Very early in the morning, we meet up at Simone's house before setting off to Oudenaarde. We put the bikes in Marije's family Range Rover and are on our way to Belgium for the Round of Flanders. When we arrive in Oudenaarde we first of all visit the museum/centre of the Round of Flanders and the café. On the outside of the building is a more than life size photo of Fabian Cancellara (not too bad looking!). We visit the museum but are getting a bit nervous now for the start of the race, we have a coffee and then collect the bikes from the car.
We cycle the route according to the route map we got at the Centre but are slightly concerned about the cobbles along the route. Marije made sure that all our tyres are set at a lower pressure to help us along.
First of all the route takes us through Oudenaarde and then on a beautiful path along the river. We are very lucky with the weather, it's fresh but sunny with a clear blue sky, it feels like a nice day in May instead of the end of March!
Descending on the Bosberg is a unique experience! With high speed down the cobbles, luckily our bikes make it a lot easier than expected and thanks to Marije's tyre pressure trick. I discover that it's very important to keep pedalling otherwise the chain starts to vibrate.
We ride all the infamous climbs and parts of the Tour of Flanders. The Patersberg is a nasty one but I'm actually alright on the Kwaremont and the Muur (wall!). I can't remember what the other places were called but what I do know is that they advised us well on the gearing at Fons. We managed well on all climbs, it was only on the steepest parts I had to stand on the pedals! On those cobbled climbs, we also noticed that thanks to the lower tyre pressure we still had sufficient comfort but also enough grip when ascending those nasty cobbles. Luckily it's a dry day, it would've been a different story on wet cobbles!
We have lunch at a lovely cafe called 'Hol van Pluto'. The owner has a special pie that's heavy and nutritious and gives us immediate energy for the rest of the route. We will need that energy for some really challenging climbs. We're sitting in the sun and chat to some other cyclists who are very interested in our bikes and are full of admiration. But especially interested in three women cycling the Round of Flanders. We enjoy the compliments with secret pride and cycle off as if it's an everyday occurrence. Slightly embarrassing is that I nearly slip down the steps in front of the cafe...
We stick to our plan and ride all routes on the cobbles, not on the well paved gutters on the side of the road. I've got the feeling that our bikes make it a lot easier!
We finally arrive at the bridge of Oudenaarde and the end of the tour. We ride onto the market place of Oudenaarde and stop for a drink on the terrace. Filled with pride and joy from a challenging day on our bikes, we drive home in the 'Chelsea Tractor'.
The Round of Flanders is a special route and comes highly recommended! We are already planning our next trip there and will stay two nights in a lovely hotel behind the museum.