Cycling is a religion here in Belgium, a way of life, a state of mind, a cult. The Tour of Flanders - the food to satisfy this hunger. One of the monuments, an iconic one day stage race and arguably the most exciting and brutal race on cycling’s long and varied calendar.
The epic 267km spring classic, features 18 cobbled climbs, these sadistic twists thrown in to punish even the strongest rider are also what make this race so special and unique. The 6 plus hours of this repeated torture will leave even the most spirited of pro riders dead behind the eyes, it becomes a war of attrition. The winner is the one who can ride the hardest behind the 1000 yard stare, all whilst maintaining the skill, finesse and panache to remain upright whilst these cobbles possess the very body they reside in. As their bikes skim from cobblestone to dirt, the riders grimace and gurn, as hearts race and legs burn. This kind of suffering can only be coaxed out of even the strongest of athletes by the prestigious nature of the infamous spring classics. The chance to have your name forever written in history alongside some of the greats from years gone by allows riders to delve deeper into the pain cave, suffer more than is imaginable to any of us mere mortals.
Tiesj Benoot doing bits on the Kwaremont / riding his bike 📸: Jamie Olsson
The chance to witness this athleticism, watch the pros go a long way beyond their limit mentally and physically is what generates this cult following. This country prides itself on creating the toughest bike racing and the local riders relish the chance to empty the tank and prove who is the hardest, toughest, strongest rider. Fans flock to the cobbled climbs, to see, hear, touch and motivate their heroes digging deep on these iconic stones. The atmosphere is electric, the anticipation is unrivalled and the partying rivals any music festival I've ever been too (same with the mud). Fans gather inches from the roadside, pressed against barbed wire fences, balanced on steep muddy banks or perched on tree roots that litter the roadside. They've been waiting all day, eager to catch a glimpse of their hero, or any hero for that matter who can hit the cobbles as fast as the pros do. You will not absorb a hint of negativity here, cycling fans have only the utmost respect for the guys and girls that race up these climbs numerous times, suffering for their enjoyment. The support you witness when you find yourself roadside here reflects that. The energy is enough to kick even the worst belgian beer hangover in to touch 100 times over and you get absorbed into this way of life. Suddenly you understand why it is religion in this country. Its impossible not to get carried away. You find yourself in a bubble, covered in mud & Duvel, cheering in 10 different European languages at the lycra clad blurs that pass inches from your face. This is what makes cycling so special. This is the most unforgettable experience a cycling fan can have.
Niki Terpstra solo leader smashing the Kwaremont BIG RESPECT 📸: Jamie Olsson
3 laps of the Kwaremont later, thats it, its over in a flash, regardless, you’re a convert. You live and breath the religion of the Spring classics. The state of mind takes hold and you will forever be inspired by what you witnessed that day. The local club run will never be the same again, as you try and suffer enough to gurn like Niki Terpstra as he soloed up the Kwaremont the third and final time on his way to a stunning victory in this years Tour of Flanders. What a weekend, what an experience. Get this one on the bucket list sports fans.
Written & experienced by Jamie // G!RO
Be sure to join us for our Belgian Classics Night for Belgian Beer, Frites & Classic Monument Races! More info here... Belgian Classics Night
It’s always been about the ride.
From a young age, cycling has been part of my life. My grandad cycled the track at Herne Hill during the ’40s, which is also where I saw Bradley Wiggins race for the first time.