hat are the odds you get to ride with one of your country’s cycling heroes? I’d say slim, but when an opportunity comes knocking on your door, just grab it with both hands I’d say. You don’t want to regret not having done certain things now do you?
When Rapha organized a ride in Belgium with no other than Johan Museeuw earlier this summer, I was pretty keen to ride alongside the famed Lion of Flanders. I cycled the Flemish Ardennes before which I really enjoyed. Hard at times, especially the cobblestone sections, but absolutely worth the ride. Added bonus of course is the simple fact that you know a lot of these roads and climbs from the Flemish classics. So yes, that ride with Museeuw was definitely something I was looking forward to.
I cycled the Flemish Ardennes before which I really enjoyed. Hard at times, especially the cobblestone sections, but definitely worth the ride.
The ride started early on Saturday morning in Ypres, which is quite a bit from where I live, so I left by train on Friday evening and spent the night in a B&B near the start. Unfortunately none of my cycling buddies were joining me for this epic one day adventure but I was pretty sure I could make some new ones ‘en route’. A small yet international group of riders showed up for the ride, mostly sporting Rapha kit. Australia, Japan, Greece, Norway, Belgium, Ukraine and the U.K. were all represented. Doesn’t get any more international than that in the heart of Europe now does it?
So this 200 km ride would bring us from Ypres to Brussels, tackling 4 notorious cobbled climbs (Kemmelberg, Kwaremont, Koppenberg and Kapelmuur) along the way. Now those 4 K’s are short but hefty climbs, but on a 200 km ride definitely doable for a novice rider like myself.
Museeuw turned out to be a top chap, always in for a chat and a laugh. After that dark period he went through* it’s good to see he has found joy in cycling again. He pedaled along nicely with the peloton, upped the pace near the Oude Kwaremont but overall granted us all our little moment to shine on one the climbs.
On the Bosberg however, the final climb of the day, you could see he had a little trick up his sleeve. After one guy took a couple of meters, it was time for The Lion to claw again. He got out of his saddle and put those impressive legs to work. I reacted instantly, but it didn’t last long before my both legs cramped. Museeuw on the other hand didn’t cave and reached the top of the climb first with meters to spare. The smirk on his face…
So 4 notorious climbs, that was what I had in mind for this ride. What I was not informed about however – but come to think about it, it made sense – was that we were also doing almost every other climb worth mentioning we passed. Think Paterberg, Taaienberg, Foreest, or Bosberg to name just a few. No rest for the wicked! You can imagine that post ride beers and snacks were all well deserved.
*Museeuw might not have ended his career in style, but man have a look at the races he has won: Paris Roubaix (3), Amstel Gold Race, Ronde van Vlaanderen (3), Paris Tours to name just a few. Still a legend!