In 2014 I built my T5 for long(er) distance cycling. With a Sram eTap and a light set of wheels with 25 mm tires, this bike is a blast. Fast and agile, yet smooth to ride.
Since Litespeed launched its Gravel bike, I thought the G could perfectly supplement my T5.
At Eurobike 2017 I got a first glimpse of the new Cherohala frame-set.
With a fondo road geometry, clearance for up to 40C gravel tires, internally routed disc brake and Di2 cables as well as fender/rack mounts, this new lightweight titanium frame promised to be a companion for all seasons.
In March 2018 my Litespeed Cherohala hit the ground in Frankfurt, Germany.
By the way, it is a „she“. Lady Cherohala, how I named her :-).
Equipped with 32mm Continental road tires, the Lady was unexpectedly fast on tarmac. Fellow riders were kind of astonished how well I was able to cope with their speed.
I am now on 28mm Continental Grand Prix Four Seasons, which are even faster on road and still good for light gravel.
Tires, geometry but also the titanium absorb a lot. Straight through potholes? Sure! Streetcar rails? No problem!
Since I own the Cherohala, my T5 stays mostly at home. Even for longer training rides on tarmac I chose the Cherohala.
For riding in rough terrain, I got an extra set-of wheels with tubeless Schwalbe G-One Bite 35mm. The best gravel tires I ever had!
Then I got fenders (SKS Race Blades XL) for my commutes on rainy days.
Also for commutes, but also for overnight travels, I bought a light titanium rack, the Tubus Airy …
… and panniers :-).
What would I change? Instead of a manual Ultegra the SRAM eTap is my choice for shifting. After having the eTap on my T5 for a while, it was tough to go back to manual and a completely different shifting logic.
Last but not least, if you wonder which bar end plugs I use …
There is one event in Europe’s race calendar that spreads fear and awe among cyclists, no matter if you are a pro or hobby athlete: Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North!
I have been watching this landmark race on TV for years and am 100% infected since our local hero John Degenkolb (now team Trek-Segafredo, privately a member of the Frankfurt guilty76 squad) defeated the pack in 2015, earning his personal cobble stone as trophy.
Although I am far away from ever winning my personal cobblestone in Roubaix, riding the Roubaix cobblestones is one of my dreams.
Roubaix or not Roubaix? Dare or not to dare? To be or not to be as a cyclist? That is the question!
Until this year I always had the excuse that I didn’t have the correct road bike at hand for the Paris-Roubaix Challenge. My Litespeed T5 with fragile wheels was never an option and a Cyclocross bike or even a MTB hardtail, from my point of view not appropriate for such a road race.
Shortly I will be getting my 2018 Litespeed Cherohala. A road bike that is somehow positioned between gravel and endurance. Perfect for my long distance ride in June in Sweden but with disc brakes, its ability to run up to 700x40c (35 mm) wide tires and the flex provided by the titanium frame, also provides the perfect ride for the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix.
On th 7th of April 2018, the day before the professional race, everybody can riede the cobblestones on one of three courses: 172 km with all 28 cobblestone sections also done by the pros, 145 km with the 18 last cobblestone sections, summing up to 34 km of cobblestone, and a 70 km ride with only seven sections.
Wimpy as I am, the 70 km course would do it. My ego however demands me to ride the 145 km. course.
But can I really make it?
To get a better feeling I picked up the phone and called Boris, another famos German road bike bloggers, unterlenker.com, (please check out his blog) who did the 145 km in 2016.
This is what Boris has to say:
I expected that it would be tough to ride the cobblestones, the famous pavé that makes Paris-Roubaix the hell of the north, l’enfer du Nord. Bumpy, uneven, uncomfortable, slippery in wet conditions …
I knew that conquering these cobblestones would be much harder than riding the pothole roads of my local training ride. How much harder? Much harder! Infinitely harder I can say. No TV broadcast, no on-board videos footage, no photos and no reports can prepare you for the brute, relentless blow that hits you as you approach the cobblestones passage through the Arenberg forest! Expect for the worst!
The 145 km course of the Paris Roubaix Challenge with start and finish in Roubaix leads you over the last 18 of total 27 cobblestone sections, which is in total 33 km on cobblestones. The famous Trouée d’Arenberg is the first sector, so number 18 (the sectors are counted backwards), 2,400 meters, flat, dead straight, with a five stars rating.
The number of stars indicates how bad and brute the sector is. There is only one passage with one star, which is the last sector before you enter the Velodrome, with the cobble stones displaying the names of the winners of the professional race. It is a pure show piece and the neat cobblestones are like a modern cobbled street in any inner city.
