Tour of Flanders 2013 – Part 5

An account of our adventures in Flanders 2013 by Mick Dempsey

On a long descent I passed Dean and was on my own for a while. Soon after Siobhán joined me. Dean and Emmet were behind us, and I was sure Brian, Dave and Seamus were home and hosed at this point. Darkess began to fall – it was a bit disconcerting to see them dismantling the Red Cross tents in places as we passed.

The last big challenge was the Paterberg at 240kms – this is a monster with an average gradient of 12.9% but with a maximum of 20.3%! It was almost dark as we made our way up it – it was tough but possibly easier to negotiate than some of the earlier hills as at this stage there weren’t too many other riders around. Getting over the Paterberg was a great feeling, as I knew at that stage we would make it home ok and it was just a matter of turning the pedals for the last 15 or so kilometres. By the time we crossed the finish line in Oudenaarde it was dark, and I was freezing cold, but it was a great feeling to get through it and complete the Tour of Flanders. We had to cycle a further few frustrating kilometres to the registration tent to hand in our numbers, and by the time we did that it was 8.15pm. So it had only taken us 13 hours!!

Job done, we made our way to the train station where we met up with Brian, Dave and Seamus. I could immediately see the advantage of the lads’ tactics of getting the bloody thing done in as little time as possible, as they had plenty of time to enjoy a few celebratory beers after in Oudenaarde before heading back to Bruges. With Dean and Emmet still out on the road at this point, Brian was excited about the prospect of his course record time, of 9.30pm, set some years ago, being beaten! Alas it was not to be, as the lads were only 20mins behind and came in around 8.30pm.

We got back to Bruges on a train full of bikes and dogs, with a conductor who plays the tin whistle (!), and reconvened later for a few well-earned strong Belgian beers served in wobbly glasses. The next day we headed to the finish in Oudenaarde to join the locals and watch the race on the big screen – it really was a cracking atmosphere and it was a privilege to share in the locals’ enthusiasm for this great sport. And what a performance from Cancellara – it gives you an insight into the strength of these guys – by the time I got to the top of the Paterberg my legs had nothing left in them!

All in all a fantastic weekend, though I never did find that “zen-like” state that Brian mentioned!

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