Saturday, 22 March 2014

The 2014 season is afoot - classics, cobbles, charity and a childhood dream comes true.

Up first is a Paris-Roubaix weekend - a genuine childhood dream: Friday 11th - Sunday 13th April, 2014.

courtesy of the incredibly generous Nico and his excellent Go4Cycling team.

Friday 11th April: will see me drive from Germany in my trusty Skoda (what else!) and arrive around mid-morning in Lille, France. After a quick trip to the hotel to drop off my gear, prepare the bike and a cafe creme we will all head towards the Pave for a little training and familiarisation. I hope we get to ride the Arenberg trench as this sector will not be part of the Saturday challenge - what say you Nico? Go4Cycling may have a 'professional' surprise in store, but we all awaiting final details - the little teases :-)

A section of the more civilised pave - to be ridden at full power and on the crest, at least according my old chum Gary.
At some point in the afternoon or early evening we will all head to the registration booth in the legendary Roubaix velodrome to pick up our numbers, packs and transponders. This will be the first time I have laid eyes, never mind feet, on this almost mythical sporting shrine. It may get emotional! I'm sure a 'traditional' Flandrian dinner will then follow before retiring for the night 
Johann Museeuw, 2002.
Saturday 12th April: After what Nico describes as 'an early breakfast' we return to the Roubaix Velodrome for the start of our two-wheeled adventure. Our multinational team of riders - my room mate will be jetting over from Brazil - will then limber up and prepare to ride though legend... more strong coffee may well be quaffed!
A Velocast design - from the finest cycling Podcast out there.
Our 70 km route contains 9.3 km of pave in seven sectors, including the infamous Carrefour de l'Arbre - where I will make my final attacking move (sorry, just couldn't resist!) 

Full details of the routes, including GPX downloads, can be found HERE.

Perfect: a start and finish in the Roubaix Velodrome, here;s the MAP.
Now for the sublime finish... we enter the Roubaix velodrome, race around the hallowed track and cross the line, hands aloft, perhaps with left leg unclipped and finger pointing triumphantly at the old knee (far too many years of rugby in my case!) The evening will be spent in civilized company, re-telling tales of cobbled derring-do and unimaginable suffering! An occasional local ale may well be supped... who knows for sure!

Sunday 13th April: After another early breakfast, with no doubt lots of coffee, water, juice and bacon butty's, we all jump in the fine Go4cycling VIP van(s) (complete with large flat screen TV, race commentary and plenty of Belgian and French nibbles and tipples) and head for the start village in Compiègne, there to wander the service course, chat to - and advise - the riders, DS's, mechanics, and generally mingle and absorb the atmosphere of this truly brutal yet magnificant sporting spectacle.

The support van - look who's driving! I wonder what happened to Bart?
Once the riders have signed on and the race has departed, so will we sally forth. A mad dash to the vans and off we go for a day of crazy Belgium hopscotch - leaping ahead of the race in order to view it from several locations - including the absolutely mythical and race defining Arenburg trench.

I'm not, at this point certain, where we will view the finish of the race, however I have no doubt that Go4cycling will have something very special up their sleeves!

When the dust has settled and the victor crowned we will slowly make our way back to Lille where I will have to say my fond farewell to my good friend Nico, Bart, Patrick and all their clients - who will be staying another night.

Some of us have to work on Monday, so back to the very rewarding day job of Applied Science lecturing and Physics teaching. I wonder how long it will be before my fine and talented students beg me to 'stop with the Roubaix already!' Little do they know what powerpoint slides await :-)

Ah, what dreams may come true!

My bike set up, for those interested:
Serotta Ottrott SE with Shimano 7800 Dura Ace (54/39 and 11-25), with Ambrosio Varo wheels, Vittoria Open Pave clincher tyres, touring inner tubes with sealant (Doc Blue?. Single taped bars for me though. I'll add a metal bottle cage and rubber band to keep the bottle in place and carry my spare tubes, pump, etc, in my rear pockets - I don't want to lose the saddle bag!


The next big event of me is scheduled to take place on the following week on Easter Monday.

The Skoda Velodom 100: 124.6 km, with a 45 km gentle ride home. 

Click here for maps, profiles and route downloads.
This event is scheduled to run alongside the famous Ruun um Koeln - one of Germany's few remaining professional races - you want to see what effect all this doping/cheating nonsense has, just take a look at Germany, where it is in serious trouble!


There is nothing then planned until June when I have booked my chum Bernd and I entry into the finest and most wonderfully eccentric cycling weekends you could wish for...

The Retro Ronde 2014: 14th and 15th June, 2014.

Saturday 14th June:
After loading Sophia and Bernd's chosen trusty steel steed into his trusty VW van - which WILL NOT break down again - we take a leisurely drive to Oudenaarde to sign in, collect our numbers and join the mornings 'social group ride', which will see us pootling up and down a few Helligen, including the Paterberg and Koppenburg. On return to the town and a bite to eat we'll drive to our now traditional B&B, the B&B Latemberg in Sint-Maria-Latem. Wim and Marina run a superb and very reasonably priced 3 roomed place only 10 km along the river from Oudenaarde. I highly recommend it to all cyclists and travellers. I love it... well it does have a sauna, beautiful garden and absolutely fantastic communal room. Just take a look at this...

Communal living room with TV, PC, honor code bar, and terrace.
We must be back in Oudenaarde for the 4pm start of my first ever. ahem, 'competitive race, the multispeed Retro Criterium - a 10 lap crit in and around the cobbled the town square and church. Should I make a good showing and qualify there will be a 'final' at 6:30 pm!
The programme of events is HERE
A fun evening will undoubtedly then develop!

Sunday 15th June:
The big day... The 8th edition of the magical Retro Ronde!

In true Flandrian fashion the Retro Ronde 100 embraces the cobbles! We'll head up the Tiegemberg which is followed almost immediately by the Oude Kwaremont and then the little know but quite possibly the steepest Le Rampe - the disaster! Several more later and we'll crawl up the Taaienberg too.

Here's are two fine audio-visual tasters from 2013...

Ah, heady days indeed!


My final event - so far - involves a very generous invitation to Les Alpes in late August for my first taste of serious mountain climbing and descending. 'Danke' my fine old chums Tim and Chris. Rouleurs and scholars both!

More to come as and when events are booked.

If you are attending any of these events please do get and touch or even pat me on shoulder and say 'Hi!'

Bon Courage all, tomorrow, we ride!


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