Two stars already is not only a bit worse, but already that you really do not want to ride a bike over it anymore. Five stars is just sick. There are three passages, in addition to the already mentioned Trouée d’Arenberg, Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre fall into this highest category.
Riders of the pro peloton recommend that Paris Roubaix Challenge riders ride the pavé sectors as fast as possible. The more speed, the more you fly „over the bumps“. This is of course total nonsense. There is no question of gliding. The bike jumps and bucks, you can barely hold the handlebar and everything starts to wobble. Maybe I was just not fast enough. The pavé „steals“ from you at least 150 watts. If you are not a world-class pro, there is simply not enough left to let you fly over the cobbles.
The second important recommendation is to find the right line through the cobblestones. Without a doubt, this is a matter of experience. Do you drive better in the middle? Or in the lanes? On the edge strip? Or even in the meadow? As with the pros, the best line is of no use if it is clogged with traffic, which means slower riders. Evasive maneuvers bring you down quickly, which I can confirm from own experience. In the forest of Adenberg I completed my Paris-Roubaix debut by getting directly acquainted with the plaster. But as you see every year on TV, this can happen to the best riding Paris-Roubaix. So I was in good company.
As if cobblestones are not enough, the course countlessly changes direction and with this wind conditions change constantly. Tailwinds in one moment, headwinds in the next and edge winds afterwards.
That sounds like „once and never again“? In the pro peloton are cyclists who would never ride Paris-Roubaix voluntarily. For others, like German hero John Degenkolb (2015 winner) it is the most important race of the year. Personally I fall, without hesitation, in this second category, although I am not a pro. What a great race! What a spectacle! What an experience! I’ve always loved Paris-Roubaix on TV and this excursion to the cobblestones did not change it. It may well be that one day I’ll give myself the full package and ride the long distance with all 27 sectors. That will be fun!
A word about the material: I rode my Focus Mares AX 4.0. As the only tuning measure, I took off the fenders and wrapped a second layer of handlebar tape. I did not do anything extra with the tires. My 35 mm wide Conti Cyclocross Speed tires with about 4.5 and 4.2 bar were just fine. With a little less pressure the pavé would have been more comfortable, but even so I experienced no flat tires. One important tip: Very important is a good, tight bottle cage. My Elite Ciussi kept my 0.75 liter bottle snug. On the course I saw hundreds of lost bottles and with each and every Rapha or Camelback bottle I thought another 10 Euro left on the road.
As expected from the ASO who also organized the Tour de France, the event was very well organized. Signs marked the track well and at important points there were additional posts with flags that regulated the traffic. The food was great. Toilets were set up at the refreshment points. Great!
To dare or not to dare?
So what do you think? Will I be strong enough to ride the Cherohala through the Hell of the North?
I’ll keep you posted!
About the author:
Claude, 52, is a marketing manager and agile project lead for go-to-market projects from Germany, addicted to cycling. In his free time he runs a popular German language cycling blog (No #1 in 2017). He enjoys long distance cycling on his Litespeed T5 and is waiting for his Cherohala.
I hope you had a lovely Christmas together with your friends and family.
In Germany we exchange gifts already on Christmas Eve, before dinner, directly after mass.
Christmas, of course, is not only about gifts. Spending quality time with the family, enjoying good food and drink together is much more important.
This is why I always love to go home for Christmas.
My brother Olli, who still lives in my childhood hometown, started cycling this April, after I brought him a used rental bike back home from Mallorca where I have my annual training camp.
Since April Olli cycled 5,000 km, which is more than 3,000 miles. In the morning of 24th of December he showed me his favorite course.
What a great ride! It was my first long ride together with my brother. Beautiful landscape, narrow and quiet rural roads through the woods and alongside creeks made it an extraordinary ride. Most of our ride was on the trail of a former local railway which has been out of service since the sixties.
Not only the first ride with my brother, but also the first ride with one of my pre Christmas upgrades which I purchased for my Litespeed T5, my new Mavic Ksyrium Pro Exalith SL wheels!
I think that this low weight (1,350 gr) rim break clinchers with black alloy rims look great on my T5. Okay, they may not be as sharp looking as the Lightweight wheels I tested during Eurobike, but in appearance a real improvement compared to the silver rim Zipp 30s I had before.
By the way, if you want to know more about this stunning wall mount, which lets my bike float in my living room, it is a Tern Perch. Colorwise it matches the titanium of my Litespeed perfectly. Maybe this mount is an investment you want to make with some of your extra Christmas money?
