Ever-Prescent V: Ronde van “V”laanderen

The field at de Ronde van Vlaanderen. Photo: Willie Verhegge

There is something about Northern Europe in general and Flanders in particular that exudes The V; you feel it in the air the moment you set foot into the region. Such terrible things have happened here for so long that living with hardship and suffering has not only become part of the culture of the region, but being tough has become a principle characteristic of the people who live there. To paraphrase Johnny Green’s words, the things that have happened here are like a torn curtain – it just kinda hangs there.

Roubaix may be the Queen of the Classics, but for me, the greatest one-day classic of the year is the Tour of Flanders. Cobblestones are one thing, cobblestones combined with mud and racing another, but cobblestones, mud, and 20% gradients are a different matter altogether. The Americanized name of the race obfuscates an important point: in Flemish, “Flanders” starts with the V – Vlaanderen. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it has a beautiful symmetry to it, and that’s good enough for me.

This race, more than any other on the calendar, represents the people who host it. The stones, the climbs, the weather, it almost seems as though the very spirits of those who have perished in these fields been drawn into the route. In their honor, I will be hosting a cobbled hill ride in Seattle on Sunday, April 3. For those of you who live in the area – and those of you close or crazy enough to make the last-minute trip into town, I will be leaving the parking lot of Speedy Reedy in Fremont at 10am sharp to embark on an honorary ride over the hills and cobbles of Queen Anne and surrounding areas (as well as several uncobbled climbs).  Nothing compared to the challenge of de Ronde itself, but beggars can’t be choosers.  This will be as easy a ride as possible, given the terrain we aim to cover and given my poor level of conditioning.  Also be aware that I haven’t done the recon into the route that I should have, so there may be some route-finding involved.

Rain or shine, obviously. Kinda hoping for rain, actually.

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49 Replies to “Ever-Prescent V: Ronde van “V”laanderen”

  1. I know the feeling, went out in the worst rainstorm ever before Lombardy last year thinking “Gilbert would even notice this” and he went and smashed it. Vive la V.

  2. Zoncolan :
    I know the feeling, went out in the worst rainstorm ever before Lombardy last year thinking “Gilbert wouldn’t even notice this” and he went and smashed it. Vive la V.

  3. Wishing I was still stationed at Ft Lewis as I would be there in a heart-beat! Ride hard and feel the V, brothers!

  4. Frank, will there be a VSP post? Or is the V so strong in this one that it’s fried the software?

  5. Great article. Brought up on PR but I see where you are coming from. Seattle is a bit too far or I’d have joined you. Enjoy!

    PS Did my own Flanders at 6:45 this am: my typical 28 Mi loop to work, but in the wind, under a sight drizzle and with mud (country lanes obliged) spread all over the road. Hell, it was fun. I was even 5′ faster today!

  6. Actually this sky is from Milano, it’s the best I can do to wish you a great ride, there in Seattle.
    Buon giro!

  7. @Pedale.Forchetta
    hey, nice photo BTW

    won’t be able to make it to Seattle due to time constraints (i.e. other side of the world and work on Monday) but best wishes with your own tour, hope you get plenty of starters

  8. Hey! This is realy fine writing. I like it willbe checking more often.

  9. For those that might be looking for a live stream SBS Cycling Central is happening at 20:30 AEST hopefully you’ll be able to access it from anywhere on the planet or broadcasting it on the telly from 22:30 AEST on SBS ONE in Oz.

  10. Well said Frank. I’m not aware of any cobblestoned roads in Sydney which could be used during an honorary ride on the weekend but here’s hoping at least for some foul weather…

  11. Sweet! I’ve been looking forward to this.

    In fact, I’m going to do a recon ride tomorrow morning to find some cobbles in Capitol Hill that I discovered a few months ago.

    Hopefully bike #2’s aluminum frame can handle it.

  12. Wayne Schimmelbusch :
    Well said Frank. I’m not aware of any cobblestoned roads in Sydney which could be used during an honorary ride on the weekend but here’s hoping at least for some foul weather…

    I don’t know about that? Given the poor condition of most roads in Sydney (and possibly most other major cities?), what with potholes, broken glass, roadkill, cat’s eyes, road work, blown truck tyres, bad drivers and so on plus the wet weather these last few weekends – while it’s not the same as cobblestones or Brett’s Welli grave, one can give the bike and body a good run for their money without trying too hard or looking too far I reckon!

  13. Damn sounds like wicked fun. Ill be pumping as much V as I can to pull of my first metric(solo)
    I still haven’t decided if I want to wake up super early and stream in the race or if I want to watch it on Versus in the afternoon.

  14. il ciclista medio:

    I don’t know about that? Given the poor condition of most roads in Sydney (and possibly most other major cities?), what with potholes, broken glass, roadkill, cat’s eyes, road work, blown truck tyres, bad drivers and so on plus the wet weather these last few weekends

    What wet weather. 32 degrees C and sunny the last few weeks and not looking like changing. Ahhh Perth…..

    No mud cobbles or hills for me (not unless I spray some water on the back lawn, build a ramp out of paving bricks and ride ten million circuits)

  15. When’s the VSP going up??? I may struggle to get back online over the weekend until the race starts!

    I’m loving that we’re getting it free to air in Aus! I’m going hunting for some (non Stella or Hoegaarden) Belgian beer to throw in the fridge so I can get a more authentic experience watching it in Brisbane!

    Can’t wait!

    Oh, and your bike ride looks like fun too. Heh

  16. Nice post.

    I rode a little bit of the Flanders route last fall and recently wrote a post about it. I’m new to writing, but at least there are some photos to check out as well if anyone is interested.

