Flanders Frites

august 16 - race in temse (st niklaas)

Conor on the Temse Kermis start line with a fellow Flanders Cycles team mate.

Conor on the Temse Kermis start line with a fellow Flanders Cycles team mate.

The Verhulst family came out in force to support Conor in his last Belgian UCI kermis with the smallest peloton of just 36 starters. What the Temse kermis lacked in number it made up in quality with the strong BMC Development Team in attendance. The BMC team ripped into proceedings early on and split the peloton into 4 groups with the dominant BMC team in the 14 rider front group. It was day over for the rest as nobody could match the BMC juggernaut. Two of the BMC riders at Temse are going to the World Road Championships (Under 23) in Qatar and one took victory at the last Paris Roubaix (for Under 23). This draws the Conot flemish blog to a close & hope you enjoyed the ups and downs.            

august 15 - koppenberg Versus Van der wally

The last morning in Oudenaarde and Conor Van Der Wally is determined to hit the Koppenberg a couple of more times (as you do when you're just 18). So that now makes the Koppenberg count of Conor 6 Koppenberg 0 (rode 6 walked 0). In an attempt to bring reason to an out of control situation it was time for the red steel Rossin (circa 1985) to get lost on tiny Flemish lanes near Oudenaarde. You know where you are with steel (meaning heavy & nowhere).   

The 22% gradient of the Black Beast is back in the shadows. The road has been rebuilt three times. The first two times they used road base (gravel) between the stones but the heavy rain simply washed the gravel down the steep hill. The road then collapsed on itself and was unrideable. At the third attempt they have used a concrete base between the stones and the road is now going nowhere (except up).    

The 22% gradient of the Black Beast is back in the shadows. The road has been rebuilt three times. The first two times they used road base (gravel) between the stones but the heavy rain simply washed the gravel down the steep hill. The road then collapsed on itself and was unrideable. At the third attempt they have used a concrete base between the stones and the road is now going nowhere (except up).    

Top of the Koppenberg

Top of the Koppenberg

On the Flemish lanes at the Eikenberg with a 1985 steel red Rossin. All that's missing is Eric Vanderaerden, Eddy Planckaert, some Pot Belge and Led Zeppelin IV.

On the Flemish lanes at the Eikenberg with a 1985 steel red Rossin. All that's missing is Eric Vanderaerden, Eddy Planckaert, some Pot Belge and Led Zeppelin IV.

august 14 - kokerelle

The last day at the Kokerelle B&B and a big thankyou to Kathy Sante for making our time so enjoyable. A special thankyou to our delightful neighbours in Julien & Lydie who made us feel so welcome. We look forward to returning to the village of Maarke Kerkem in March 2017 to see Tom Boonen win his last Paris Roubaix.

The extended Belgian family in Maarke Kerkem with Kathy, Julien & Lydie

The extended Belgian family in Maarke Kerkem with Kathy, Julien & Lydie

August 13 - race in stekene (hulst, dutch border)

Another day another drive down the E17 Freeway from Oudenaarde towards Antwerp, this time to the small village of Stekene only 2k from the Dutch border. 

Stekene was a return to UCI level competition. Being just 2k from the Netherlands something like 40% of the peloton was Dutch in the 80 strong field. The circuit was only 6.5k per lap for 17 laps that ran beside the E40 Freeway for a time, then looped back through a small forest in a nasty crosswind. These bigger Belgie & Dutch riders are seemingly born to this type of bulldozer racing ... every corner is their idea of a hill and Stekene was full gas from the start. If you think there needs to be a hill to make bike racing super difficult then think again - racing at UCI level in Belgium is fierce. The early break of 6 riders went away (as usual) and Conor looked comfortable in the peloton. So much so it was an opportune time for the BiciSport Director Sportif to head to the "rustic" (semi tragic) Stekene pub for a beer (heck counting laps is hard work). Seven laps in and the peloton started to chase the break in earnest and Conor went from looking comfortable to "eating his handelbars" for lunch at 75k. If you needed convincing that UCI was tougher than WAOD then Stekene at a crisp 45kph average was it. Last stop is Temse next Tuesday for the final UCI level race.          

Back in the UCI at Stekene and smiles were strictly optional

Back in the UCI at Stekene and smiles were strictly optional

Third in line on Lap 5 and looking comfortable

Third in line on Lap 5 and looking comfortable

Stekene peloton at the 70k mark passing the Stekene pub with Conor coming into shot (on the right) 

Stekene peloton at the 70k mark passing the Stekene pub with Conor coming into shot (on the right

Kokerelle B&B in Oudenaarde with Elsa (black) and Olga (white). 