My second planned upgrade will be a new saddle. The Brooks Cambium C13.
With this Brooks saddle tradition meets high-tech carbon, a saddle that is light enough to race on.
My brother Olli will probably go with a new Wahoo ELEMNT or ELEMNT Bolt. In April, when he was new to cycling he thought that GPS computers are useless. During our ride I showed him some of the ELEMNT’s features and he was more than impressed.
How will you spend your extra Christmas money and gift vouchers?
Litespeed and Lightweight – the two high end cycling brands have much more in common than you think, not only similar brand names.
Roots in the ’80s
Litespeed began building bicycle frames in 1985 from a material primarily used in aerospace: titanium. Around the same time German genius Heinz Obermayer and partners, with background from BMW motor sports, started to experiment with fibre glass reinforced polyester for sulky wheels in Heinz’ tractor garage in Munich. Shortly after, they had developed the first ever all-carbon bicycle wheel; carbon a material which since then revolutionized cycling and made it to aviation and aerospace.
In pro cycling since the ’90s
In professional cycling Litespeed earned first merits in the 1999 Tour de France Time Trial, with Lance Armstrong winning on a Trek-branded titanium Litespeed Blade. Heinz Obermayer’s carbon wheels, until 1997 branded as HYLIGHT, helped Belgian rider Johan Museeuw winning the 1996 road cycling world championship. Heinz Obermeyer’s wheels also carried Bjarne Riis to victory in the 1996 Tour de France and helped Jan Ullrich achieve the same in the following year. However Jan Ullrich had to ride Lightweight re-labeled with the brand of his sponsor. 2002 Lance Armstong gained Tour de France victory on Lightweight wheels.
In 2003 Lightweight was sold to CarbonSports who belongs to Wissler Group a high tech company with expertise among others in carbon fibre for aviation and aerospace. This enables Lightweight to access high quality carbon fibre only available to companies certified as aerospace suppliers.
2009 also Litespeed reached areospace collaborating with Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab to design and manufacture the rocker-bogie system for the Mars Rover Curiosity.
Beside the fact that Litespeed titanium frames as well as Lightweight carbon wheels are lookers with a certain „sex appeal“, the most important similarity is that they are 100% handcrafted.
Lightweight = Propulsion, Motion Dynamics and Stiffness
After its first successes in the pro peloton, Heinz Obermayer closed his tractor garage and started his well earned retirement. Lightweight, now owned by CarbonSports, launched its 2nd Generation wheels in 2006 and Generation 3 in 2008 including all-carbon clincher wheels. In 2012 the fourth Generation was launched and new product names introduced. Since two years disc break versions are available and the improved Meilenstein C Disc was just introduced at Eurobike 2017.
Technology-wise the newest generation is still built like the first Obermayer wheels yet stiffer and even more durable, Heinz Obermayer told me at Eurobike 2017.
“Once you set off“, Heinz said,“you can’t help looking round to check if someone is pushing you.”
Giving it a try
As Lightweight/CarbonSports’ hq and production is only five minutes by bike from Friedrichshafen fair ground, the home of the Eurobikeshow, I wanted to give it a try.
At Eurobike I bluntly asked Jörg, Head of Marketing and Head of Sales Europe, for a test ride. Jörg, who by the way also runs ilovecycling.de, the most successful German speaking cycling blog, didn’t say no.
But he had one pre-condition: „Please bring your own bike“, he said. „Firstly you need to experience the wheels onyour own bike and secondly titanium bikes look gorgeous with Lightweights.“
Next day 3 pm, me and my T5 were waiting for Jörg and his colleague David, who is with Lightweight since 2004. Whilst waiting, my T5 became friends at the reception with a Lightweight Urgestalt on Meilenstein wheels.
On first sight I had to admit that the Meilenstein looked much sharper than my Zipp 30 alloy wheel set.
When Jörg and David arrived, they proposed to start the test ride with the GIPFELSTURM, a 27 mm low profile wheel, designed for climbers and continue with the legendary MEILENSTEIN C 47,5 mm clinchers.
Whilst my T5 was taken upstairs to the workshop to get brake pads and wheels exchanged, David walked me around the production. As carbon wheels are only one part of the portfolio, unfortunately no photos were allowed.
I learnt a lot from David. For example that it takes 16 hours of manual work to manufacture a Lightweight wheel, which goes through the hands of eight to ten specialists. Spokes are glued/laminated to the rim. For a 20 spoke wheel it needs 10 spokes, each with one end glued to the rim, lead around the hub and glued to the rim with its other end. This provides the super stiffness Lightweight is known for.
