Tour of Flanders 2013 – Part 3

An account of our adventures in Flanders 2013 by Mick Dempsey

We pushed on – at this stage, the main concern was the cold – I found it bitterly cold, and the fat thermal hiking gloves I was wearing was making it extremely difficult to adhere to Brian’s recommendation of one bar every 20kms or whatever it was. There were big enough bunches on the road so the going was easy enough – we were hitting 32kph at this stage without too many difficulties. The first food stop came early – at 36km, and we had agreed to skip this one on Brian’s advice. We rode on – a lot of the early road was on bike paths – which, as if in homage to HG Well’s vision of utopia, abounded everywhere in Flanders. They weren’t a problem really except they are designed for two abreast riding, and you did have the odd clown who insisted on time trialling his was up the outside to…time trial his way up the outside!

We rode on…past Roeselare, which Dave had informed us was the home of the Flandrian mercenaries who participated in the Norman invasion of Wexford, and who then had the temerity to name Rosslare after their home gaff. There were plenty of bunches on the road, and if you stuck with one you could roll along nicely at 34kph.Once or twice I ended up on my tod, and it was amazing how quickly I dropped down to 22kph and lower. It wasn’t a problem though as always another group would come along and you could catch on again.

We hit the first hill at about 110kms – it was short and not too steep, so not a problem. I stopped at the top to send Brian a text, and ended up some way behind the others. I wanted to catch up with them at this point to I started to focus a bit more. I joined a couple of lads from Dulwich Paragon CC who were really putting the hammer down, and we jumped through from one group to another till I made contact with Dean. About 10kms later we hit the first pavé section – it really came as a shock and I actually felt my bike wasn’t designed for it at all. Everything rattled and it was impossible to get any kind of rhythm going. I kept expecting a spoke to break or something to fail on the bike. The general feeling Dean and I had as we made slow progress and exchanged bemused glances at each other was, “this is a fecking cod, like you’re not meant to be cycling on this surely??”

We came upon Siobhán who in an attempt to get off the pavé and onto a paved section at the side had come off the bike altogether. She was ok, but as we discovered later, some damage had been done to her bike. We pushed on. There were a number of pavé sections in quick succession, and we made slow progress. The template for the day was firmly established at this point, which was one of rolling along at 34kph on tarmac, until the pavé appeared, at which point we almost ground to a halt. I dropped to between 9kph and 12kph for most of them. The local lads seem to have developed a technique for riding on the pavé, as the same lads kept passing me on the pavé after I had passed them going up the bergs.

Experienced cobblestone rider himself Mr. Kilbride was obviously making better progress than us on the pavé sections has he caught up with us just outside the third food stop, and was going strong. We met Emmet here – at this stage and after chatting with Brian, we knew progress was slow and figured it would be 6.30pm at the earliest before we would be finished. We stuffed ourselves again with Belgian waffles and honey and orange slices, and prepared to move off.

Part 4 will be posted Friday 19th at 13:00

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