Spring and Summer grass track, chaingangs, TTs, road racing, youth coaching and more! /// CCA Spring Grass Track Racing, Sat 11 May 2019 for Seniors, Youths and Kids /// Well done CCA Primavera Road Races organiser and helpers

Gent Wevelgem weekend

Spent last weekend in Flanders, riding the GW sportive and watching the race. Executive summary - fantastic weekend, you should do it. Though try and make sure you get the same weather we did....
More detail and photos below for those interested.

Arrived Friday afternoon and went straight to Harelbeke to catch the finish of E3. Really easy parking close to the finish and walking along the course to the finish straight, which was very busy but well supplied with frite vans, beer vans and the Kwaremont beer bus. Very easy to watch the final sprint and get close to the riders afterwards. Then off to Wevelgem 15 mins away to register for tomorrow. Registration very easy, took 15 mins. Then to the hotel, stayed in Diksmuide in the usual CCA hotel familiar to those who have been on the Belgium trip. Excellent as ever and we were well looked after as pretty much the only guests.

Early start Saturday - but having registered no hassle at all. Free coffee in the start village and a lot of excitement as all the riders tackling the full course gathered. there are 4 distances for the sportive: 60, 90, 140 or 215 km. We of course chose 215 km... All those doing the long course were encourage to start early between 7 and 8 a.m.
So off and immediately onto fantastic country roads through beautiful rural countryside. roads were narrow and quite technical with some sharp turns but great tarmac and no traffic. this is an open road event but virtually every junction had marshals who stopped the traffic. The locals love cycling so all motorists seemed to happily obey.
The ride was ridden fast... there were big groups formed right from the start, similar to RideLondon or ToC. We got to the half way point in what seemed like no time at all, averaging 19's. Could easily have been faster if you'd wanted to and been able to jump on the back as there were groups passing our large peloton regularly, but i was happy at that speed enjoying the ride (ie couldnt have gone faster!)

the weather was excellent which helped, cold start but by now upto 19 deg and light winds. however as we turned south up near Veurne, we entered the De Moeren area famous for cross winds. this was tougher with some messy echelons forming, and would have been really tough on a normal day with high winds. speeds dropped a bit here and again when we entered France and hit the climbs familiar to CCA Belgium riders. These arent long but after 90 miles they hurt. They found some new climbs too and took us on some great roads. plenty of scope to add these to any future CCA trip. after winding in and out of France we came back into Belgium and hit the Kemelberg, going up the steep cobbled side that we sometimes ride down in the September trip. very rough cobbles and very steep but quite short. From here it was a mere 30 miles or so back to the finish... via the descent of the K'berg, some flat roads, the tiring Plugstreets and then a long fast run in along the river. The adrenaline kicked in here and we found a wheel to follow and emptied the legs for a long sprint home. Ride complete 213 km / 133 miles at 17.5 mph in the end. collected the t shirt and got beer and frites in the village and enjoyed the amazing sunshine and the satisfying pain in the legs - this was a great ride but it did hurt!

Sunday... lie in, visit the Diksmuide chocolate shop then a leisurely ride along the canal to Ypres for lunch in the square, overlooking the course and big screen. watched a local crit, some kids races and then the womens race come through. then rode 10 km along the course, bumping into another race (junior or u23 maybe?) before riding up the Kemelberg to find a spot. the race was on a fast day too and came through the first time minutes after we arrived. fantastic viewing with the riders very close... see photos of Wout van Aert, Luke Rowe and Sagan. there was a big screen and big crowd (consuming.. you guessed it beer and frites) on the flat bit by the church so we watched for a bit there then found a spot on the other side of the K'berg (the bit we rode up yday) which was really crowded and a great atmosphere, to see the race come through again and watch the eventual winner Kristoff dragging himself up the climb to get back in the break. it was reassuring to see the riders really suffer on the climb. some of the back markers looked in a lot of trouble riding the steep cobbles and trying to keep contact with the bunch. everyone then piled back to the big screen to watch the last 40 km. this is a great race generally (see rouleur article ) and this year was an especially good one. having ridden the sportive and watched from the road, could begin to appreciate how hard it is to race 40 km to the finish after all those miles, and how much the climbs and plugstreets would take out of you at race pace, plus they had a much windier day than we did...

anyway back to the beer and frites.. road gingerly down the K/berg dodging drunk locals, coaches and policemen. the little town of Kemmel at the bottem was party town. barbecues, live music, djs playing cheesy euro-pop and some very lively bars. a very old tired looking bus parked at the bottom of the street turned out to be the Peter Sagan fan club so we chatted to some of them.. although its quite hard understanding a very drunk Slovakian... Anyway Kemmel was a lot of fun. Cycled back home accompanied by a bloke on a mountain bike wearing brown leather shoes heading for a party in Ypres. Tried upping the pace but he was up to the challenge. Said goodbye and headed back down the canal finishing with an ill advised traditional sprint into Diksmuide which allowed the legs to remind us that we had done enough of that sort of stuff yesterday.

In Diksmuide Skelders bar was packed for Flemish pub quiz night. Very posh, all done on tv screens and with mobile phones. then a game of pool and the honesty bar in the hotel. a great way to end the trip. home Monday morning, back by lunchtime.
this was a great trip, the weather definitely helped, but would thoroughly recommend this, or any of the spring classics in the region, they are very easy to go and watch and i think they all have associated amateur rides you can do.

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