Velominati Keepers Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012

Velominati Keepers Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012

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The Hardmen. They inspire us; we aspire to be one among them. They drive us to be better cyclists. They are the solitary voice among the thousands in our heads that tell us to keep pushing when all the others tell us to stop. Their long shadows look on in approval as we pull on our cold and wet weather gear and head out into the elements to ride.

Every Professional Cyclist is a hard man or woman; it comes with the territory. But to be given the title of Hardman, one must be more than just tough. Grand Tour champions are not given this title, nor are the winners of World Titles or King of the Mountains competitions. The Hardmen stand out among the rest as the ones who ride over the savage, jagged cobblestones of Northern Europe with a supplesse that is possessed only by those riders who thrive in the most torturous of road cycling’s domains: The Cobbled Classics of Northern Europe.

Velominati has partnered up with Pavé Cycling Classics, based in Northern France, to offer the Velominati a chance to walk where Giants tread and pedal through the trench of Arenberg and up the devastating steeps of the Kapelmuur. To pedal with the Pros during their reconnaissance of the Paris-Roubaix route. To visit the Merckx factory, and to spend an afternoon riding with Johan Museeuw, the last Lion of Flanders.

We have arranged for 9 days of Cycling in Glorious Hell, hosted by the Founding Keepers, Frank and Brett, and organized by Pavé Cycling Classics. We will be staying in a Bed & Breakfast Cottage in Gent, and all services are included in the package. *Hangovers and massages for your aching guns and back sold separately.

Alex and William at Pavé Cycling Classics really know the Classics, and have put together an itinerary befitting a Velominatus, including rides on the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Roubaix routes, as well as visits to the Prophet‘s factory, and a ride with Johan Museeuw (pending confirmation of scheduling confirmed). It’s the trip of a lifetime for anyone who has ever dreamt about Springtime on the stones.

Here is the Preliminary Itinerary:

  • Friday March 30th: arrival in Lille – lunch & introductions at the cottage in Gent.
  • Saturday March 31th: Ride Paris-Roubaix course (at least 180km from St Quentin to Roubaix, full ride available to those who dare) – Visit of the Roubaix Vélodromes (both old and new).
  • Sunday April 1st: Rest or short ride around the cottage in the Flanders area (morning) – Watch the Tour of Flanders in Oude Kwaremont and/or Paterberg.
  • Monday April 2nd: Visit to Eddy Merckx factory to pay our respects to The Prophet, followed by a Brussells downtown visit (more detail to come).
  • Tuesday April 3rd: Short ride around the cottage – visit to bicycle museum in Beveren (Roeselare) – 2 hours practice with a coach on the Eddy Merckx Velodrome in Gent (track bikes provided).
  • Wednesday April 4th: Follow the Grand Prix de l’Escaut Pro Race (
  • Thursday April 5th: Ride with the Pros on their Paris Roubaix recon around Arenberg. Visit to the Brunehaut brewery in Belgium (where our Malteni beer is produced). Tour of  downtown Lille.
  • Friday April 6th: Ride Tour of Flanders course (150 and 200km routes available, full ride available to those who dare). Visit the Tour of Flanders museum in Oudenaarde.
  • Saturday April 7th: Cyclo Flèche Brabançonne ( or ride in Flanders area.
  • Sunday April 8th: Follow the Paris-Roubaix race (taking in cobbled sectors around Valenciennes + Arenberg + L’Arbre). Depart.

All participants will be greeted with a Velominati Musette stuffed with a commemorative V-Pint and V-Shirt. Given the abundance of Belgian beer, the V-Pint will be well used. We will also have a Velominati Flag to wave at the races. As a final note, a Cogal welcoming all riders will also be arranged, details pending finalization of the itinerary.

Everything is included in this 9 days/9 nights package. Food, drinks, support car with spare wheels, visits, Gent velodrome ride, Cyfac bicycle for the rides (limited sizes and quantities available), energy food, and insurance. The only thing you have left to do is find your way to Lille. All-inclusive price for this trip of a lifetime is 2250€.

There is very limited availability for this program; reserve your seat at the table by signing up below. Priority is given in a first-come, first-served basis. Email to register; serious enquiries only, please.

// Cogals // Cyclotourism // Keepers Tour // The Hardmen // The Rides

  1. @ChrisO

    Hurrah it’s official.
    The family will come and we’ll stay in Ghent so I will do the Roubaix ride on Saturday and we’ll all come to watch the Ronde on Sunday.
    Then we’ll stay for a couple of days to have a look around Flanders and the WW1 sites – my 15 year old son wants to join the military so I think it should be mandatory for him to realise it isn’t like paintball.

    Congrats. You’ll have a ball.
    Good work on the decision to have a look at the WW1 sites.

