Friday, April 10, 2009

Belgium - part 2

The Lion of Flanders

On Wednesday we went to Dienze to see the start of the Ghent-Wevelgem race.  It was pouring down rain and we arrived with everyone else, parked the car and tried to find the start.  Things were not marked well at all.  We finally found it, but missed the start by 2 minutes.  Alas.

Back to the car to head down to Wevelgem to secure our spot for the finish.  We arrived at the finish 3 hours early, marked our spot and waited.  Luckily there was an amateur race that started and they did laps so at least we had something to watch.  The rain was coming down in buckets, luckily we had our raincoats but I left my rainboots in the car because it didn't look like it would rain,  it was miserable.  Finally the finish - woosh, it's over!  Who won?  That's basically what it's like, but it's so exciting.  The favorites were not the winners, in fact a young kid of 21 who has only been a pro for 2 years won.  His life just changed dramatically with that win.

Actually taking bets on the race

Winner of Ghent-Wevelgem

The rest of the pack

I think the best part of the race was meeting P&J, who were standing next to us at the finish. They live in Portland, are super cool and love bikes as much as us.  They actually arrived earlier in the week for some other classics but will be staying through Paris-Roubaix.  We wish we could have spent more time with them, maybe inside where it was warm.  But we did invite them down to our place if they want to come back!

Our new friends P&J

After the race we headed back to the hotel, showered and found Steve and Lisa.  We met them in Ghent for dinner, great to see them although they were beat!  They flew in to Paris from Salt Lake City, drove to London to see an opera and then drove back over to Ghent.

Thursday we went for a ride in and around Oudenaarde, which is where another classic race The Tour of Flanders happens (that was on Sunday the 8th but we missed it).  Classic cobbles (pavés), 11%, 13% up to 20% grade, argh!  Luckily they are short, in fact called "slopes" because they are not hills (not like the hills in the Aveyron) but they are steep and when you are on cobbles it's even worse, but classic. Going up is super hard and going down is horrible, which I finished my first decents my whole body was super hot and numb, a great all around workout. We road about 3 hours and were beat by the end of the day, in a good way though.

View of the Koppenberg - 19.5% grade

Great place for lunch - owner had been to California 5 times

Steve and Bruce getting ready for the climb

Bruce climbing the Koppenberg

Me climbing the Paterberg - 20.3% grade

That night we headed to Ghent for dinner at Amadeus an all you can eat rib joint, recommended by P&J,  it was amazing.  We haven't had ribs in years.

On Friday Bruce and I went back down to Oudenaarde  to do some more riding,  we did some more classic pavés "slopes", but first we had to stop at the Bike Museum in Oudenaarde.  It was pretty cool and we met Freddy Maertens (who works there), he was really sweet. We have had great weather, sunny 67 - 68 degrees!  That night we stumbled upon this amazing restaurant in Ghent called Bistro 't Bennesteegske, it's owned by a couple and they are the only one's who work there.  Shelly told us that she's up at 7 am shopping and then they open at 11:30 and do lunch, beer/wine, snacks and then dinner.  She said they are done usually around midnight. They've had the restaurant for 10 years.  She looked beat, but the food and the wine and especially the presentation was amazing!

Church in Oudenaarde

me in front of the bike museum with Eddie Mercks team car

Bruce in Ghent

Ghent at night

 On Saturday the four of us drove over to Geraardsbergen to do some more riding, especially the "muur" a classic 20% grade climb right in the middle of the city.  We did that last, spending 2 1/2 hours riding flat along the river, it was really nice.  We did a few climbs but nothing like Thursday and Friday.  I was sent up the muur first, with the camera.  It was hard but not as hard as I thought it was, it is long but you have a couple easy sections to catch your breath, at the very end you cycle by this pub and there were these cyclists cheering me on, I had to make it to the top so I pushed on.  Bruce and Steve road up no problem and then turned around and road up it again.  It was a super fun day and our last in Belgium.

another hard cobble climb

Lisa enjoying the flats

Top of the Muur

Bruce finishing the Muur

The boys at the top

Enjoying a much deserved Beer


It's funny, my first impression of Belgium wasn't great, but each day I loved it more and more and am so happy that I got a chance to spend some time there.  We met some great people, P&J and also A&E, who were staying at our hotel in Ghent.  They both work in the bike industry and are from Chicago.  A. was so helpful, telling us about great rides, where to go,  tips about the races, facts about bikes, etc...and E., well he is a wealth of information regarding bikes and Bruce loved talking to him. We hope to see them back in Belgium next year!

Not sure what this says....maybe "come back soon"


French for a While said...

Wow. Koppenberg. I want to climb it someday -- perhaps this summer. We recently went to Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo so we got to see the Poggio climb. But Koppenberg is way tougher it seems to me.

Oh, and Form 2555 is what allows the extension. If you qualify to fill out a 2555 you have until June 15. But I think you have to be out of the US for 1 calendar year.

La Framéricaine said...

Hello there, Beauté!

I don't know serious biking from Shinola--tire, chain, handlebars, spokes, flat tire, and "This seat hurts my ass!" are about as bike as it gets at my house. However, your trip sounds absolutely wonderful, fun-filled, and healthy. I'm so excited that you all are having such a good time on sabbatical. You're an inspiration!

Michelle said...

Glad you are having a wonderful time.

I clicked on the pic of you, and must say you look amazingly relaxed and healthy. The life is clearly agreeing with you.

La Belette Rouge said...

You can't tell us the food is amazing and not tell us what you ate. Bike details are great; food details are essential.;-)
Aren't you glad you didn't come back to L.A.?

Randal Graves said...

I'm tired just looking at those hills. Methinks I'll walk and enjoy the view that way. ;-)