The 2013 tour of Flanders is officially open for entries. Unbelievably, my finger is hovering above my mouse, which in turn is guiding a little arrow, which is itself, wobbling and almost committing over the shouty ‘REGISTER NOW ONLINE’ button. 240 km of Belgian countryside, cobbles and nasty late hills. Do I have a downer on this event? Yes. Do I really want to do it again? No. SO WHY AM I HOVERING OVER THE ENTRY BUTTON? Let me explain.
Back in the heady days of Spring 2008, when Europeans everywhere were still smiling and not wondering where the next espresso was coming from, a young (38!), naive and innocent little me headed off to Belgium; a diminutive country the size of a patch of deforested Amazonia and a nation that punches far above its weight in bobbly road surfaces, spring classic races and beer production. Along with a few friends, I was there to do sportive version of the Ronde van Vlaandren – the famous Tour of Flanders. THE classic race (unless you’re a Paris-Roubaix fan). THE ‘go to’ event for a miserable day in the saddle. THE race that’s wrecked a thousand scaphoids. I was looking forward to it. I was reasonably well prepared for a 240km event. I was cycle commuting wasn’t I? I’ d been on chain gang. Heck – I’d even put in a 100 miler or two. It was this kind of naivety that led to a fabulous day on the bike, an even better night out (we returned around 4am) and a 12 week absence from riding with an injury that defied an MRI diagnosis. Now I’ve been silly enough to put myself through lots and lots ridiculous races; mountain marathons, Ironman, 24 hr MTB racing, dead fast eye-balls-bleeding track races. But few have battered my body so unexpectedly as the Tour of Flanders. I couldn’t even walk the day after. Those 35 miles of cobbles certainly catch up with you.
But you know what? Its bloody compelling. All that cycle history, the lion of Flanders flags, the ‘bergs, the supporters, the cobbled town squares, 16000 riders and a Westmalle triple in the bar at the end…..you can’t put a price on that. Was it worth the 12 week undefined injury? The jury is still out on that one. But I know, for sure, that the Tour of Flanders is amongst the top-tier of sporting experiences out there and at €30 for the full 240km of pain a pre-Christmas entry is incredibly good value. Will I be back in 2013? Definitely!……Maybe!.……..Not sure!…….But don’t let me put you off. Genuinely – a super, human (superhuman?) experience.
Registration for the 2013 Tour of Flanders is now open. The excellent photos are courtesy of Cyclingtips and Michel Shreur respectively.