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. @Marcus

    @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.

    I will also comment on the idea of golfers having any sense of aesthetics.
    Irony, dead-set irony.

  2. @Blah

    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.

    Damn right! If it was a Tour for the Keepers it’d be the the Keepers Tour, a Tour comprising of Keepers and as such there’d be no lesser mortals tagging along. As a Tour organised by the Keepers and made available to us out of the goodness of their own hearts (or as a manifestation of their avarice) there is ownership and it would be the Keeper’s Tour.

  3. OK, need a collective opinion from the Velominati: should we be egging the attendees to be marking the Routes (and you know what routes I’m talking about) with the v-cog stencil?

    How fucking cool would it be to see a v-cog Dan Henry directing riders into the P-R velomrome? Merckx be praised!

    Double. Dog. Dare.

  4. and I know Ill be beaten with mini pumps for posting that picture, but I do admire a dandy, even though I am far from one.

  5. @Chris

    @Blah

    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.

    Damn right! If it was a Tour for the Keepers it’d be the the Keepers Tour, a Tour comprising of Keepers and as such there’d be no lesser mortals tagging along. As a Tour organised by the Keepers and made available to us out of the goodness of their own hearts (or as a manifestation of their avarice) there is ownership and it would be the Keeper’s Tour.

    Oh crap. This will come across as needless, but here goes anyway.
    It’d be the Keepers’ Tour, not the Keeper’s Tour. The Keeper’s Tour would be if just frank was leading it.
    Actually, if frank was leading it, it’d be the Keeper Tour, as we’re not doing possessive.

    Here are some more:

    I’m grading work from my 9th Grade English class here, so that’s why I’m all up in arms on apostrophes.

  6. @Blah

    Spot on. My mistake. It’s time to go to bed.

    @RedRanger
    Absolutely agree about Millar. Too many sportsmen manage to pull off “Try Hard” when it comes to style but not us Hong Kong lads.

  7. @RedRanger
    I’m with you, Millar is a stylish dood. JV is a wankpod. That’s an entire self-contained pod of wank, much like orcas travel in pods. T-Bone has been poorly advised and he look would be better carried off had his hands not been in his pocket.

    As long as we’re discussing style, here is the ultimate example.

    And, here is doing Blue Steel.

  8. here is carry over from another thread, a look at this climb from another angle, which blew my mind truthfully

  9. @Souleur
    That ground-view shot from the top of the hill at 2:33 is pretty terrifying.

    But the hill is what: 150m long? I’ve wondered if there is some kind of formula that riders can apply to their climbing abilities. Around here, we have a number of inclines of 15-17% that range from 200-600m (Mikel: point of reference: Bell School Line, for example). These cause me little trouble. By comparison, I suffer on longer roads on less steep pitches. Is there a way to calculate distance x grade x weight x power or some such to determine where a rider’s red line is? And I presume it’s different for everybody.

  10. @Buck Rogers

    @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!

    As a matter of fact, I have dark hair, too. I’ve been to Switzerland; does that count?

  11. @Souleur
    Guy cracking at 1.39 is so perfectly done it looks staged. Nice.
    A mantra of mine when watching the Tour or Giro is that TV flattens out the gradient. It never looks as steep as it really is. So how fucking steep are those climbs in the flesh? There’s one shot that just makes a climb look like a sheer cliff.

  12. @RedRanger
    Yep. That’s a lot””made worse by the unevenness of the cobbles (the one guy spinning out as he jumped out of the saddle). I have to try me this. Maybe not in a race.

    Round these parts, we have Rattlesnake Point, which tops out at 20-25%. The climb is longer: 700m, which starts >10% and climbs to 20-25% (have heard different interpretations of the switchbacks) without much or any respite. Cobble free, mind. Add to that the 500m 4-8% grade before you hit the bigger ramps and this really starts to hurt. For me, though, riding 39×25 it seems as though it is more the distance than the steepness.

  13. @Steampunk
    In that case I’m in too. My bike is Swiss, I had a crush on the Swiss Miss girl as a wee boy, and my name shares some of the same letters as his.

  14. @RedRanger

    @Blah
    I know your being sarcastic. But this guy here had class

    Let’s hope you’ll be better at Lear Jets after av. school than that guy’s flight crew was.