Lightweight wheels come with SwissStop brake pads which are designed to work best with Lightweight carbon. These pads, I heard, stand for superior braking power, even in wet conditions, and minimal rim wear. Furthermore it is worth to mention that Lightweight carbon rims can be refurbished in the factory.
Test ride GIPFELSTURM tubular
When I saw my T5 with GIPFELSTURM wheels I loudly said „wow“.
My bike looked absolutely awesome with the 27 mm low profile wheels that are designed for climbing.
The GIPFELSTURM tubular wheels come with 20 spokes at the front and 24 at the rear wheel. Total weight is 1,025 g (450 g + 575 g). Maximum system weight is 110 kg for the wheels.
But how do they ride?
I am not a racer, not even a competitive cyclist, but I really felt the difference. What a propulsion! You can really feel the stiffness. This wheels translate crank power directly and fully on the tarmac. Incredible!
I was also surprised by the braking power. Under dry conditions there was absolutely no difference between these all-carbon wheels and my alloy Zipp 30.
Test ride the legendary MEILENSTEIN clincher
Whilst the Lightweight mechanics changed my bike to MEILENSTEIN clinchers, a short but heavy summer rain came down. Luckily it was so hot that the tarmac dried quickly.
I have to admit, that the v-shaped MEILENSTEIN looked very sharp on my T5. Usually I don’t fancy higher profile wheels but these 47.5 mm wheels look great.
With 20 spokes on the rear wheel, you have the choice between MEILENSTEIN front wheels with 16 and 20 spokes. The 16 spokes version allows a max. system weight of 100 kg, the 20 spoke front wheel 120 kg. While the 20/20 wheel set weighs 1,125 g (500 g + 625 g)m the 16/20 combination saves 25 g. 1,100 or 1,125 g for a set of 47.5 mm aero wheels is outstandingly light.
The MEILENSTEIN is actually the grandchild of the famous wheels built for Museeuw, Riis, Ullrich, Armstrong and others, yet stiffer than before with a more modern finish. It accelerates extremely fast, maintains speed on the flats and is unrivaled by other aero wheel sets when it comes to climbing.
You could argue that the narrow rim shape is rather outdated compared to wider rims from competition.
Still Meilenstein wheels show excellent test results. German cycling magazine RoadBike (04/2017) tested rim-brake versions of aero wheels in regards to heat resistance, pad wear, lateral stiffness, torsion stiffness, maneuverability, built and riding impressions.
Lightweight MEILENSTEIN clinchers scored incredible 100/100 points, beating lengthways competition from Acros, Easton, Knight, Mavic, Reynolds and Zipp.
„Maximum score – Lightweight’s Meilenstein outran its competitors. No surprise, if you consider the price tag, one may argue. On the other hand, optimum values on impressions speak for themselves. The propulsion while pedaling is just insane, although the very narrow rim appears a little antiquated compared to its competitors.“
Lightweigt MEILENSTEIN are also surprisingly immune when it comes to crosswinds
German cycling magazine TOUR (10/2017) tested crosswind stability of clincher aero wheels (disc versions). For the MEILENSTEIN the magazine measured only 4 Nm force through crosswinds on the wheel simulated in a wind tunnel. Enve SES 4.5 had 6 Nm and Zipp 303 even 7 Nm. Only Reynolds Aero 46 and EDCO AeroSport Umbrial 45 scored better in this category.
Back from my test ride I had to tell the Lightweight guys that these wheels are super dangerous. Why? When passing window fronts you can’t keep your head from turning, constantly watching your reflection.
My MEILENSTEIN riding impression was superb, even slightly better than the GIPFELSTURM experience. Both on very high level.
Although the tarmac was mostly dry when I rode the MEILENSTEIN, I took every puddle on the road. Braking power with semi wet wheels was far better than expected.
Back in the workshop the mechanic changed brake pads and wheels to my own stuff.
The test ride left me with a strong desire for Lightweight wheels. Do I need such super fast, super prestigious, super expensive wheels? No! Do I still want them? Yes!
However, I can’t decide which ones to get. GIPFELSTURM or MEILENSTEIN?
If you were me, which ones would you prefer?
About the author:
Claude, 52, is a marketing manager from Germany, addicted to cycling. In his free time Claude runs a popular German language cycling blog. He enjoys long distance cycling on his Litespeed T5.
Wahoo had invited the media to its booth for a launch event at 10am of Eurobike day one.
Their staff was totally excited and Wahoo Fitness CEO, Chip Hawkins, very proud of what was being unveiled some minutes later.