  2. @ChrisO

    Then we’ll stay for a couple of days to have a look around Flanders and the WW1 sites – my 15 year old son wants to join the military so I think it should be mandatory for him to realise it isn’t like paintball.

    that should put him off….
    WW2 stuff in Normandy is heartbreaking, I can only imagine the WW1 stuff is worse – hard fucking men, or sadly in that case, largely boys – sobering in the extreme

    Great to hear you are coming along – I just met my new Spesh Roubaix for the first time today in person – had to ask the LBS owner to look away whilst I licked it all over, couldn’t help myself, it’s frigging beautiful – only concern now is dare I thrash it down the trench – now I have learned how not to look after a bike, I think I am going to be anal about looking after this one…..

    that said, it is a Roubaix, with Roubaix tyres, so if I don’t, maybe it will refuse to let me ride it on more mundane outings…..ah well, 6 months to ponder the delightful problem!!

  3. @Chris
    have you made your excuses to the family for this one yet Chris?

  4. Not yet, too busy with Mrs Chris’ 21st celebrations.

  5. @Chris
    spoil her rotten, then pop the question – you can do it, you did it once before

  6. @Dr C

    ha ha, there’s a funny story about that

  7. @Chris
    excellent, you can tell us that one as we collapse into a glass of finest Belgian non-Trappist Ale on the 31st

  8. @ChrisO
    I’ve got 25 years under my belt. Will be happy to talk to him about how it’s definitely not a paintball tourney.

    Assuming I can stay vertical after the Roubaix ride.

  9. Looked through all the recent articles that seemed relevant but couldn’t find the post. Is there any more info on a possible Pommie Cogal before or after the Keepers Tour? Going to purchase airfare over the pond from the Colonies soon.

  10. OK, up for the full gig. Have put in an order for some new shoes for the lady (Ambrosio Nemesis Rims, with Royce Hubs… first time ever on tubs, but I figure what the hell: we’re to be supported on our rides?). Now need to work through the winter on the organic component of the machine.

    The Wife thinks I’m mad “So, you’re off to Belgium to spend a week in lycra with a bunch of people you met on the internet… but haven’t actually met yet? Just to check, is your will up to date?”

    SO excited. Will be an awesome trip. Thanks for organising.

  11. @frank

    How are the wheels coming together?

    I know the Pros quite often ride carbon rims on the cobbles but for mere mortals, is it a bad idea. I’ve had these in mind for an upgrade and was wondering about durability. They also come in a Cross version which might hold up to my weight and lack of finesse a bit better.

  12. @roadslave
    That is friggin hilarious! My VMH gave me the same… “Wait a second, you want to spend a week with a bunch of shaved legged, middle aged men you met on the internet in Belgium? Is there something about this group you haven’t told me?” Me “No, can I go?”

  13. @roadslave, @Anjin-san
    That’s awesome! At the Cogal, we had a similar feeling like were were all on a group blind date.

    To answer your question from another thread: why do you think Rule #11 exists? Forget Spring Break, and come ride with us!

  14. @Anjin-san

    @roadslaveThat is friggin hilarious! My VMH gave me the same… “Wait a second, you want to spend a week with a bunch of shaved legged, middle aged men you met on the internet in Belgium? Is there something about this group you haven’t told me?” Me “No, can I go?”

    That’s why Professor Steampunk isn’t coming to Austin. He couldn’t convince his wife to fly down for her birthday and, oh by the way, hang out with a bunch of men who shave their legs, wear lycra pajamas, ride bicycles, and spend entirely too much time chatting online. Oh well.

  15. Damn I hadn’t considered wheels….I’ll be buggered if I’m going to ride on my new Fulcrum Zeros after eating ramen for a month to pay for the barstewards. In fact,Carbone bike may be out altogether. Irksome as it is SO comfy but I’d be more than gutted if I fangled it.

    How about old school steel master on new shimano RS80s? Savvy enough?

  16. @chris @joe
    remember that pro s get their wheels for free…
    if you want to ride on (extreme) cobble stones, there are a few ‘general guidelines’. I have some experience, since I live in the west of Flandres (about 30km from Oudenaarde, 40 from roubaix) (ok, now my technical english (sorry))
    Keep your speed as high as possible on the stones, make speed before you reach a pave and shift sur la plaque. but try not to cross your chain, you risk losing the back derailleur.
    Wear gloves! (I never do when it s warm enough, but boy o boy, I didn’t feel my hands for days). some would put on 2 bibs for more comfort, but DON’T!
    You should keep your (preferable alloy) rims as low as possible, so you don t risk getting cracks(?) in your (too) expensive wheels and it s more comfortable. (so they say) what I am trying to say is: cheaper wheels will do…
    (yes I know Spartacus didn’t, Hushovd didn’t, but then again, they get it for free and their average speed on cobble stones is a bit higher)
    Crossed spokes(?) for smoother riding and less vibration
    Flatten those tires (I remember Boonen had 5.2 of 5.5 bar)
    Also some riders insist on riding aluminium bikes, like Greg Vanavermaet. but nowadays carbon is ok, I guess.
    Drink cages have to be solid and hold the bottle tight.
    Take a lot of spare tires (unless your team mercedes is following you)
    Also keep in mind, your gear is bound to suffer. and so are you. so tell your bike to abide Rule #5
    and to give you all a cobblebone:

  17. @JC Belgium

    What, you don’t get free wheels? No, my thinking has changed a bit since asking about carbon wheels on cobbles. I’m hoping to sell one of the kids to get some Ambrosio Nemesises.

