On Saturday 4/4/15, the day before Tour de Flanders, two of our own OVC boys Mario A and Noel L made it to the legendary Ronde Van Vlaanderen Cyclo in Oudenaarde, Belgium which is considered the heart of the European cycling.
This spring classic route is well-known for it's cobblestones and steep hills with the max gradient of 22%.
Due to delayed flights, the duo spent 17 hours between airtime and at the airport. With only 4 hours of sleep, both of them rolled out around 8:22 AM with light showers and low temperature on the horizon.
The crowd did not hit the first section of cobblestones until kilometer 10 which was pretty much flat and paved.
Kilometer 13 was the first climb or shall we say the steepest of them all at 22% which was known as the Kopperberg climb. With bunched-up cyclists in the middle of the climb, Mario and Noel managed to weaved around the crowd and made it on top upright on two wheels despite many fallen cyclists along the way.
With the hardest one out of the way (that is what they thought), the excitement was built up thinking the rest would be a piece of cake. But the tandem were wrong, not knowing that Paterburg climb was still awaiting for them on kilometer 57. Over a kilometer long, wet from the rain, and light mud that made it slippery. The two decided to stop at the bottom to get a clear shot of the climb, but with over 16,000 participants, there is no way that it will clear up. So the two up they went and took chances. With two accidents happened in front of them, they had to maneuver and had no choice but to go on the gutter and held on to a post. Determined to get on top of their rented two wheels, they pushed onward and hit some hard strokes to reach the top, but with too many riders bunched up close together walking and with more casualties, the two had no choice but to hike this beast hill.
All the rest of the cobble hills were pretty much single digit if not no more than 13%.
The cobblestone hills were brutal, but much more going down hill at over 20 MPH. Heart rate stayed around the 150-165 both climbing and downhill.
The TNR pain was still incomparable; guess having the right gear ratio (34/30) made the difference on this ride.
Overall it was a great experience; the Belgians taught these two how to ride the cobbles.