Wahoo KICKR CLIMB fair ground attraction
Ingo Urban, Wahoo Fitness Sales and Marketing Director German speaking countries, jumped on the bike which was fitted to the new Wahoo KICKR 3 (2017) smart trainer at the drive train and a pre-production model of the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB at the fork.
It was obvious that Ingo had lots of fun with the CLIMB elevating him up and down a ZWIFT course.
Watching Ingo going out of the saddle for a 20% indoor climb was very impressive.
A privilege to ride the CLIMB!
Before and around Eurobike 2017 Wahoo had given selected media representatives the chance to test ride the CLIMB. Shane Miller, road.cc, GNC and DC-Rainmaker all gave thumbs up for the new product.
During Eurobike only Wahoo staff was showcasing the fair ground attraction …
I bluntly had asked them to ride it with my own Litespeed T5. Surprisingly Wahoo said yes :-).
Look at my face. The CLIMB adds so much fun to virtual riding. At least two thumbs up for the CLIMB which is nearly a must have for the coming winter season.
The KICKR CLIMB will be available later this year at a retail price of USD 599.99.
But please take attention that it only works with the new KICKR 3 (2017) which is already in the shops for USD 1,199.99 or the KICKR SNAP 2 (2017) which is available at USD 599.99.
At the Wahoo booth I was astonished about the low noise level of the new Wahoo KICKR SNAP. Although the SNAP is no direct drive trainer it is surprisingly silent. If you don’t want to invest into the KICKR, go for the KICKR SNAP instead. Your family will love you due to its reduced noise level.
While test riding the Wahoo KICKR SNAP I realized that I did not do it with ZWIFT in front of me but a beta version of a new software called Road Grand Tours. RGT is developping real routes from around the world which you can ride on your smart trainer.
Let’s see how this grows.
I got a test account yesterday and Leo, the CEO of Road Grand Tours, with whom I met at the Wahoo booth, promised to program a Litespeed bike into the software, just for me but maybe also for you.
The following video gives you a first glance of the software. Although I talk in German, you can see what you get from RGT.
End of August I headed down south with my camper for Eurobike 2017, the largest bike fair in the world.
2017 Eurobike statistics >1,400 exhibitors presented to 42,590 industry visitors from 101 countries and 1,654 media representatives plus an additional 22,160 bike fans who attended the Eurobike Festival Day.
After a five hours drive I reached Friedrichshafen, Germany, and my picturesque camp site with direct access to the banks of Lake Constance.
Friedrichshafen is located on the German side of Lake Constance which borders the three countries of Germany, Switzerland and Austria on all sides of the lake.
If you ever have the chance to come to Europe, you should give the area a visit – preferably of course during Eurobike season, which is shifting from end of August to mid July for the future.
A pleasant hilly countryside with apple plantations distinguish the area around Friedrichshafen, Merseburg etc. on the German lake side from where you get a perfect panorama view of the Alps on the opposite side of the lake.
It is worth mentioning that Friedrichshafen is the historic home of German Zeppelin air ships. The Zeppelin was invented in this area at the end of the 19th century and most Zeppelins including LZ 129 Hindenburg, which tragically endend the Zeppelin era in Lakehurst in 1937, were home based in Friedrichshafen.
For touristic round trips around the lake and over the alps Zeppelins have started flying again and that since 1997. Watching these giants slowly crossing the skies of Lake Constance or while take-off and landing is kind of impressive. The Zeppelin port is located alongside Friedrichshafen airport in close vicinity of the Friedrichshafen fare ground.
However, I was not here for spotting Zeppelins but bikes and cycling related stuff.
The first three days of Eurobike (Wednesday through Friday) were reserved for trade visitors and only Saturday was open to public.
Sneak Fare Preview
The media was already granted access on Tuesday for a first press conference and a stroll around the fair ground where busy workers gave the booths a finishing touch.
We were taken to a hand full of selected booths and after a nice lunch most of the press headed home for the day.
Garmin Edge 1030 and Vector 3
I took the chance to sneak around the fair ground. Garmin had already announced their intent to launch the new Garmin Edge 1030 GPS computer as well as Vector 3 power meter pedals on the next day.
At their booth all new products were already in place and I took the opportunity to look around taking some photos.
I was immensely satisfied being the first and only to snap some pre-launch photos.
Both products, by the way, are well improved compared to their predecessors. The Edge 1030 with its external battery pack, fully integrated via the Garmin mount, lasts in theory up to 40 hours. In reality we estimate around 22 to 24 hours of battery life while navigating . I would say this is a thumbs up!.