Kokerelle B&B in Oudenaarde with Elsa (black) and Olga (white). 

august 12 - verbust, merckx, coliyn & TEMSE

A chance to catch up with Eddy Verbust and see through the Verbust Museum (acknowledged as the best private cycling museum in Belgium). Eddy then kindly arranged a tour of the Eddy Merckx Velodrome in Ghent where we met Luc Coliyn (Belgian professional in the early 1980's in the Fangio Pro Team). 

Late in the day we drove down to Temse (near Antwerp) to see Koen Verhulst race in a VWB League event over 50k. The VWB League is yet anorher "league" in Belgium unrelated to either the UCI or WAOD and just adding to the seemingly endless supply of local Belgian racing.

The Verbust Museum has hundreds of posters, jerseys, medals, magazines from numerous professional road races & the Ghent Six Day track event. These posters are all personally signed by the professional riders.

The Verbust Museum has hundreds of posters, jerseys, medals, magazines from numerous professional road races & the Ghent Six Day track event. These posters are all personally signed by the professional riders.

In amongst the countless posters was the last Eddy Merckx track bike used by Matthew Gilmore. Sweet.

In amongst the countless posters was the last Eddy Merckx track bike used by Matthew Gilmore. Sweet.

Inside the Eddy Merckx Velodrome in Ghent

Inside the Eddy Merckx Velodrome in Ghent

Eddy Merckx Velodrome with Luc Coliyn (ex Belgian professional for the Fangio Pro Team) 

Eddy Merckx Velodrome with Luc Coliyn (ex Belgian professional for the Fangio Pro Team) 

Eddy Merckx Velodrome in Ghent

Eddy Merckx Velodrome in Ghent

The Temse Kermis race in the VWB League. Koen Verhulst in the yellow fluro overshoes. Conor has his final race at the Temse Kermis UCI race next Tuesday and a good opportunity today to review the circuit.

The Temse Kermis race in the VWB League. Koen Verhulst in the yellow fluro overshoes. Conor has his final race at the Temse Kermis UCI race next Tuesday and a good opportunity today to review the circuit.

Koen & Stijn Verhulst after the finish. Maybe a Duvel or a Vedett ?

Koen & Stijn Verhulst after the finish. Maybe a Duvel or a Vedett ?

VWB League action passing the The Falcon pub at the Temse Kermis. Typical of a Belgian kermis bike race with good crowds, good beer and pubs like The Falcon doing a roaring trade .... the sort of little Flemish pub lost in the last century (at least) where your shoes seemingly stick to the floor and a barmaid who looks like your grandmother. The Falcon had it all ...      

VWB League action passing the The Falcon pub at the Temse Kermis. Typical of a Belgian kermis bike race with good crowds, good beer and pubs like The Falcon doing a roaring trade .... the sort of little Flemish pub lost in the last century (at least) where your shoes seemingly stick to the floor and a barmaid who looks like your grandmother. The Falcon had it all ...      

august 9 - wall of huy & ardenne loop

With a small gap in the racing calendar it was a chance to go down to Huy (more precisely the Mur of Huy with a maximum 26% and average of 19%) as the main objective of the day. We simply downloaded a recent major cyclosportive route onto the Garmin and followed numerous low traffic roads and climbs through the Ardenne. The Mur (Wall) of Huy was as expected (super steep) and straight up out of Huy town in 38 x 28.        

The Fleche Walloone Pro Classic passes through Huy each year and finishes on top of the famous Wall. What the TV shots never seem to show is that the Tihange nuclear power plant is barely 2k from the town centre.

The Fleche Walloone Pro Classic passes through Huy each year and finishes on top of the famous Wall. What the TV shots never seem to show is that the Tihange nuclear power plant is barely 2k from the town centre.

Mur (Wall) of Huy with the town in the background going through turn 1 @ 26% 

Mur (Wall) of Huy with the town in the background going through turn 1 @ 26% 

Mur of Huy through turn 2 is slightly easier at 22% 

Mur of Huy through turn 2 is slightly easier at 22% 

GVA won Olympic Gold and Het Nieuwsblad liked the result.