    Great video. I’m not sure about hitting the cobble sur la plaque and on a little cog, certainly not maintaining that for any distance though!

  18. haha, I wish!! and these ambrosio Nemesises are excellent, Flandrien style…
    yeah, me neither, I was just spreading the prophecy of our ancestors-cyclists.

  19. Cheers JC.

    Will go with my old steel warhorse on RS80s and be damned.

    First ride of the new year yesterday and it appears my lungs have shrunk to wizened raisin dimensions. Breathing through my bottom as the pace rose later on didn’t appear to help either…

  20. @JC Belgium
    regarding lower pressures – does this not increase the risk of snakebite (or is it pinch) flats – I say this not knowing what either of there are, but assume it is due to squashing the tyre against the rim when hitting a big cobble??

    Surely this is more likely to happen with a less inflated tyre, which distorts more when you hit the pave?

    Again I say, I don’t know what I’m talking about, but am curious to know what pressure to put in my tyres come the fateful day (usually ride Spesh Roubaix Pro 25 clinchers on Axis 3.0s) – usually I have 100 in the front, 115-120 in the back

  21. @Dr C

    You’ve not herd of the deadly cobble snake?

    Actually, you’re pretty much spot on, snake bite punctures are caused by the tube being caught between a lumpy obstacle and the flange on the rim that hold clinchers on to the rim. Tubulars are less susceptible to them as there isn’t a flange and the closed construction of the tyre protects the soft inner. That allows you to run tubulars at a much lower pressure than clinchers.

    The idea of riding at such low pressures is not something I can get my head round, I hate any give or squish and generally put as much air in as I can get away with. 100 – 125psi might have your fillings out though.

  22. @joe
    my first race bike was also a steel warhorse, who was ready to go to bike heaven, but I adopted him when I was 14, some 7 years ago now. I rode it till I was 18, everybody laughed: untill I raised my ass on a hill, and they suddenly saw stars (I don’t know if this is a right english expression, it’s literally translated)
    yup, I know the feeling! hoping to finally get the wind from behind, and when so, realise it s not helping at all…

    @Dr C @Chris
    well, I am talking about Paris-Roubaix, not in general. It’s just a suggestion, I think you will realise why when you are riding on those damned, concrete, cobbled, Northern France roads. if you see cyclocrossers only put 2 bar in their tubulars, it s perfectly possible to not puncture flattened tyres. 100-125 psi to ride on cobble stones is not really a good idea, you will get thrown from left to right and lose control. and it s not comfortable at all, it will be like bees are stinging your hands all the time. of course you are right about the snake bites, but a skilled rider will see obstacles and find his way. also if your speed is high enough, you ‘float’ over the cobbles, so you don’t hit their ‘sharp corners’.
    also important is your weight! if you are a light version, you can put like 5.5-6 bar, heavier riders a bit more. (in clinchers)
    anyway, I can’t explain why one should do so, and I am not trying to convince or force you, you just have to ‘feel’ what s best for you…

    another advice: if you hit the pavé, put your hands on top and lift the front wheel a bit

  23. @JC Belgium

    All good advice that I’ll be taking on board. I suspect the the idea of floating over the pavé isn’t really any different from floating a downhill mountain bike through a rocky section, it’s all about letting the bike move freely under you without letting it control you and maintaining your position above it with minimal interference to it. Hard to explain and probably harder to achieve on a road bike whilst pedalling full gas as opposed to letting gravity have it’s way with you. It’s all bout relaxing.

    It’s not so much riding on cobbles at low pressure that I don’t like the idea of, it’s riding the tarmac in between whilst the tires squidge and roll around in the corners.

    Only solution to it really is to remind oneself of the merits of Rule #5 and get on with it.

  24. @JC Belgium
    top tips thanks – I’m keen to get my head around this stuff early, rather than arrive and be told it all out there, so keep the advice coming

    as @Chris says, it’s all about keeping it smooth and relaxed, good tip on the bar lift – all of course require serious fitness and perfect technique, so what do you do after the first 150m of cobbles and your body has turned to blancmange!

    Rule V of course

    (p.s I’m sure the keepers will be reading this thinking, what the feck did we open this up to the numpties for!! If it gets too bad Fronk, give the nod and I’ll whip of my front wheel and throw myself on my forks – dignity must be maintained

  25. @Chris

    @Dr C

    yes, you could describe it like this…
    Johan Museeuw says you have to be mentally prepared, set your mind to the cobbles stones and focus. and get the adrenaline pumping – but this won t be a problem! this is already half the job, because after all, you will be in shape and have a good condition. then the only thing you need is a bit of luck…
    enjoy your ride, it will be legendary! I saw the programme and too bad you are not riding de Ronde van Vlaanderen on the day before, with all other riders (19 000!!), and people standing along the road and cheering.

    maybe you can try to find a road, which resembles a bit like a pavé? something off road? and some short steep hills, like 500-1000m, 10-20%. this would be ideal to test your gear, and yourself!!

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