The Garmin Vector has lost its pedal pods with Version 3 and looks remarkably slim for a set of power meter pedals. Battery life is estimated at 120 hours, according to Garmin, which is also an improvement. Here again, I give thumbs up.
Back at the camper trailer I had a Belgian Kwaremont cycling beer (or two) with Jörg Lachmann, Head of Marketing and Head of Sales Europe of Carbon Sports, the manufacturer of the legendary Lightweight wheels.
Lightweight had planned the launch of new Meilenstein Disc Clinchers the next day and Jörg unpacked the beauties the night before exclusively for CyclingClaude. Sometimes I feel privileged as a blogger :-).
With 24 mm rim width these new wheels can cater for wider tires and are 10 % stiffer than the previous version, which already was the stiffest wheel on the market.
Can you imagine how awesome these wheels will look on a Litespeed T1 SL Disc frame? Breathtaking!
As the Tour de France was supposed to depart from Düsseldorf, Germany, my this year’s vacation plan was a no-brainer.
Instead of enjoying the beaches in Southern France with Luisa and my 14 years old son Philippe, I wanted to follow the Tour de France together with my family.
Saturday Düsseldorf, Sunday Liège in Belgium for the finish of stage 2. Stage 3, Longwy, a nice day in Vittel, afterwards La Planche Des Belles Filles, Troyes, Nuits-Saint-Georges …
As highlight for the end of our vacation on Sunday 9th of July stage 9, Nantua-Chambéry was perfect. Watching the pros climbing the Grand Colombier, what else would you want?
A great plan is a great plan, but only if the family shares the same interests. Cycling, and I knew this, doesn’t excite Luisa and Philippe too much.
Luisa was o.k. with no beaches, but at least she wanted to enjoy sightseeing. Philippe dreamed to visit New York, or at least London, for shopping reasons.
The compromise everybody was o.k. with (well at least Luisa) was to follow the Tour de France on stage two to Belgium and continue with a week of sightseeing in Brussels and Bruges, enjoying Belgian chocolate, craft beer and frites (fries).
This compromise was o.k. for me. At least I was able to watch stage 2 of the Tour in Belgium and wanted to find out if it really was true that Belgians are super fanatic when it comes to road cycling and cyclocross.
So we did.
Tour de France Stage 2 – Climb of Côte d’Olne
The day after the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in Düsseldorf, we left early for Belgium with our camper trailer. We had a reservation at a camp site near Soumagne, close to Côte d’Olne, which was the second climb of Stage 2 of this year’s Tour de France.
When we arrived in the area of Soumagne, we realized that our early depart from Düsseldorf was not early enough. Whichever routing and detour we tried, getting to our camp site was impossible. Belgian police had blocked all traffic on roads crossing the route of the Tour de France already at noon.
Somehow we found a way around the road blockings and all of a sudden we drove on the blocked route of the Tour – not for very long though. We were stopped by a Belgian policeman on a motorcycle and had a difficult conversation with the non-English speaking officer. After some grief we realized that he kindly offered to escort us to the next parking from where we could watch the race.
How cool was that?
We followed the motor cycle, passing the town of Soumagne and up the climb to Côte d’Olne. Like in Düsseldorf supporters were already waiting for the peloton hours in advance.
Directly here I wanted to stop but the police officer drove on. Yet, my concern of being escorted to a remote parking far off the course didn’t come true.
Approaching the top of the climb, the policemen stopped and indicated us to turn right. Close to the intersection local farmers had opened a huge field for parking. 4 EUR for car and trailer, fine for us.
Within minutes we were part of the crowd, still having two to three hours until arrival of the peloton.
Why not having a party with the locals?
Philippe got us some Belgian beer and a coke for himself while I was back to the car, getting some cans of chalk spray – a cycling supporter should always have handy.
I wanted to give John „Dege“ Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Simon Geschke (Sundweb) from the local Frankfurt guilty76 gang, some extra motivation for the climb.
Afterwards I showed it live on Facebook (sorry, German language only).
In total we had to wait for 2.5 hours until the Tour came through. Two sprints, the peloton and some riders in small groups which were minutes behind. Later on TV we learnt that there was a heavy crash just before the climb.
Watching professional cycling in Belgium is big fun
Literally the whole town of Soumagne was at the track cheering up the cyclists. Hours of waiting time, even in rain, didn’t cool their enthusiasm. Watching professional road cycling in Belgium is really big fun! I enjoyed every minute, even the Belgian rain couldn’t stopp the cycling party.