GVA won Olympic Gold and Het Nieuwsblad liked the result.

august 8 - Koppenberg count - Conor leads 4-0

Some days in pays to speak Flemish & be able to actually read a Flemish cycling website ... we drive to Meilegen for a 64k kermis race with high anticipation only to discover that the race had been cancelled !. Oops. So it was a training ride instead up the Koppenberg where Conor leads the Black Beast 4-0 (meaning 4 rides up the Koppenberg with no crashes or long walks). Conor is now using 38 x 25 in the crown of the Kberg cobbles. Tomorrow we drive to the Wall of Huy (maximum gradient of 25%) combined with a 110k loop through the Ardenne from the village of Nandrin.   

Top of the Koppenberg looking back over the cliff to the village of Melden

Top of the Koppenberg looking back over the cliff to the village of Melden

After the no show at Meilegen it was off to the Koppenberg (also known by local club riders as the Black Beast). The Kokerelle B&B feels (and smells) like a visit to the Royal Easter Show. Kokerelle has 2 horses, 2 pigs, a peloton of chooks, a few goats, cows, some sheep, deer (in the photo above) plus Billy the Pug dog.  

After the no show at Meilegen it was off to the Koppenberg (also known by local club riders as the Black Beast). The Kokerelle B&B feels (and smells) like a visit to the Royal Easter Show. Kokerelle has 2 horses, 2 pigs, a peloton of chooks, a few goats, cows, some sheep, deer (in the photo above) plus Billy the Pug dog.  

Walking up the Black Beast

Walking up the Black Beast

august 7 - basil verhulst (Signs for Molteni Arcore)

Some 200 of the faithful Verhulst peloton joined forces (meaning they all got together with a few Duvels) to celebrate the birth of Basil Verhulst (winner of the 2040 Tour of Flanders).  The Basil party was called a "babyborrel " ... where all the relatives come to see the new baby at the one time (and not randomly visit (annoy) the parents just after the birth). So all the relatives just wait until the babyborrel to see the new baby. Most of the relatives cycled their street bikes to the function. The formal christening of Basil is done at a latter date.

Basil & Jasmine Verhulst at the babyborrel.  Basil was presented with his new Molteni Arcore pro team (baby size) jersey for the 2040 Tour of Flanders. Basil refused to comment on Molteni team salary negotiations. 

Basil & Jasmine Verhulst at the babyborrel.  Basil was presented with his new Molteni Arcore pro team (baby size) jersey for the 2040 Tour of Flanders. Basil refused to comment on Molteni team salary negotiations. 

August 6 - race in kalken (GHENT)

The Kalken Kermis was on a quick circuit of 3.9k per lap with only two corners for the 77k distance. The circuit is situated just beside the E17 Freeway (to Antwerp) hidden in amongst a jungle of farmers fields growing maize & hops (for brewing beer). 

As usual the breakaway went early with 7 riders and they went out to a 25 second lead and it stayed that way for lap after lap. Finally they were caught with 5 laps to go and the winning break went away immediately. Conor Verhulst-Tarlington rode well in the peloton with good position throughout and finished 22nd from 60 starters for an excellent result. Prizemoney at Kalken was another 3 Euro plus a can of drink taking total Belgian career earnings to 9 Euro & 3 cans of drink. Maarten Verhulst is still waiting for his percentage cut of the winnings ....    

The local hops factory served as the Kalken Kermis registration area

The local hops factory served as the Kalken Kermis registration area

A common sight at all Belgian kermis races - extensive police co-operation & they do a great job

A common sight at all Belgian kermis races - extensive police co-operation & they do a great job

The Kalken Kermis races through the maize & hops fields in relative tranquillity. The E17 Freeway to Antwerp was just 750m away.  

The Kalken Kermis races through the maize & hops fields in relative tranquillity. The E17 Freeway to Antwerp was just 750m away.  

Conor Verhulst on lap 5 at the Kalken Kermis

Conor Verhulst on lap 5 at the Kalken Kermis

Conor Verhulst on lap 10 at the Kalken Kermis

Conor Verhulst on lap 10 at the Kalken Kermis

august 4 - Roubaix velodrome

The next race is on August 6 so a chance to see the Roubaix Velodrome minus the crowds and April weather. From Oudenaarde its just a 35k drive into Roubaix (maybe 45k on a bike for a 90k return ride).   

