A long TT race, a day out in Belgium and a one-off shop ride…
One week on from the London to Paris attempt I raced my second TT of the year on the hilly GS/895 course. I’d been ill the night before and was still feeling the effects of 270km in the legs so it was always going to be a big ask, but I wanted to gain some experience in racing TT so I decided to just turn up and ride as best I could.
It was also one final chance to get a spin on the Parlee ESX I’d been borrowing fr the last month – along with the Reynolds wheels it was quite a package so I had no excuses when it came to the bike! The course features a sprint prime – a race within the race – where riders were timed in and out of a hilly section. In retrospect it’s this that I should have really concentrated upon. I really think I could have pulled something a bit special out for the prime if I’d thought about it.
In general I was struggling – great experience because it reminds you how good the prep needs to be for a good result. As it was a lowly 31st position would have to do this time! A few days down the line I’d been invited to a ride in the Flemish hills around Oudennarde. We packed up the car early on Tuesday morning and headed to the tunnel. Ready to ride by early morning we set out into the warm spring sun of Flanders.
Almost straight away we headed into the Oude Kwaremont, a brutal section of cobbles which starts out steep and smooth and gets progressively hard as you ride up to the crossroads before the jagged section at the top splits the men from the boys. Next up was the first time I’ve ever ridden the Paterberg – instantly one of my favorites, it’s basically like climbing a vertical wall!
Organisers were getting the place ready for several weeks of racing in the area and as we ascended the toughest bergs we raced past groups of builders assembling beer tents and spectator seating for the pro races as well as food stations for the sportive crowd. We got cheered up several sections and enjoyed a brilliant morning in the hills, with my personal favourite, as always, being Koppenberg.
Some proper Flemish lunch and a beer or two preceded our afternoon ride down the canal – the Schelde was glorious in the afternoon sun. Packed up and back in the car we headed home to Sussex, although I always feel a little at home in Flanders anyway. Back in Sussex I couldn’t resist putting together my own Flemish inspired ride for the weekend shop ride. Eight of us ventured out in the grey drizzle to take on the best of Kent and Sussex’s versions of the Ronde van Vlaanderen’s muur’s.
Despite the conditions we all had a good time racing up cobbles of Tunbridge Wells, the bergs of Sussex and a brilliant section of legal farm track back into Kent. Smiles were quickly wiped off faces as we rode back to the shop via Gate Farm Road, one of the most Belgian ways back into town, for the final windy Bus lane sprint to finish de Ronde van Fordcombe in time for an Easter bun and a coffee.
Photos by Bob Taylor, Rich Streeter and Glen Whittington
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races Mountain bikes in the UK National XC Points and Eastern XC Series, Road bikes in the Surrey, South-East and Eastern Leagues, TT in the South East Region and ‘Cross in the LCCA League. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany @eightbikeco #aeightracer
Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and even well behaved non-cyclists. We’re based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – firstname.lastname@example.org. @thevelohouse #thevelohouse