Overall it was such a great experience that even Luisa and Philippe got hooked. Next year, they said, we want to watch more of the Tour de France.
Is this why Belgium is called the „spiritual hime of cycling“?
Although the rest of the vacation wasn’t supposed to be dedicated to cycling, I had to find out more about cycling in Belgium, cobbles, cycling beer …
There are some more stories to share.
Next week I will be at Eurobike, the world’s largest bike show (way bigger than Interbike), in Friedrichshafen at the Lake Constance, Germany.
Let’s see what’s new. From the rumor mill we learnt that Garmin may launch a successor for the Edge 1000 and maybe a new generation of Vector pedals? Wahoo seems to have something in the pipeline too …
I also want to visit Lightweight, known for their extraordinary carbon wheels. A dream for my Litespeed T5 ;-).
it says on my VAN VLAANDEREN cycling kit from Belgian sportswear company Bioracer.
„Spiritual Home of Cycling“, come on! Why Belgium? Who invented the bicycle 200 years ago? The Germans! However, would Germany claim being the spiritual home of cycling? Probably not, although we currently see some great German cyclists in the pro circus like Marcel Kittel, Tony Martin, André Greipel, Simon Geschke or John Degenkolb, just to name a few.
There are countries with more cycling DNA such as Italy and France, the Netherlands maybe … but Belgium,? This tiny country with only 11 million people?
Well, let’s have a look.
Belgium is birthplace of one of the greatest road cyclist of all time, Eddy Merckx but also of Rik van Steenbergen, the three time world champion from 1949, 1956 and 1957.
Since 1927 we count in total 26 elite/pro male road cycling world champions from Belgium, 19 from Italy and „only“ 8 from France.
Belgien is second best nation in the Tour de France, with 18 victories out of 104. France scores double with 36 victories. However, if you put Tour de France victories in relation to the overall population of the countries, it is 611 thousand Belgians on one Tour de France victory but 1.86 million French!
If you also know that tiny Belgium hosts two of the five most famous road racing one day spring classics, the Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, you may agree that Belgium really is the spiritual home of cycling.
Cycling – the national sport
Cycling is erverywhere in Belgium, no matter where you are. I was rather suprised – and my family kind of annoyed – that the Tourist Info and Flandrian Shop around the corner of Grand Place in Brussels had vintage bikes (among others one of the world champion Rik van Steenbergen) and original woolen jerseys at display and loads of cycling souveniers to sell. Luckily I have a patient family.
Many Belgians adopt dropbar cycling at a very young age – always!
… and continue with dropbars for a long time after they being retired from active sports.
Have you ever seen a farmer cycling on a dropbar bike on his way feeding the animals in your country? Very unusual in Germany, common in Belgium.
Cycling and cobbles belong together in Belgium. In the countryside of the Ardennes you can still find many paved roads, not like modern pavement, but with rough traditional cobble stones which you can concour with your road bike if you are brave enough.
Climbs like the 2.2 km long Oude Kwaremont (foto above) with its 6.6% incline, the fully cobbled 600 meters of the Koppenberg with 22%, the Paterberg or the steep Muur are world famous attractions of the Tour de Flanders, the 265 km spring classic that finishs in Oudenaarde.
If you are in Oudenaarde you should not miss to visit the Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen, which has among others, a nice cycling pub and gives home to the museum of the Tour de Flanders.
One of the museum’s main attractions is a cobbles simulator which is a must. Only the rear wheel of the bike is bumping over Belgian cobbles. Imagine the front wheel would do the same and you are also in a steep climb.
A post shared by CyclingClaude (@cyclingclaude) on
Cycling and Belgian Beer
Belgium is also famos for its beer. In Bruges we found a pub with more 1000 differnt Belgian brews. Most are strong with 6 or 7 % alcohol, others are stronger and tripple brews can tilt you with 10 % and above.
One of the thousend is a beer dedicated to cobbles, cycling and the Tour de Flanders.
But Kwaremont beer is a different story. Stay tuned!
Can you do Claude a favor?
Until 28th of November you can vote for Claude (cycling.claude.de) as top cycling blog in Germany. Would you like to have a Litespeed rider to win? Please vote.
Voting is in German language but it is easy if you follow my English voting instructions which you can find here:
The Tour de France is not only one of the world’s biggest sports events after the Olympic Games and the Soccer World Championships but the hardest multiple stage road cycling race.
23 days with 21 day-long segments with a final stage on Champs-Èlysées in Paris creates cycling heroes but also provides pain and personal tragedy.
