Two O'clock Friday afternoon; Clem, Alex and I are bounding through Liverpool Street station, all eager to get the weekend underway. We rode from the home to the station, jumped on a train and within an hour we where at the home of 'Director Sportif' of the Eastern regions youth and junior teams, Mr Alan (Roz) Rosner. By ten pm local time we had arrived at the Kortrijk Youth hostel that I spent many nights in last season. The journey time about the same as it would take me too drive to any race up north, showing just how easy it is to find yourself in Flanders.
The itinerary of each day would be vaguely similar, driving thirty kilometers to Oudenarde each morning, after which we would depart in pretty miserable and very Flemish weather. Then proceeding to take in pretty much every cobble under the sun (or lack of it). Lots of iconic cobbled climbs like the Muur, Bosberg and Koppenburg, that all looked very different than on the telly.
Riding up one of the lower gradient sections of the Muur.
The new Condor definitely enjoyed its maiden journey out to Belgie.
The cobbles of the short but sweet Paterberg.
As Nieuwelingen (Youth) kermis races in Belgium rarely take on cobbles I had little if not no experience of riding on the rough stuff, especially whilst climbing. On one flat sector there was only one possible route to take; straight down the middle. Climbing in the wet was also very difficult, especially on the 25% gradients. The technique being to keep up your momentum at all cost, push down really hard on the pedals and keep your weight over the back wheel without letting the front wheel pop up into a wheelie mid climb... All pretty simple really! In all seriousness I learnt a great deal in the three days out there, experiences that will help a great deal in the future. The trip wouldnt have been possible without the huge amount of work Alan Rosner puts in, so a massive thankyou to him. I am hoping to give him a win on one of his trips out in Belgium this year, easier said than done!
Alan also told me about Chris Negus and the fund set up in memory of his life. I had previously been unaware about the huge amount of work it puts in too allow for us to race around Flanders all summer with the Eastern Region team. Alan told me of previous trips with Chris before his tragic death. So a huge thankyou to the Fund and everything it does to allow us to ride and learn.