  15. @RedRanger

    @Chrisperfect example:Millar pulls it off no trouble, JV is trying way to hard and TF is meh

    Absolutely agree. Millar is pure fuck’in class, JV is such a twatwaffle who tries wayyyyy tooo hard and sucks so bad at it, total poser, and TF is just confused.

  16. I was sleeping soundly while the apostrophe debate was raging but I am glad to see it remains. Well done Blah for fighting the corner. The Keepers’ Tour is what I’m doing.

    To close all argument on this matter may I remind you that my wife will be in the vicinity and in charge of a large vehicle – she would not have the slightest remorse about running down people who had willfully ignored and abused apostrophes.

    It’s like the Rules – not only should they be obeyed whether you like it or not, but you should never knowingly allow or assist others in breaking them.

  17. PS – all this is silly. Can’t wait to participate in the Spring’s Classics.

  18. I am forever going to be kicking myself that last spring I was in the Czech Republic and didn’t make it to RvV or P-R. Very, very stupid mistake on my part.

    I can watch that video replay of Cancellara escaping from Boonen and it shocks me every single time.

    On another note, why have already questionable golfers taken to trying to look as absolutely stupid as possible? Where is the degree of class? (I do realize one of those pictured is a ‘neck nutcase. However, both men and women seem to be dressing as horribly as possible. Some of the women wear knee high black socks!)

  19. Have to say I kinda dug the jersey that had on the back “Welcome to the Gun Show” with two downward pointing arrows.

    Srsly @Frank, I need to see a picture of a cobble with the V-Cog dan henry painted on it here on the site by April. GPS coordinates of that turtle should be provided.

  20. @ChrisO

    It’s like the Rules – not only should they be obeyed whether you like it or not, but you should never knowingly allow or assist others in breaking them.

    I agree 100%, its just that I’m not sure you’re right. Brett’s argument seems right to me, made also by @itburns in the following statement:

    PS – all this is silly. Can’t wait to participate in the Spring’s Classics.

  21. Count me in for the first weekend. I have a permit to travel!

    @Dr C

    You wouldn’t be so kind as to remind me of the details for your defunct brewer/abbey would you?

  22. @Chris

    Count me in for the first weekend. I have a permit to travel!
    @Dr C
    You wouldn’t be so kind as to remind me of the details for your defunct brewer/abbey would you?

    Hurrah!

    Binned the Abbey, as we have nbow moved to Kemmel, a couple of miles from Leper (Ypres), so I booked this fairly basic B+B – ( I nabbed the single room!)

    Best to book it either way, as best to have something in the book, cancelling is free and easy, and if we like, we can switch it later

    GFI!

  23. Only getting back into this as Frank told me too…

    I hear you about Keepers’ Tour, but if it was say ‘Vaughters’ or ‘Garmin’ putting on the tour, would it be ‘Garmin’s Tour’? Garmin is a group, so it would be Garmin Tour. If Vaughters was doing it, it would be Vaughters’ Tour (a badly dressed one, granted). Or Tomac Tour. Or Tomac Bikes Tour. We’re The Keepers and we’re going on a tour, so Keepers Tour will do, whether it’s technically correct or not!

    We won’t be thinking about where our apostrophes are in April, only where the lung we just coughed up landed…

  24. What the fuck are you going on about? Why all the fucking golfers and twats wearing argyle? Only pic on this page with a bike and someone’s carrying it like a fucking sack.

    John Daly? Really?

  25. @minion
    Ah… I see the problem. You have to read the words and not just look at the pictures. World makes more sense that way.

  26. @Blah

    @minion
    Ah… I see the problem. You have to read the words and not just look at the pictures. World makes more sense that way.

    Two examples of there words are not needed. In fact, I think words would just cheapen them.

  27. @frank
    I said the word makes more sense. Those pics have a definite otherworldly quality.

    Buuuuuuuuut:
    Second shot – shorts too short, socks too long. (Dare I say it?) Discipline too cyclocross.

  28. @Blah

    @frank
    I said the word makes more sense. Those pics have a definite otherworldly quality.
    Buuuuuuuuut:
    Second shot – shorts too short, socks too long. (Dare I say it?) Discipline too cyclocross.

    *world, not word.

    Can you tell I’m in a stinker of a mood today? I swear there are no parents in the apartment upstairs. 2.30am these psycho kids start screaming at each other, moving heavy furniture and, amazingly, taking showers. Went on for nearly an hour.
    I adjusted the alarm from 4.40 to 5.10 and abandoned the extra 15km I was going to do this morning. Ride cheered me up a bit, but 35km rather than 50km before work pisses me off.

