siobhán and Dean. Dean and Emmet had adopted questionable preparation tactics on Thursday evening by trawling the bars of Bruges and discovering with glee that the novelty of the drinking devices used in Flandrian bars was only surpassed by the strength of the beer served there. Although in a bizarre and highly unusual step for the two lads they had ensured their bikes were put together and working properly before hitting the bars. I was impressed – they meant business.

On Friday evening we met up with Brian and his team for Flanders for some lasagne and a beer. The first person I noticed when I walked into the restaurant was a lad dressed in full Limerick CC regalia – this turned out to be Seamus, Brian’s brother in law who was there with his family. Seamus is like a whippet and a veteran Flanders man – I didn’t see too much of him on the road the next day as I think he was about two hours ahead of me! We also met Brian’s other domestique Dave who rides with Wexford Wheelers – Dave has completed the Ronde five times. He was there with his son who worryingly is displaying a keen interest in cycling.

I thought it would be really useful to spend some time with these Flanders veterans to tap into their experience and get some tips about how to negotiate the course – I find this kind of thing usually improves your confidence and whets your appetite for the big event. That wasn’t exactly the feeling I was left with after dinner.

Brian had assured us, with what seemed like cold indifference, that “everyone falls off the first time”, in reference to the notorious bergs. Hmm. Prophetical, as it turns out, from Mr. Kilbride.

So what was the key to successfully dealing with the Flandrian conditions and getting through such a tough event without withering and wrapping your bike round the nearest tree? Disconcertingly, Brian’s advice seemed to focus on food. The key, it seemed, was to eat some bars. Many many bars. “You cannot eat enough bars, you need to be getting through two or three over the first 40kms…” was Brian’s advice, as we worried about the extremely cold temperatures facing us the next day.

As regards the pavé sections, Brian’s advice, on the face of it, seemed more reassuring. Ride a high gear, target the crown of the road, keep your hands loose on the bars and you will soon drop into a “zen-like trance” and you won’t notice the pavé sections passing by. Simples. In fact, that sounds kind of nice..

Part 2 will be posted Wednesday 17th at 13:00

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