Keepers’ Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012 Update

It’s referred to as the Hell of the North not for the misery the race causes on its riders, but for the landscape the route carries the riders through. Terrible, unimaginable things have happend there. Napoleon’s troops marched those lands, falling by the thousands at the bayonet and cannonball. More recently, the First World War took place there, a war fought with something resembling modern weaponry but using something too closely matching classical battle-line tactics.

The kind of agony that escaped the bodies of the soldiers who died on those fields is the kind that seeps into the ground and hangs in the air for centuries; you feel it in the air even from a distance when you first disembark the plane at the airport.

For those of us who love the Northern classics, there is a special week when the greatest one-day races of the year are held, de Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. Both races are equally magical, for what Flanders lacks in the roughness of its cobblestones, it makes up for in the steepness of its muurs. Similarly, what Roubaix lacks in decisive climbs, it makes up for with the savage granite paving stones known as the pavé. Which is the tougher race? We intend to find out; join us for this magical week in Belgium and Northern France to ride the roads and watch the races first-hand.

I don’t think any of us dream of riding the cobbles of Northern Europe in the expectation that it will be enjoyable in a classical sense anymore so than any of us harbor the notion that resting your chin on a running jackhammer would provide rest for an invigorating nap. Quite the oposite, in fact; this is the type of experience that starts to become enjoyable only the moment you’ve climbed off your bike, and becomes more so with every day that passes after. But the memory will stay with you for ever, and the lessons you learn about yourself during such a physical challenge will strengthen your life and harden your character for all your remaining years.

I should think that those of us planning, hoping, or wishing to go on the Keepers’ Tour share a healthy degree of apprehension about climbing the steeps of the Kapelmuur or dashing down the Troueé l’Arenburg. Questions are creeping into our minds about frames, wheels, and handlebars, wondering how best to modify our bikes to endure the the roughest roads the Pros race on, even if there might be some difference in the speed with which we do so. But after having accomplished the feat, we’ll in some small way identify more viscerally with what the Pros experience when we watch them race the same roads on Race Day.

We have several package options available: the flagship fully accommodated, all-inclusive 9 day/9 night tour (2250€), full weekend tours with or without accommodation (500€ and 250€ respectively), as well as daily tours with or without accommodation (200€ and 100€ respectively). A full break down of pricing and booking options is available on the Keepers’ Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012 Event Page. Once booked and confirmed, we will coordinate directly to collect a down payment of 15%, with the balance due upon arrival in Lille, France. Everything is included in the packages: food, drinks, support car with spare wheels, Gent velodrome ride (if applicable), Cyfac bicycles for those not bringing their own (limited sizes and quantities available), energy food, and insurance. All-inclusive packages include accommodation; packages without accommodation are also available for those living in the area or wishing to look after their own lodgings. All packages, with or without accommodation, include dinner and drinks after each day’s ride.

Attendees of the full 9 day Keepers’ Tour 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. A Cogal welcoming all riders will also be arranged, details pending finalization of the itinerary. Also note that only attendees of the full Keepers’ Tour will be eligible to ride with Museeuw and to join the Merckx Factory Tour. Weekend and Daily Tour attendees will be eligible to buy the commemorative V-Pint directly.

We’ve made a few adjustments to our itinerary; confirmed are the ride with Lion of Flanders, Johan Museeuw (who is such a badass his last name even rhymes with the Flemish word for Lion, Johan Museeuw, de leeuw van Vlaanderen) and tour of the Eddy Merckx Factory. Updated (but still preliminary) itinerary, guided by Pavé Cycling Classics:

  • Friday March 30th: arrival in Lille. Drive to Gent for dinner & introductions at the cottage.
  • 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 or rest and visit the bicycle museum in Beveren (Roeselare). Afternoon ride with Johan Museeuw.
  • Wednesday April 4th: 2 hours practice with a coach on the Eddy Merckx Velodrome in Gent (track bikes provided). 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 Fléche Brabançonne ( or ride in Flanders area.
  • Sunday April 8th: Follow the Paris-Roubaix race (taking in cobbled sectors around Valenciennes + Arenberg + L’Arbre). Depart.

[product buttonid=”3FBBYVSTR5B6W” unitname=”Keepers’ Tour Gift Letter” unitprice=”0.50″ unitoptionslabel=”Gift” unitoptions=”Keepers’ Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012″ image=”” shipping=”Shipping is free to domestic and international addresses.”]The V-Gift letter is intended to be given in leiu of giving the Keepers’ Tour on the day of an occation. It is carefully crafted and personalized before being printed on thick parchment paper and sealed with a hand-dripped wax V-Seal for wrapping and giving on the day. This beautiful letter can be wrapped and given to its recipient, announcing to the recipient the impending Glory of Merckx which will befall them upon their arrival in Belgium in April. The cost of the letter is only to cover the cost of postage.