Roubaix Velodrome with the Roubaix Lille Metropole Team Car outside the team headquarters

Roubaix Velodrome with the Roubaix Lille Metropole Team Car outside the team headquarters

Roubaix Velodrome on the finish line of the Paris Roubaix Classic

Roubaix Velodrome on the finish line of the Paris Roubaix Classic

august 3 - Antwerp derny classic (with tom boonen) 

Every time we venture into Antwerp with Eddy & Maria Verhulst to see a bike race it seems to rain. In 2006 we saw Nico Eeckhout win a Belgian Pro Road Championship (Boonen was 3rd that year) in the pouring rain, then Robbie McEwen won the Antwerp Derny Classic in 2006 in another heavy thunderstorm. Again today the weather was simply awful with constant rain making the cobblestones in central Antwerp so slippery they were difficult to walk on let alone chase a tiny derny through greasy corners. The star attractions were Tom Boonen & Filippo Pozzato with the Derny Classic held over 3 separate heats of 30 minutes per heat (winner is on overall points). Had a good chat with Dennis Luckermans who runs the Belgian dernys and he was most helpful on the enhanced petrol mixture now being used - this will help John Crouchley (BiciSport) in restoring the seven Dunc Gray Velodrome dernys (used at the Sydney Olympics).  

Tom Boonen takes the left hand turn across the greasy cobbles in steady rain at the Antwerp Derny Classic. The derny riders themselves are usually ex professionals with excellent bike handling skills. They also have strict dress codes as to what they can wear (obviously more is better to assist the rider for less wind resistance). To get around the dress code restrictions the "naturally bigger" the derny rider the better.  

Tom Boonen takes the left hand turn across the greasy cobbles in steady rain at the Antwerp Derny Classic. The derny riders themselves are usually ex professionals with excellent bike handling skills. They also have strict dress codes as to what they can wear (obviously more is better to assist the rider for less wind resistance). To get around the dress code restrictions the "naturally bigger" the derny rider the better.  

Pozzato (in red) in the Derny peloton of 14 riders , 14 dernys & 3 spare dernys at the rear (for Derny breakdowns). The little dernys sounded great with the beer tents doing a great business despite the weather   

Pozzato (in red) in the Derny peloton of 14 riders , 14 dernys & 3 spare dernys at the rear (for Derny breakdowns). The little dernys sounded great with the beer tents doing a great business despite the weather   

Tom Boonen approaches the greasy left hand corner in never ending Antwerp rain

Tom Boonen approaches the greasy left hand corner in never ending Antwerp rain

august 1 - race in bazel (Antwerp)

Bazel was a delightful little village on the outskirts of Antwerp. The circuit was mostly single lane Flemish country lanes and only the finish straight resembled a normal road. 61 starters lined up with 3 riders getting away on lap 4 (of 11) and they stayed away. Conor rode an excellent race and held good position throughout the 75k distance. Final placing was 26th for another 3 Euro pay day and another 43kph average speed.  

Maarten Verhulst & Conor before the Bazel start

Maarten Verhulst & Conor before the Bazel start

Conor passing the 'T Hoekske Pub before the Bazel finishing straight. Serves a great Westmalle Triple ...

Conor passing the 'T Hoekske Pub before the Bazel finishing straight. Serves a great Westmalle Triple ...

Bell lap at Bazel with the peloton chasing the three breakaways with a 43kph average for the 75k

Bell lap at Bazel with the peloton chasing the three breakaways with a 43kph average for the 75k

The Verhulst family turned up to support Conor in Bazel including Koen, Maarten and Lies Verhulst

The Verhulst family turned up to support Conor in Bazel including Koen, Maarten and Lies Verhulst

July 30 - Mechelen post tour criterium

With nothing open in Oudenaarde it was off to a post Tour criterium in search of a café that was actually open. The Mechelen Pizza Pasta café in this shot was just that place ... all the Pizza shop owner knew about Australia was "I hear you have insects & spiders".  Thanks Eddy, nice pizza. Moving on ... the post Tour criteriums are more akin to karaoke on a bike - the break goes, then by pure magic it comes back, peloton still chatting & smiling, then another "breakaway" goes with another Tour de France hero, magic happens and it comes back (again) just in time for the local favourite to take the win. Magic happens again. The more beer you drink at these post Tour criteriums the more realistic the racing was ...    