The 104th edition of the Tour de France just ended with Chris Froome winning his fourth title after 2013, 2015 and 2016 making him the most successful recent road bike professional.
Tour de France abroad
Most stages of “Le Tour” are done in mainland France (and Corsica) but there is a long tradition of visiting neighboring countries. 22 initial stages were hosted abroad since 1954. Germany had the honor in1965 (Cologne), 1980 (Frankfurt), 1987 (Berlin West) and again after 30 years, 2017 in Düsseldorf.
Düsseldorf, the capital of the German state North Rine-Westphalia, not only hosted this year’s Grand Départ but also the start of stage 2, which lead the Tour from Germany to Liège in Belgium.
With a population of 620k citizens Düsseldorf is located at the banks of the river Rhine, just north of Cologne. Since being selected for the Grand Départ, the city did its utmost to deliver a great show.
Already in the months before the Grand Départ hundreds of events took place but in the week before 1st of July 2017 the city finally became vibrant.
Three of a million
More than a million fans from all over the world celebrated the Düsseldorf cycling festival around the Grand Départ and the start of stage two.
Me, my love Luisa and my 14 year old son Philippe joined the crowd on sunny Friday afternoon, unfortunately too late to participate in SRAM’s afternoon ride. I would have loved to ride my Litespeed T5 – freshly upgraded with SRAM Red eTap – together with some pro female riders from Boels-Dolmans cycling team, journalists, bloggers and SRAM business partners.
SRAM had chosen La Bici, the bike shop of a former Tour de France pro, Sven Teutenberg, as home base in Düsseldorf. We arrived just in time for the bbq, together with the group of cyclists from SRAM’s afternoon ride.
SRAM, by the way, had picked a perfect location just 50 meters from the course of stage 1.
We enjoyed a perfect evening, meeting friends and getting new contacts. It was especially great to catch-up again with Didi Senft, the “Tour Devil”, whom I met at the WorldTour race Eschbon-Frankfurt earlier in May.
Thank you SRAM!
Great event but shitty weather
The day of the Grand Départ started rainy and grey. We left our camper in the southern part of the city early in the morning, heading for the down-town race track. I wanted to absorb as much of the Tour as possible.
A long section of the course was directly on Königsallee, one of Europe’s most famous shopping boulevards.
Already before lunchtime the fans crowded around the best spots at the track, especially in and around the 45° corners of the track.
The time trail was only scheduled for 3:15 pm and I have to admit that Luisa was more attracted by Versace, Prada etc.at Königsallee and Philippe was kind of bored with all of it.
Therefore we stopped close-by at one of the most famous cycling cafés in Europe, the “Schicke Mütze” (translated as „Fancy Cap“), which I can highly recommend if you come to Düsseldorf.
Schicke Mütze plays in the same league as London’s „Look Mum No Hands!“ just with a little different flavor. I will introduce both cafés in later posts, if you like.
After some nice Italian style coffee, French Orangina lemonade and some chat with the owners, I couldn’t say no to a woolen vintage style cycling jersey. For me it looked posh but most important, it kept me warm.
It was around 1 pm and we squeezed ourselves into the crowd of spectators to watch the pros doing their warm up rounds. Although the rain had stopped, the race track was still wet.
Marcel Kittel, Chris Froome, John Degenkolb, Nairo Quintana, André Greipel, Alberto Contador, Tony Martin … most with leg warmers and jackets, passed by.
Still more than two hours until the official start of stage 1.
Again we changed location and moved near La Bici where the course seemed more spectacular. Directly after crossing the Rhine bridge, the course had a 45° turn to the right followed by a long U curve.
Unfortunately it was impossible to cross the course and find a place inside the U. Some people somehow had managed this but not too many. Maybe they came there in the morning before the barriers were built.
At the outside edge of the U, everything was crowded. No chance to stand in the first row.
However, there was a stage reserved for disabled people in wheel chairs. 50 meters of stage but not one wheel chair around. Between the stage and the barrier was sufficient space and the security guys surprisingly allowed us to squeeze in.
Meanwhile the tarmac was dry and the sun broke through. However that didn’t last for long. Just in time with the start of the time trail it poured again, more or less until the last one of the 198 riders had passed.
198 cyclists, one by one, each minute – was a great show-off for the pros. Even Luisa and Philippe were super happy about the day looking forward to the second stage which we wanted to see on the road in Belgium.
About the author:
Claude, 52, is a marketing manager from Germany, addicted to cycling. In his free time Claude runs a popular German language cycling blog. He enjoys long distance cycling on his Litespeed T5.