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173 Replies to “Keepers’ Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012 Update”

  1. @Bianchi Denti
    I’m getting into Lille at 11.26 but I’ll be making my own way over to the accommodation at some point during the afternoon (I’m doing the weekend on the cheap and staying in a B&B nearby – looks fairly easy, a couple of trains from Lille).

    If you or anyone else is getting in at roughly the same time, we could meet up for a bit of lunch in Lille.

    You might want to have a chat with @Dr C, he’s getting into Brussels at about the same time as you.

  2. @ChrisO

    @Bianchi Denti

    I had previously emailed them to ask about transfer and they said Lille Europe station (there’s also a Lille Flandres) around 6pm.

    As it turns out the flights into Paris that day for me are either incredibly expensive or the timing is wrong, so I’m going to fly in to Brussels mid-afternoon, hire a car and drive over.

    Cool, can you pick us up from Amsterdam on the way through?

  3. @brett

    If I get very lost I may just do that… have also paid for GPS in car !

    Dr C (or anyone else) if you are coming via Brussels you’re very welcome to come with. I won’t have a bike with me so there’s plenty of room in the car.

    My flight gets in about 1430 I think and I’ll get the car from the airport.

    Going back to Brussels Eurostar on Monday and taking the train – haven’t got the time to hand but I think it was 1600-ish.

  4. @Chris

    @Bianchi Denti
    I’m getting into Lille at 11.26 but I’ll be making my own way over to the accommodation at some point during the afternoon (I’m doing the weekend on the cheap and staying in a B&B nearby – looks fairly easy, a couple of trains from Lille).

    If you or anyone else is getting in at roughly the same time, we could meet up for a bit of lunch in Lille.

    That could work. Where will you arrive – airport? Lille Europe? Lille Flanders?

    However, I’ve also asked Alex & William where they want to collect us from. So that may override lunch plans.

  5. @Chris


    @Bianchi Denti

    KT support vehicle?

    I wouldn’t fancy riding that through Arenberg!!!!

    I wouldn’t want a beer from that after it’d been through the Arenberg!!

    They say some beers don’t travel well – could this be the explanation?

  6. KT team song?

    Had to post. I p!ss myself every time I watch this…Please don’t kill me.

    @Chris – see you at the pub sometime around 4:30.

  7. @Bianchi Denti
    I think I’ll probably have left Lille by 4.30pm, being a cheapskate I’m not staying in the official accommodation (@Dr C and I are in a nearby gite) which means I’ve got to make my own way from Lille. It’s not far but I’ve no idea how long it will take – it involves walking from the station in the French part of Comines to the station in the Belgian part on the otherside of the river. I’d also like to get the bike built up and get out for a shake down ride, rather have it fall apart then than on the Pave on Saturday.

    @all O’Conway’s Pub inside the Lille Europe railstation is the only pub in the immediate area apparently (and the official KT transfer meeting point). I’ll be in there for lunch and a pint of traditional northern French Guinness at about 12.00pm.

  8. In a case of last resort I’ll be in Kemmel from the Thursday with a car. I put the emphasis on “emergency” as I’m over with the family and I’m not an observer of the “bike comes first rule”.

  9. @Chris et al.
    I’ll fly right into Brussels and head straight to Kemmel by rental car, so like Jarvis suggests, I could also pick someone up at a nearby train station or similar location, and I don’t have family obligations to worry about (at least not that weekend), so don’t hesitate to ask for a lift.

  10. @Dr C
    I hear you, Doc.

    Still trying to figure out if it was a calf strain or pull during this morning’s ultimate frisbee game.


  11. @Dr C
    Complete lack of moral fibre and roller burn out. I should train tonight but I could drink beer and eat curry whilst watching bike racing on the telly instead.

  12. @Chris

    @Dr CComplete lack of moral fibre and roller burn out. I should train tonight but I could drink beer and eat curry whilst watching bike racing on the telly instead.

    Also an admirable training regimen

  13. @Dr C
    New plan, drink beer eat curry, clean off any residual tub glue from rims and inhale huge does of acetone in the process and then get up really early in the morning for interval training on the rollers. Can’t possibly fail!

  14. Freddy Maertens research:
    Sometimes, Maertens charged up on things a lot more innocent than amphetamines: “whatever the race, if I was feeling good in the closing stages, I would always have half a drinking bottle of champagne with a quantity of fructose and an ampoule of caffeine mixed in thirty kilometres before the finish. It had a stimulating effect on my body although this was clearly not the case for everybody. Pollentier tried it out in the Baracchi Trophy in 1976 [which Maertens won] but got the hunger knock.” The scariest part of this story is that Maertens’ directeur sportif, Guillaume (Lomme) Driessens, would finish off the other half of the bottle of champagne while driving the team car.

    Full article here. I love reading this stuff!

  15. So we’re inside the 10-day window where we can start to get weather predictions for the first weekend. Looks like a dry, dusty one. Not sure how I feel about that…

    There’s always the chance that the front predicted for early the following week will come across earlier. Any Velominati Meteorologisti got an opinion on that? (Even just a weatherman would do.)

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