With nothing open in Oudenaarde it was off to a post Tour criterium in search of a café that was actually open. The Mechelen Pizza Pasta café in this shot was just that place ... all the Pizza shop owner knew about Australia was "I hear you have insects & spiders".  Thanks Eddy, nice pizza. Moving on ... the post Tour criteriums are more akin to karaoke on a bike - the break goes, then by pure magic it comes back, peloton still chatting & smiling, then another "breakaway" goes with another Tour de France hero, magic happens and it comes back (again) just in time for the local favourite to take the win. Magic happens again. The more beer you drink at these post Tour criteriums the more realistic the racing was ...    

JULY 29 - race in beveren ... Waas great

Beveren Waas is on the outskirts of Antwerp with a 6.45pm start over 75k and 11 laps. Beveren was the first start for Conor in the WAOD League. 50 riders started on a circuit that was a mixture of dual carriageway and single lane narrow Flemish lanes. The pace was brisk from the off and went to 50kph and finally settled by half way. Conor was riding well and in there comfortably to such a degree Maarten & myself had a few Duvels. Conor rode very well for an excellent 24th place (from 50 starters) and won 3 Euro plus a can of soft drink. The average speed for the 75k was a sharp 43kph.  

Maarten Verhulst & Conor at Beveren. Maarten is not only the Race Director at the Velle race on August 16 (Conor's last race) but kindly assisted with getting the WAOD licence at short notice, provided lunch and a hot shower afterwards.   

Maarten Verhulst & Conor at Beveren. Maarten is not only the Race Director at the Velle race on August 16 (Conor's last race) but kindly assisted with getting the WAOD licence at short notice, provided lunch and a hot shower afterwards.   

Beveren Waas peloton on lap 2

Beveren Waas peloton on lap 2

Conor passing the Beveren Waas corner pub with 250 metres to the finish

Conor passing the Beveren Waas corner pub with 250 metres to the finish

An excellent Beveren Waas peloton finish for 24th at 43kph

An excellent Beveren Waas peloton finish for 24th at 43kph

Conor & Maarten Verhulst after the finish discussing how to split the 3 Euro prizemoney

Conor & Maarten Verhulst after the finish discussing how to split the 3 Euro prizemoney

July 28 - BMC SERVICE COURSE + Spa Francorchamps 

Just outside Oudenaarde is the BMC Concept Store plus the BMC Pro Team Service Course. The Service Course has a glass viewing wall so it's easy to just look in at all the activity. Then it was a 2 hour drive down to Leige and the Spa Francorchamps motor racing circuit for the practice session for the Spa 24 Hours (for Le Mans style cars).      

Mercedes team car ... nice

Mercedes team car ... nice

BMC Service Course looking through the glass viewing wall. The endless rows of wheelsets are to right of this picture as is the massive mechanics lorry.    

BMC Service Course looking through the glass viewing wall. The endless rows of wheelsets are to right of this picture as is the massive mechanics lorry.    

Conor at Spa Francochamps Motor Racing Circuit in the main Paddock as Le Mans style cars leave the pits for Eau Rouge & Kemmel Straight.

Conor at Spa Francochamps Motor Racing Circuit in the main Paddock as Le Mans style cars leave the pits for Eau Rouge & Kemmel Straight.

JULY 27 - race in Deinze ... 46.1kph AV for 114k & 154 micro sprints

Deinze looked more like Chatswood being full of high rise apartments than a sleepy Belgian village and the car parking was more akin to Warringah Mall than some quiet country road. If you can imagine doing a bike race around Artarmon, through Lane Cove and laps of Chatswood then this was it. There was high density housing, traffic everywhere (thankfully no cars on the course itself) and a real urban style concrete jungle. Only the Belgians could attempt to run a bike race on an urban circuit like this. The 145 starters lined up for a lesson in super fast Belgian kermis racing with Deinze well known for ex pro's being on the start line to stir it all up. The race was absolutely full gas from the start and by the end of lap 1 there were 146 riders in single file and all on the utter limit. It was painful to watch. Conor's computer registered over 50kph average for the first three laps and the peloton looked like a grenade had gone off by the end of lap 4. Brutal really doesn't describe Belgian kermis racing and now its time for a change of strategy to WAOD (Division 2) level races from here on. The next race is in Beveren Waas near Antwerp on July 29 in the WAOD League.           

Deinze results in Het Niewsblad the next day with 145 starters at an average speed of 46.1kph !!! for 114k. Couple that 46.1kph with 11 corners per lap (full gas) and that amounts to 154 micro sprints plus the racing in between the micro sprints.   

