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 (http://www.scheldeprijs.be/nl)
  • 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 (http://www.flandersclassics.be/nl/cyclo/brabantse-pijl) or ride in Flanders area.
  • Sunday April 8th: Follow the Paris-Roubaix race (taking in cobbled sectors around Valenciennes + Arenberg + L’Arbre). Depart.

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

  1. I’m so excited. I just hope I can sleep between now and March! I guess a crippling training regime would help…

  2. Glorious. Simply Glorious. Envious, mostly that I am not 20 years younger and could survive such an experience. But you yonglings have a great time, send pictures, video, postings of all types. More cowbell!

    Note to self: when I hit the lotto for $50M, sponsor a pro team to sport the V-kit. Serious about this; swear to Merckx.

  3. @Keepers Tour Attendees

    For those of you who have already notified us that you’ll be attending, please hop over to the Booking Form and book your seat over there. Apparently we can’t manually add bookings. Go figure.

  4. @Bintang
    Thank for posting that, just had a few days off the bike celebrating Mrs Chris’ birthday and needed something to get me back on track. Perfect. Relaxed start with the intro to the main characters,the false start, then setting off at a relatively sedate pace until the pavé when the pace starts to pick up, then endless attacks all the way. What better way to idle away 90 minutes on the rollers. Chapeaux @Bintang!

  5. @Chris
    The best part of the movie has got to be Merckx the beginning adjusting his saddle and strolling over to De Vlaeminck’s team car for a wrench. Class.

  6. @frank

    Or that it’s so seventies that they’ve got to hunt around for working showers. I remember showers of that vintage when I was at boarding school.

    I’m going to have to buy that!

  7. Gratuitous Cobble Porn. Not suitable for getting work done.

    The sharp-eyed among you will notice that Boonen is riding the hardman wheel of choice: Ambrosio Nemsis in the last photo.

  8. Boonen looks like he has to weight at least 75 kilos… not a small dude for professional racing! I think Spartacus runs about 80 kilos race weight… No twigs there!

  9. @frank

    The sharp-eyed among you will notice that Boonen is riding the hardman wheel of choice: Ambrosio Nemsis in the last photo.

    Have a gander at Faboo’s right calf…what’s that shape you see at the top? A huge fucking V!

  10. As much of a fan as I am of Spartacus, I think I like Boonens position on the bike more. at least from what I can see in that picture @Flanders

  11. @Anjin-san

    Boonen looks like he has to weight at least 75 kilos… not a small dude for professional racing! I think Spartacus runs about 80 kilos race weight… No twigs there!

    Spartacus, when he won Roubaix in ’06, weighed 85 kilos. I’m proud to say I’m at about 80 kilos myself, and riding the same bike. I should be fine on the stones. Though, as I indicated above, there might be some difference in speed. There might also be some distribution in how Faboo and I have distributed our weight. He’s at least 5 cm shorter than I am, and much more bottom-heave (legs). Bugger.

  12. @Mikael Liddy
    Right you are. The V is everywhere. In the calf, in the quad, in the spray of water as your wheel cuts through a Rule #9 ride. It is everywhere.

    And check out what’s on the tongue of Kelly’s shoe.

  13. @frank
    Wow! I had no idea he was so tall. I always figured him for sub-180cm. Don’t know why. I stand corrected. Of course, when I stand, I’m the same height as Philippe Gilbert. It’s just that I weight 10kg more. Which is a fuckton (again metric) of weight to try to drop. My sense is I need the extra weight to generate as much power as he does (eating his breakfast…).

  14. @frank

    @Bianchi Denti
    As Brett said somewhere earlier: I hope it rains for the Pros and is dry for us.

    I’m jealous as fuck. Two big reasons: 1. You’re riding the cobbles with JM. Yep, super hardman. 2. You’re riding the cobbles. Everything else is icing on a really big cake.
    I’ll add this: HTFU and hope it rains. Epic.

  15. Done… I’ve confirmed the weekend booking and also booked myself and family at the Hostellerie Kemmelberg for four nights.

    Is the main group staying at the Landhuis Kemmel ? It’s showing as booked out for that period. They look reasonably close together although the Hostellerie is apparently at the highest point in Flanders so I guess only really hard people would stay there. Just sayin…

    @Frank One thing on the confirmation page for the no-accommodation options. It says First Weekend but has the dates for the second weekend (April 6-8) and the other one says Second Weekend but has the dates for the first weekend (March 30-April 1). Your code may be sublime but your proof-reading… ;-p

    Oh and BTW, while I’m here, can I just mention I hit the big 10K kms today !

  16. @frank

    @Steampunk
    He’s 1.86 meters. I’m 191. So exactly 5cm. But yes, his right gun is bigger than my waist. Which makes me oddly proud.

    That’s me buggered then, I’m 175mm on a good day and 86kg.

    Too fat to climb and four months from peaking.

  17. @Chris
    yeh, but that’ll be all muscle, remember those guns are made of steel, which is much heavier than fat

  18. @Dr C

    I’d love to think so but years away from any real sporting endeavour has left me with little stick legs that look slightly comical under my rotund torso.

    Definition is coming back and I’m working hard on adding mass low down and losing it up top. Aiming for sub 80kg by the end of March.

  19. So, I finally, after living in the same house, and working in the same Clinic, for 10 years, commuted by bike last night – home, after picking up my Spesh CruX after it was retrieved from a van in a swimming pool, in 23 mins – excellent (60kmh tailwind – nice)
    Back in this morning, into remnants of tailwind, now headwind, took 40 minutes!!