    De Ronde Pilgrimage

  17. Liking your hunt for some cobbled roads in readiness for Ronde this weekend. Plenty of agricultural standard roads here in the North of England. Did a couple of hours yesterday – potholes, twenty per cent climbs, mud and animal S**T everywhere. Made it even more fun by doing in the dark! Does that count as ‘V’ factor?

  18. @toomanytreks
    where abouts are you? i’m from just north of leeds (thou i’m away at uni atm) i don’t know of any near by but if you know where they are i would much appreciate the pointers. Don’t understand why we don’t have a pro tour spring classic, all our hills are 20-25% stingers and the wind and rain always lashes cos we’re in the north, think that the north could supply an exiting race

  19. Just arrived in Gent…. 17 degrees and sunny… Weather looking good for the ride tomorrow, but not so good for Sunday

    So excited… Off to reassemble my bike

    Is there any point in a vsp… Spartacus is going to kill it, no?

  20. @andy
    I think this must be an april-fools day prank.

    Can’t wait to ride tomorrow. First time in years it’s going to be nice and sunny for us and rainy for the pro’s.

  21. weather is suppose to be rain and drizzle, hope it holds out! its been dry for a few years!

  22. Could be the last year for cobbles, they are threatening to tarmac the Muur-Kapelmuur, Koppenberg and Oude Kwaremont for 2012! :O(
    That aside I am looking forward to a great race tomorrow – lets see what Spartacus can do this year….

  23. andy:
    i’m so excited for this race. I don’t even mind that due to cobble theft, they’ve had to take out the koppenberg.

    From the article: “Belgian police have revealed they have received information suggesting that the cobbles were stolen to order and may have already been spirited out of the country. They believe the cobbles are destined for the driveway of a fan of the Belgian Classics.

    FRANK! How could you?

  24. @Cobblestone

    even if it wasn’t one (and i did work it out in about 5 seconds), i still wouldn’t mind if there was no koppenberg. RVV is bigger than one hill, and it’ll always make me like an overexcited puppy on christmas who is getting a gigantic bone as a present.

    I need to go and breathe into a paper bag

  25. @cobblestone you riding in Velominati colours? Watch out for a fat middle aged bloke in the strip riding titanium… See you tomorrow

  26. By coincidence the club ride tomorrow is up Rainbow lake Rd. A 9 mile climb on not to good pavement that ends in a 1/4 of 19%. This is a birthday celebration for one of the members who will be 79 and he will ride it and all the other 70 miles.

  27. @j.king
    Excellent write up. The cobbles look tidy and in much better condition than for P-R. What’s your opinion?

  28. My guns are in pain and I’m doing the whole thing again tomorrow.

    If you go on a casual recon ride with Frank, you had better bring a little V in your back pocket, just in case.

    Sweet piss of Pantani, give me strength!

  29. @Frank, @jeff in petrometro

    Thank you for your kind words of support and encouragement

    What a weekend… 19,999 other like minded souls; 258km of riding; 24 sections of (well maintained, much better than Roubaix apparently) cobbles; 18 Bergs; 2 days of sunshine; and 1 RVV… Not to mention 9.5% Belgian beer, a Belgian winner, and my own weight in frites and Mayo… I can’t walk, have a hangover from hell, and no work got done today.

    Good showing from GT too… Awesome race

  30. @Roadslave
    I.AM.SO.FUCKING.JEALOUS. If you took pictures, please post. And what a great reason to have a hangover.

  31. @G’rilla

    He’s the guy who just kicked a volcano’s ass in the middle of winter, when some of us (read, me) are getting fat and happy. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

    Someday I’ll come up to join y’all in Seattle for a ride and some beers, but at this point in the spring I’d just embarrass myself. The only thing that makes me feel decent right now when I’m out cramping it up on a ride is I’m ahead of where I was at this point last spring…

  32. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Not up to the scratch of Pedale.Forschetta… yet… but this link takes you to a few of the better ones from the weekend… the idiot gurning at the camera in Velominati colours is me, the sun had yet to come up and I had 260km to ride, what can I say… honestly, I climb well for my weight… some good ones of GT killing it at different points of the race, though (thanks to my buddy Barefoot for his shots on the Bosberg)… and some start line posturing from Spartacus (who was looking very lean and focused) and Thor (who was Looking Fantastic).. funnily enough, the later ones of Sunday have all come out blurred

  33. @roadslave
    Fantastic. Thanks for posting – even though my innards churn with envy as I view them. (A comment made before, but it bears repeating – how cool is it for the giants of the sport to be so accessible to the fans? And now we know the answer: a fuckton of cool.)

  34. @G’phant – agreed, in what other sport… Boonen was mobbed like the rockstar he is, Cav got snogged by a granny, Thor tried to look cool, but smiled evertime someone yelled his name… only Cancellara was a little subdued (still looked fantastic though)

    Apologies for the dude in it, but thought I’d share couple of photos of the Velominati strip on the Taaienberg and Muur-Kapelmuur

  35. ok, they came out a little bigger than I expected… ooops, hopefully the taste police will shrink them a bit.

  36. Fuck me, mate. You look fantastic. How did I miss this yesterday? That’s two things I missed, merckxdamnit.

    Love the touch with V-optimized Jawbones, face twisted in agony as you mash up some grade that should never have been paved – let alone with stones. Spot on. Been meaning to get that same set of lenses. Looks FANTASTIC, mate.

    The guy in the second shot of you got hit by a stewpot, from the looks of it. Ouch.

  37. @roadslave
    These pictures are fantastic, as are the ones over at your picasa page. More than likely the first to ride these legendary bergs in a V-kit. Badass!

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