Tour of Flanders 2013 – Part 4

An account of our adventures in Flanders 2013 by Mick Dempsey

Ahead of us lay the Koppenberg. I had heard so much about this hill, I actually couldn’t wait to get cracking on it. The first thing I noticed about the Koppenberg is how narrow it is…very, you’d fit two bikes only it seems to me. But the way it is paved, with a pronounced camber on both sides, makes it difficult to ride in a straight line. I got into a nice rhythm on it and was making slow but steady progress, when a rider in front of me seemed to lose their way and fell into the ditch at the side. I remember thinking, “that’s unfortunate, I can’t really see why that rider fell off”…till precisely the same thing happened to me! I dunno, unless you can maintain momentum on the crown of the road it is very difficult to stay upright. I heard Emmet laughing uproariously behind me at my misfortune. Which was quite funny because he ended up in the ditch himself not 20 meters up the road – the falls on the Koppenberg are kind of comical though, in that they happen slowly, almost in a cartoonish fashion, but they are not serious as you are not going very fast. Once you’re off, you’re off though.

Meanwhile Siobhán’s earlier adventures on the pavé had come back to haunt her – as she tackled the Koppenberg her chain slipped and got trapped the wrong side of the big sprocket. It turned out her rear derailleur had been bent out of place and the rear gears were not adjusting correctly. With the help of a spectator and another rider we managed to unstick the chain and get her back on the bike – on the second biggest sprocket only mind! At this point I spotted another Tiernan’s jersey floating up the Koppenberg in the distance – fortunately I had time to get my camera out and get a good shot of Cormac in his pomp, looking very comfortable picking his way through the carnage ahead.

We ended up walking the rest of the way up the Koppenberg – it really was comical to see so many riders just topple over as a combination of lack of width, gradient, loss of momentum and cobbles took their toll. It was at this point also that we came to fully appreciate Dean’s entire Tour of Flanders stratagem, of completing the course without the aid of clip in pedals, as he calmly walked up the berg in his lovely Asics trainers, looking the picture of composure as the rest of us floundered around in a mess of cleats and cobbles!

We regrouped and continued on our way. At this point you started to appreciate the beauty of an event such as the Tour of Flanders – for a first timer, you didn’t know what would hit you next – a pavé section or a steep berg – I’d love to say the intrigue was intoxicating, but at the least it kept things interesting. In general we negotiated the rest of the bergs without to many difficulties – Siobhán having to do so without the advantage of the large sprocket.
The pavé sections gave the most difficulty – at one stage my bike computer went flying off after we turned into a pavé section off a descent and at too hot a pace. Luckily I managed to recover it. The pavé sections often entailed a desperate quest for relief from the bumps in the form of a concrete gutter at the side or a mucky verge. This often brought its own difficulties though as often sudden exits were required, running the risk of hitting a kerb or another cyclist.

The final part will be posted Saturday 20th at 15:00

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