Deinze results in Het Niewsblad the next day with 145 starters at an average speed of 46.1kph !!! for 114k. Couple that 46.1kph with 11 corners per lap (full gas) and that amounts to 154 micro sprints plus the racing in between the micro sprints.   

Deinze Kermis is about beer, some more beer and some tough Belgian kermis racing

Deinze Kermis is about beer, some more beer and some tough Belgian kermis racing

Deinze bookmakers betting on the Kermis races is common in Belgium

Deinze bookmakers betting on the Kermis races is common in Belgium

Conor (in red) at the Deinze start, passing the main kermis entertainment tent (beside the Church !)

Conor (in red) at the Deinze start, passing the main kermis entertainment tent (beside the Church !)

Passing the Deinze Church just after the finish line ... prayers won't help you with a 50kph+ average speed

Passing the Deinze Church just after the finish line ... prayers won't help you with a 50kph+ average speed

July 26 - roeselare POST Tour Criterium

A short drive from Oudenaarde to Roeselare in West Flanders for a post Tour criterium. The mandatory breakaway goes out to a 45 second lead (crowd doesn't even notice), then the magic catch by a peloton doing a lot of talking & smiling (crowd still too busy having a beer), Thomas De Gendt attacks (crowd finally wakes up for the local lad), Greg Van Avermatt does a bit (crowd something close to excitement as its another Belgian after all), Michael Matthews digs in (crowd impressed), the local Tour legend wins (crowd goes crazy). Happy days & where is my Duvel. Lets do it again tomorrow in Lommel on the Dutch border & St Niklaas on Friday.   

Conor at the Roeselare Criterium with Greg Van Avermatt, Michael Matthews, Thomas De Gendt & friends

Conor at the Roeselare Criterium with Greg Van Avermatt, Michael Matthews, Thomas De Gendt & friends

Post Tour de France Criteriums are in Flanders over the next week in Aalst, Roeselare, Lommel, St Niklaas & Antwerp

Post Tour de France Criteriums are in Flanders over the next week in Aalst, Roeselare, Lommel, St Niklaas & Antwerp

JULY 25 - race in SINAAI # 2

The same course & same start venue as two days previous. The Molenhoek Kermis (or fete) was still raging and hosted 3 race days in succession to keep the locals drinking their Duvel. At the back of the massive kermis tent were local belges shooting arrows !! (with rubber noses) at a prize wall of toys (hit one and you take it home). Never seen that before & whatever rocks your boat. The aussie support group in the VerHulst family plus Sylle De Dock (ex Tulip Computers Pro Team swannie) turned up in force to support Conor.

Just 57 entrants (previously 113 two days before) lined up and again included the Belgian Elite Road Champion in Joeri Stalleart. The pace was on from the start and a break of 10 riders went away on lap 1 and 10 riders bridged across on lap 2. Conor was looking comfortable just sitting in the 37 rider peloton during laps 3 & 4. Across the rough Sinaai cobbles on lap 5 and the SRAM rear mech has a big moment and the gears just jammed. By the time it was sorted the race was long gone. Race over and a big sigh from the Conor-VerHulst fan club on the finish barriers. The next race is two days away in Deinze in East Flanders.    

Molenhoek kermis beer tent (and rider registration)

Molenhoek kermis beer tent (and rider registration)

The Molenhoek Kermis in Sinaai has been going since 1912

The Molenhoek Kermis in Sinaai has been going since 1912

... at the back of the kermis tent ... don't do this on Duvel

... at the back of the kermis tent ... don't do this on Duvel

Conor with local Flandrian rider Donovan Baillieu (Team Gaverzicht)

Conor with local Flandrian rider Donovan Baillieu (Team Gaverzicht)

Sinaai start line

Sinaai start line

Conor (in red) looking comfortable on Lap3 at Sinaai

Conor (in red) looking comfortable on Lap3 at Sinaai

Conor-VerHulst Fan Club at Sinaai (includes Adelaide jersey & koala)

Conor-VerHulst Fan Club at Sinaai (includes Adelaide jersey & koala)

JULY 23 - race in SINAAI # 1

Belgian "kermis" races are generally 120k and are run off in something like 2 hrs 45 minutes ... do the math on that and if sounds quick it feels quicker. Kermis simply means a community style fair (or fete) and the bike race is the "entertainment" and an excuse for the fete patrons to drink a barrel of belgian beer while the cyclists carve each other up. Sinaai is near St Niklaas in East Flanders and 9k per lap with 13 laps. The circuit had two stretches of cobbles. The start list numbered 113 with the current Belgian Champion and several internationals from Canada, Ireland, UK plus some Dutch domestic teams. 

