BBB “Flanders” Century Ride

On Sunday 25 June, this year’s BBB century ride (100 miles) proposed two itineraries. One option was to repeat last year’s ride to Namur, with steady climbing around the Meuse valley, and taking on the mythical Citadelle de Namur (Tour de Wallonie, Tour de France 2015,…), with a lunch in the Walloon capital. The other option was a choice for some Flemish hill bombing, with 6 of the world’s most famous cobbled climbs: Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Koppenberg, Taaienberg, Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg.

Report about Century ride to the Flemish Ardennes, by Neal M and Emiel VD.

BBB "Fast Flanders Century Ride", by Neal

“Two “Flanders” groups set off at 8am from Bois de la Cambre, aiming to pace at 23 and 27km/h. The Pajottenland, a glimpse of the Pays des Collines and the Flemish Ardennes, form the hilly scenery of this Ronde van Vlaanderen starting from Brussels for once.

The first two obstacles of the day are situated around Ronse with the Kanarieberg, towards the Muziekbos, and Knokteberg/Côte de Trieu, to the Kluisbos. It’s not without importance to mention these woods, since trees form a natural air conditioning, on a day with summer temperatures climbing over 30°C. After the long cobbles of the Oude Kwaremont and the steep ones of the Paterberg, we have a lunch break in Oudenaarde, at the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen.

And who's sitting there on the terrass? Peter Van Petegem, the "Zwarte of Brakel"!

And who’s sitting there on the terrass? Peter Van Petegem, the “Zwarte of Brakel”, winner of the Ronde in 1999 and of the double Ronde+Roubaix in 2003. He’s cycling today with his son Axandre, who’s riding for Jumbo Visma Development Team. After a group picture with Peter in the middle, we have croque monsieur and spaghetti lunch, and a (alcohol free) Kwaremont beer. We refill our bidons and head towards the Koppenberg, with 600m of cobbles at an average gradient of 11,4%, followed by the Taaienberg, where some once more take on the cobbles, while others give it a try riding in the “boordje”.
The quiet Foreest forms an asphalted intermezzo on the way to Geraardsbergen, from where we’ll climb the Muur and Bosberg. This used to be the final of the Ronde, before the finish was moved to Oudenaarde. However, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the first “Classic” of the season, chose for a revival of the mythical Muur-Bosberg, as did the Tour de France 2019. On top of the Bosberg, our last climb of the day, lays the Woodcafé, where we stop for much needed hydration.
Being cooked by the sun, especially during the warm afternoon, the way back home through the Pajottenland is tough, but we are happy and proud we made it. It was another high day for the Brussels Big Brackets, with cobbled climbs, heath, hydration and an exemplary team spirit.”

BBB "Chill Flanders Century Ride", by Emiel

“The idea came to us from one of our English members: a ride that is one ‘century’ long: meaning 100 English Miles. An interesting concept, with quite a few challenges.

The first challenge was, of course, the distance. Even though I thought 100 Miles is the same as 160 kilometers, which already seemed long enough, the route turned out to be 180 kilometers long. Somehow the Brexit negotiators had managed to squeeze in an extra 20 kilometers! Since I had never done 160 k before, I felt pretty confident that 180 k would be just as easy (but not really…) Adding to this the ride to the starting point and back, I mentally prepared myself for a total of 189 kilometers. My friends and family asked if I had had any last wishes and insisted on saying goodbye for the last time! 

The biggest challenge of the day however wasn’t even the climbs, the cobbles or the distance, but the heat…

The next challenge was the ride itself. Perhaps it seems smart to choose a flat terrain for a ride this long? Making sure everybody would be able to make it to the finish? No, of course not! Hills and heightmeters it was! About 1800 heightmeters were awaiting us, amongst which the most (in)famous of the Flanders Classics: de Oude Kwaremont, de Paterberg, de Kanarieberg, de Bosberg and of course the Muur van Geraardsbergen. Names of famous riders were painted on the roads, making us feel a little bit part of the professional peloton. Most of the climbs were hard enough as such, but you have to keep in mind that these are cobblestone roads, adding just that bit of extra discomfort to the body – that slowly started to hurt everywhere anyway.
The biggest challenge of the day however wasn’t even the climbs, the cobbles or the distance, but the heat… With a predicted temperature of 31 degrees, we had to stop several times to refill our water bottles. Later in the afternoon, my Garmin showed me 36 degrees! It was better to keep cycling just to get that bit of breeze because once we stopped the heat of the tarmac rising up made us feel like an egg being fried.
You can imagine how proud we were to have finished the ride! To have seen the famous spots of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. To have accomplished such a distance under these circumstances. But most importantly: we just had a very great day, sharing pain and pleasure together, helping each other along the way. Even though Flandriens are usually made in rain and stormy weather, the Century Ride felt hard enough to make us feel like a Flandrien, even if for just one, very hot day.”
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