One word summarizes the brutality of the Spring Classics-cobbles; and the short and steep climbs of the Tour of Flanders are the icon of spring racing. In Northern France, hurtling across the cobbled farm tracks of Paris-Roubaix links together brutality that preys on the weak and mocks the unlucky while punishing the unfit. As a racer, if you win one, you’re a hero. Win both and you’re a legend.
Welcome to the Spring Classics! With a canal view room in the heart of Ghent, we begin with a ride to Wannegem-Lede and an introduction to the cobbles across the iconic 1600 meter Huisepontweg, recognized by its windmill, dating to 1783. A visit to the cycling café De Karper for a Genst Strope beer is perfect preparation for dinner with Antoine Pinto in his unique restaurant Belga Queen, a converted canal side Guild House.
Ride: 35 miles. Overnight: Ghent/Ghent Marriott Hotel
The Muur van Geraardsbergen is where many a legend cemented their legacy with victory in the Tour of Flanders. Leman. Vanderaerden, Museeuw, Cancellara. A mere monument now, our ride brings these legends to life over the original finale- Haeghoek, Leberg, Berendries, Tenbosse, Muur and the Bosberg-as the terrain of the Flemish Ardennes grabs hold. The other legends of Flanders- the Flemish Foodies- have changed the culture of food in Ghent and tonight is perfect for exploring this.
Ride: 55 miles. Overnight: Ghent/Ghent Marriott Hotel
The Tour of Flanders is the longest running bike race, having run non-stop since 1919. The cobbles and climbs tell thousands of stories, created heroes, villains and foes. Every year, we take advantage of living our own legend on these same roads to create new stories of conquering the most famous roads in Flanders. The streets of Bruges are ready for the 101st Ronde and Chef Renout Renier welcomes us at his modern restaurant Zeno.
Ride: Amateur Tour of Flanders 45 or 80 miles. Overnight: Bruges/Hotel de Tuiliereen
Merckx. DeVlaeminck. Hooydonck. Museeuw. The list of winners of Belgium’s biggest race is filled with the characters that have defined our sport, for better or worse. We’ll see the new generation of hopefuls- Theuns, Demare, Vanmarcke- and champions-Sagan, Boonen-up close in the VIP area at the start in Bruges. Our day of race viewing-both men’s and women’s- concludes with a gourmet Flemish lunch meters from the Eikenberg with friend and Chef Pieter VanHessche.
Race: Tour of Flanders. Overnight: Bruges/Hotel de Tuillerieen
West Flanders was the primary region used for the original Tour of Flanders route, well into the 1950’s. Dozens of towns created cycling cafes to honor the locals competing in the ever growing event. One such café still in existence is De Buuzestove in Ichtegem, which we will visit as we ride the early portion of the Flanders course from Bruges. We’ll visit Excellor Bike Shop before dinner with local Chef Bernard Bonte.
Ride: 55 miles Overnight: Bruges/Hotel de Tuilerieen
100 years ago “The Great War” ripped across Flanders, leaving scars that are still felt today. The city of Ieper has rebuilt itself as a peaceful retreat in western Belgium and has become a centerpiece of Gent-Wevelgem. Today will honor the lost soldiers of World War I as we ride the Gent-Wevelgem course and visit Tyn Cote cemetery, the Kemmelberg, the Menen Gate and the Flanders Fields Museum.
Ride: 50 miles Overnight: Bruges/Hotel de Tuilerieen
The Grote Scheldeprijs in Antwerp is Flanders oldest classic, first run in 1908. And while widely known as a sprinters race, there is always wind, rain, some cobbles and a tight finishing circuit to contend with. We are privileged guests of the organization at this race and enjoy podium side access for the sign on and Kwaremont beers in our finish line VIP booth. Some days its good to be king!
Race: Grote Scheldeprijs Overnight: Bruges/Hotel de Tuilerieen
Its well known Belgium is two distinct lands- Flanders and Wallonia. Its felt in the language, food, landscape and personalities. Traversing western Flanders, the cobbles of Doorn and Donderij remind us of where we’ve been and the hills of Mont St. Auber- climbed in past editions of the Tour of Wallonia-introduce us to French speaking Belgium. The old center of Lille is perfect for a post ride beer and dinner this evening.
Ride: 65 miles Overnight: Lille/Relais & Chateaux Clarance Hotel
Welcome to Hell! A day on the bike unlike any other. We don’t believe in competition for this ride- this is about your personal journey along the roads conquered by Mercks, Gimondi, Moser, Kelly, Ballerini and Duclos-Lasalle. And the lesser known champions- Demol, DeMeyer, Wampers. Their names are etched in the stone stalls in the velodrome, and it is our task, whatever it takes across how many sectors you dream of, to enjoy your accomplishment when you arrive in Roubaix!
Ride:35-80 miles Overnight: Lille/Relais & Chateaux Clarance Hotel
In 1913, Flemish journalist Karel van Wijendaele created the Tour of Flanders “ as an event to unite all Flemish people.” 100+ years later, it is easy to see the success of his idea. Crossing back into Flanders via the Kluisbergen and Knokteberg, we’ll visit the memorial erected to honor van Wijendaele and to have more go at the Oude Kwaremont- why not? We’ll celebrate tonight with young Chef Jeremy Vanderbecke at his small restaurant Mets Gusta outside of Roubaix.
Ride: 45 miles Overnight: Lille/Relais & Chateaux Clarance Hotel
Since 1896, Paris-Roubaix has essentially remained unchanged. 27 sectors of grueling pave, a race no man wants to ride but everyone wants to win. Unlike Flanders, no one sets out to visit the towns, there’s no museum and there’s no reason to ride these roads but one day a year. Watching the race live, seeing the fatigue on the riders is something TV cannot depict. It’s an absurd spectacle, yet it’s entrancing. It’s enthralling. It’s mesmerizing. This is Paris-Roubaix.
Race: Paris-Roubaix Overnight: Lille/Relais & Chateaux Clarance Hotel
Thanks for joining our trip. Riding and watching the Spring Classics is a dream many of us have shared. The iconic images in our memories, the stories, the races, the legends. Having experienced it changes our view on cycling and the sport and offers motivation for the next great adventure. Hope to see you in the Ardennes! Wherever you need to get to for your departure today, we take care of it for you.
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MIKE & CHRISTINE LEONE, SAN DIEGO, CA
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