Conor started in the middle of the peloton and the first lap of 9k took just 11 minutes (do the math on that !). The second lap and there was a crash which Conor avoided (rode over a fellow competitors front wheel) and chased and got back on the peloton. Nice work. Meanwhile a group of 20 had escaped and formed the breakaway of the day. Conor was looking comfortable through laps 3 & 4 (as much as you can averaging 45kph) and preparations were made for MO'R to hit the Belgian beer tent. Unfortunately another crash on the cobbles during lap 5 split the peloton. Conor wasn't directly involved but was delayed enough to end his day. Overall a pleasing start with the next race planned for Monday July 25 again near St Niklaas. Dinner was celebrated in Antwerp with Frans Ver Hulst who turned 90. The Ver Hulst family have been great supporters of BiciSport cyclists in Belgium over many years.        

Sinaai start line was a crowded affair with 113 starters including the current Belgian Road Champion

Sinaai start line was a crowded affair with 113 starters including the current Belgian Road Champion

Sinaai at the end of Lap 1 and the peloton was already full gas

Sinaai at the end of Lap 1 and the peloton was already full gas

Sinaai race school ... avoided two crashes, smashed over two stretches of filthy Belgian cobbles each lap.   

Sinaai race school ... avoided two crashes, smashed over two stretches of filthy Belgian cobbles each lap.   

Frans Ver Hulst celebrates turning 90 in Antwerp. The Ver Hulst family have generously supported several BiciSport riders over the years to race in Belgium.   

Frans Ver Hulst celebrates turning 90 in Antwerp. The Ver Hulst family have generously supported several BiciSport riders over the years to race in Belgium.   

JULY 21 ... A NEw DAY A NEW TEAM & JERSEY

Conor met with the ASFRA Racing Team principal Luc Assez at Flanders Cycles in Oudenaarde. Luc presented Conor with his new ASFRA Flanders Cycles team kit. ASFRA sponsor a range of teams from Under 15 up to the semi professional level.

Conor with Luc Assez of ASFRA- Flanders Cycles Racing Team in Oudenaarde  

Conor with Luc Assez of ASFRA- Flanders Cycles Racing Team in Oudenaarde  

JULY 20 ... Its a BERG-FEST

First training ride over 35k in 30 degree heat and its a 5k warm up along the Kluisbergen Railtrail to Melden with the first stop being the Koppenberg (heck, why not ?), then it was off to the Old Kwaremont climb and a photo opportunity at the Karel Van Wijndeale Monument (creator of the Tour of Flanders Classic). Barely had time to say "where is my Duvel beer" and we climbed the 22% Patersberg (Patersberg never looked this hard on EuroSport). Final berg of the day came shortly afterwards at the Kortekeer climb plus a brief crossing of the Etikove cobbles.   

Koppenberg and the only way is up ...

Koppenberg and the only way is up ...

Approaching the Koppenberg ... under the trees the gradient is 22% and Conor used 38 x 28. 

Approaching the Koppenberg ... under the trees the gradient is 22% and Conor used 38 x 28. 

Karel Van Wijndeale Monument at the top of the Old Kwaremont climb (note every winner has a cobble)  

Karel Van Wijndeale Monument at the top of the Old Kwaremont climb (note every winner has a cobble)  

 

Kokerelle & Oudenaarde

Conor Tarlington & Mike O'Reilly arrived 19 July and settled into "home" for the next month of racing in Belgium. The Kokerelle B&B (www.kokerelle.be) is in the small village of Maarke Kerkem just 4k from Oudenaarde. The Kokerelle B&B sits just beside the Eikenberg cobbled climb used in the Tour of Flanders and only 5k from any number of famous cobbled climbs also used in the Flanders classic. The Koppenberg is just 8k away and the Old Kwaremont maybe 10k and if you're really keen the Roubaix Velodrome is a 75k round trip on the Schelde River bike path.

Belgian Racing Guide

An excellent Belgian racing guide can be found at www.thechainstay.com in the Belgian Racing Guide section. This website has numerous handy insights into how and when the racing scene operates in Flanders.

Kokerelle B&B gardens in Maarke Kerkem near the Eikenberg (photo taken 20 July 16)

Kokerelle B&B gardens in Maarke Kerkem near the Eikenberg (photo taken 20 July 16)