Le Tour de France in Belgium

Summer vacation 2017

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?

(c) A.S.O.

Compromise

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“?

Stay tuned

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.

Stay tuned!

Eurobike

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 ;-).

For pics directly from the fair, please subscribe to my instagram account /CyclingClaude. Thanks.

 

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.

CyclingClaude – Der Blog für Kettenhelden (The Blog for Chain Heroes)
Follow him on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.

Belgium – the Spiritual Home of Cycling and Cobbles

Spiritual Home of Cycling

„Belgium – Spiritual Home of Cycling“

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.

 

Cobbles Cycling

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.


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!

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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.

CyclingClaude – Der Blog für Kettenhelden (The Blog for Chain Heroes)
Follow him on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.