GP E3 Vlaanderen

Overall Distance 133k Time Taken 5:01
Height Climbed 2200+ metres Brevet  
Distance Climbed 10.9 km Category Position  
Date March 2009 Country Belgium
Entrants 3000+ Region Flanders

How fantastic is this?  It's March, it's my birthday, we're in Flanders and we're on the start line of the GP E3 sportive.

After watching the pro's race on Saturday at the start, on the Paadastrat; the legendary Flandrain road that strays in to Paris-Roubaix type technical difficulties, and the finish, it's time to tackle the event for ourselves.

We stayed in Kortrijk, the heart of the best cycling country you could wish for.  The restaurants, the people and the feel of the place just can't be beaten when it's classics time.  If you've thought of going but haven't yet, put it on your list for next year.  You'll not be disappointed.

The roar of the crowd as Boonen passed us to head for the start was something brits only see (hear?) at football matches.

He really is held in some regard in Belgium.  Which makes his recent shenanigans a little disappointing.  He is a role model to so many people but something in his life is obviously missing. 

When he attacked on the penultimate climb and took Pozzatto and Iglinski with him, it looked to be all over.  However, Pozzato beat him in the sprint, as he shot past a struggling Boonen who appeared to be a little overgeared.  Mental note to self; watch the gearing if it comes to a sprint finish!

An easy one to start the season!
Don't be fooled by the 133k seemingly "short" distance.  There are 11 classic Flandrian climbs in this compact, challenging and typically Belgian sportive.

Dianne took on the 60k event which had the Oude Kwaremont as the first climb, the Kluisberg as the second and  finished off with the Tigemberg.

I ended up riding most of the way to the first feed at La Hoppe with a Belgian who had a rucksack on his back and lights on his bike.  Although there are only two climbs up to the first feed, there were no flat bits!  Anything less than a classic berg isn't counted as a hill!

On one of the long false flats, the pace eased slightly and we struck up a conversation.  He lived in Gent and had decided at the last minute to come and do the event. 

All his mates had organised a van and trailer but there wasn't any room for him.  So he rode the 55k to the start (in the dark); was doing the 133k ride; then would ride home the 55k with all his mates, while someone else would drive the van!  A 245k day in the saddle, to get some training in. 

He stopped at the feed, unsurprisingly!  I felt I couldn't.  He'd done over 100k, and earned it; I didn't feel I had.  So I said my good-byes and carried on.  Slightly humbled.

The next hills came very thick and very, very fast...

 

km

Hellingen

Length

Gradient

 

 

33

Edelare

2000m

6%

 

 

53

La Houppe

2000m

6%

 

 

61

Berg Stene

1400m

8.5%

 

 

66

Boigneberg

1300m

8.5%

 

 

71

Eikenberg ~ Cobbled

1175m

5.5%

 

 

79

Taaienberg ~ Cobbled Max 18%

475m

9.5%

 

 

90

Kapelberg

750 m

7.2%

 

 

94

Paterberg ~ Cobbled Max 20%

375 m

12.8%

 

 

97

Oude Kwaremont ~ Cobbled

2200m

4.2%

 

 

108

Kluisberg

1500m

6%

 

 

118

Tiegemberg

1400m

6.5%

 

 

It's my birthday!
I picked up a fast group of super-huge Belgians, who looked more like a group of body builders than cyclists.  It's surprising how the Belgian cyclists don't fit the body model of what we would expect of a typical cyclist. 

Quite a lot of them are way over 90 kilos, but don't have an ounce of fat on them.  They have shoulders like swimmers and just smash the bikes over the climbs yet glide over cobbles in ways I can only dream.  They really are something special and are fantastically nice people.

We had a ball for 50k, them on a training ride at tempo, me at threshold and breathing through my exhaust port.  On the 2200 metre cobbled Oude Kwaremont, the elastic stretched to breaking point.  At the top was the second feed...

The Belgian events normally have these small frangipane cakes.  They're like Bakewell Tarts but without the jam, the icing and the cherry.  So in effect, there nothing like a Bakewell Tart but they taste the same.  Bloody gorgeous!  Anyway, it's my birthday and I want some cake. It seemed a good a reason as any to stop.

One in the mouth, one in the back pocket for later with a cup of tea, and I'm on the go again with less than a minute lost.  Jumped in with another group that didn't stop and got a full speed, echeloned armchair ride back to Oudenaardestraat. 

We screamed down the finishing straight to the race HQ and crossed the line in 5:01.  As our sprint unfolded, I raised myself out of the saddle and went to change up; nothing!  The speed, the tailwind and my legs were all at maximum.  I'd run out of gears to push against. 

Just as well really.  In the end we covered 133, very hilly, kms at an average speed of 25.7 km/h.  I was a little miffed at being over five hours, but then I remembered my cake.  It was a price worth paying.

Dianne's ride took in the last three climbs, so she started out with the cobbled Kwaremont, above, but as usual had a ball. And for once she never got lost.

Time for a cup of tea and the cake, then it's load up the van and head off back to St Malo for the boat home.

website GP E3 Prijse Vlaanderen
hotel

Ibis Kortrijk