    Anyway, my point is, I’ve done this run several times for other reasons on my Spesh Roubaix, with no bother, but on the CruX it was horrible – I thought the big tyres and easy aluminium frame geometry would make for a nice soft ride, but was I ever wrong – the Roubaix is IMCOMPARABLY smoother – anyway, just completd sale of Roubaix Comp on Ebay, so itching to take delivery of new Roubaix Expert Trench Weapon this weekend, once Paypal sack is bulging….

    Meantime, the cycloX will be for riding in fields and commuting only, and the Roubaix will be for Roubaix

    Roll on the cobbles, I’m locked and loaded and ready to die…..

  20. @Bintang

    I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to link to it, but just to get one in the mood for the cobbled classic: A Sunday in Hell.

    DAMN! That’s the whole vid! The VMH bought it for me last Christmas. Did not realize that you could watch the whoile thing on youtube. Figured it would be a copyright issue or something.

  21. The sprinters will go above that at the finish.

    Steele von Hoff, the man with the best name in cycling – a young Aussie who will be on the Garmin Chipotle development squad next year – is said to put out around 1850-1900 watts in his sprint.

  22. @ChrisO

    The sprinters will go above that at the finish.
    Steele von Hoff, the man with the best name in cycling – a young Aussie who will be on the Garmin Chipotle development squad next year – is said to put out around 1850-1900 watts in his sprint.

    Is he a drummer by chance? “But Drummer Hoff fired it off.” Drummer Hoff was my favorite book as a little kid and now my kiddos love it as well.

    It will be awesome if he turns out to be a big winner. I can hear Phil now, “And Hoff FIRES it OFF!!!”

  23. @frank
    LOVE that first photo! Haven’t seen it before. Isn’t it taken just as Spartacus is about to turn on the turbo leaving poor Tommy in his wake?

  24. @Steampunk
    Great vid! Hey, his max HR and mine are almost the same, why can’t I ride like him???

    Most defintely the ONLY variable I share with Cancellara!

  25. @wiscot

    @frankLOVE that first photo! Haven’t seen it before. Isn’t it taken just as Spartacus is about to turn on the turbo leaving poor Tommy in his wake?

    looks like Spartacus is just ambling up the mur, out for a sunday stroll, poor Tommy starting to feel the heat, maybe breathing a bit too heavily, Spartacus smells blood and BOOOMMM!!!!! The rest is history

  26. @wiscot
    The way he rides away from my man Blown’in is just unbelievable. So smooth. Just smoothly hammers away without even coming out of the saddle. Just awesome.

  27. @Buck Rogers
    There are more complete cycling vids to be found. The same user, for example, also uploaded a vid on the Giro of 1974.

  28. @ChrisO

    @Frank One thing on the confirmation page for the no-accommodation options. It says First Weekend but has the dates for the second weekend (April 6-8) and the other one says Second Weekend but has the dates for the first weekend (March 30-April 1). Your code may be sublime but your proof-reading… ;-p

    Thanks – corrected. Someone else pointed it out to me as well. I stare at that stuff so long when I’m doing the development that I stop seeing mistakes. Drives me crazy because its important to get that stuff right. Its just that after staring at it for 7 hours straight and its 3am, all I’m seeing are symbols.

    Did you notice I switched to Keepers’ per your recommendation. I can’t do it everywhere because the internet hates apostrophes, but but we’re using it where we can, now.

  29. @frank
    I always thought Keepers was an adjective not a possessive.

    As in – “What kind of tour is this? Just a normal one?”

    “No, it is a Keepers Tour.”

  30. @frank

    @Dr C, @wiscot, @Buck RogersHis post-race comment was the best, “It was not really an attack. I just put it in a gear less and went steady up with more speed.”
    Oh, right. I see.

    that’s all very well if you aren’t already in first gear!

  31. @ChrisO

    Done… I’ve confirmed the weekend booking and also booked myself and family at the Hostellerie Kemmelberg for four nights.
    Is the main group staying at the Landhuis Kemmel ? It’s showing as booked out for that period. They look reasonably close together although the Hostellerie is apparently at the highest point in Flanders so I guess only really hard people would stay there. Just sayin…
    @Frank One thing on the confirmation page for the no-accommodation options. It says First Weekend but has the dates for the second weekend (April 6-8) and the other one says Second Weekend but has the dates for the first weekend (March 30-April 1). Your code may be sublime but your proof-reading… ;-p
    Oh and BTW, while I’m here, can I just mention I hit the big 10K kms today !

    Chris, congrats on the 10K. I’m in the same ballpark myself thanks to a couple of ugly rides last month.

  32. @itburns

    @Blah
    This same conundrum has been heavily discussed by the people who run the Presidents Cup, just held in Melb, won by the US. They used to call it the Presidents’ Cup, precisely because that was the correct way to express the possessive, however aesthetics won out over pedantry, in that the organizers decided the floating apostrophe looked shit – so they ditched it.

  33. @Blah, @wiscot, @Marcus
    OK, the apostrophe goes. Bretto – as our esteemed Editor in Chief – has this to say:

    Ah fuck… if it is talking about us as a group, and we were just ‘velominati’, it would be ‘velominati tour’, not velominati’s tour’… yeah? so i’d say it is keepers tour.

    So, there you have it. Before too long, it will be all back to the way it was.

  34. A sad day for pedantry.
    The only reason I’m continuing to comment is that the illiterate (untrue jab, I know) pedants won. As in, it was punctuated correctly, and it’s been picked up by someone wanting to punctuate it incorrectly.
    Oh well. It’s the Keepers’ tour, they can call it what they like.

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