  29. @Blah

    @Blah

    @frankI said the word makes more sense. Those pics have a definite otherworldly quality.Buuuuuuuuut:Second shot – shorts too short, socks too long. (Dare I say it?) Discipline too cyclocross.

    *world, not word.
    Can you tell I’m in a stinker of a mood today? I swear there are no parents in the apartment upstairs. 2.30am these psycho kids start screaming at each other, moving heavy furniture and, amazingly, taking showers. Went on for nearly an hour.I adjusted the alarm from 4.40 to 5.10 and abandoned the extra 15km I was going to do this morning. Ride cheered me up a bit, but 35km rather than 50km before work pisses me off.

    Heh, I’m in a pretty foul mood too, hence the above. When I stop to reflect on the number of unrelated pics I’ve posted of Australians, sheep, boats and beer, I’ve got no grounds to complain. (Which is why I don’t stop and reflect.) I justify it that nearly all of them were to wind up Marcus, which as a Kiwi is both a national pastime and obligation.

    That and I’ve had a sinus infection for a week. Planning on starting base training in at the beginning of summer, since I haven’t ridden for about 10 days, and I still feel sh’ouse.

  30. @Blah

    @frank
    I said the word makes more sense. Those pics have a definite otherworldly quality.
    Buuuuuuuuut:
    Second shot – shorts too short, socks too long. (Dare I say it?) Discipline too cyclocross.

    Guy on the left is Eric De Vlaeminck, Rogers bro. All their shorts were too short back then, but to my point – your words cheapened the shot, didn’t they? A shot which I think is awesome. Especially the unnamed German’s guns. Merckx.

  31. @Blah, @minion
    Boo-hoo. Isn’t it Springtime for you guys? My fingers still don’t feel right after yesterday’s ride. Talk about serious problems. On top of that, I have to figure out what to have for dinner, which is never an interesting thing to do when you’re cooking for one. Problems.

  32. @minion

    @Blah

    @Blah

    @frankI said the word makes more sense. Those pics have a definite otherworldly quality.Buuuuuuuuut:Second shot – shorts too short, socks too long. (Dare I say it?) Discipline too cyclocross.

    *world, not word.Can you tell I’m in a stinker of a mood today? I swear there are no parents in the apartment upstairs. 2.30am these psycho kids start screaming at each other, moving heavy furniture and, amazingly, taking showers. Went on for nearly an hour.I adjusted the alarm from 4.40 to 5.10 and abandoned the extra 15km I was going to do this morning. Ride cheered me up a bit, but 35km rather than 50km before work pisses me off.

    Heh, I’m in a pretty foul mood too, hence the above. When I stop to reflect on the number of unrelated pics I’ve posted of Australians, sheep, boats and beer, I’ve got no grounds to complain. (Which is why I don’t stop and reflect.) I justify it that nearly all of them were to wind up Marcus, which as a Kiwi is both a national pastime and obligation.
    That and I’ve had a sinus infection for a week. Planning on starting base training in at the beginning of summer, since I haven’t ridden for about 10 days, and I still feel sh’ouse.

    As to infections, I would get your urinary tract checked as well – cos you sound like a big pussy.

  33. It was 2 degrees when I woke up this mornin. Did a short 40km. Standard summer kit plus a windbreaker. Felt fine. Had to cut it short so I could do some cleaning and study before work. Rolled into work to see I’m the only guy still wearing shorts. They must think I’m mad.

  34. BTW I think the Keepers tour’s problem is an incorrect use of the word tour – it’s being used as a noun but the Keepers would need to be something that can be toured. It doesn’t work the same way as the UCI tour or the PGA tour it would have to be used as a verb which doesn’t quite sit right. (You tour PGA or UCI events.) You aren’t making a tour of the keepers, you’re making a tour of the cobbled classics. If you were to use the word as a noun a Keeper’s tour would be a tour by one keeper: Keepers’ Tour would be a tour by more than one keeper. You’re looking to fix with an apostrophe the use of a word that doesn’t quite fit, which is why you’re struggling.

    Anyway screw it who cares. I’m probably wrong anyway, but so long as I think I’m right, I rule.

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