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21-09-2021 | Wouter Fioole

De Ronde!

While last week I was almost 2 hours late heading for the hills of South Limburg, this time I'm next to my bed 10 minutes before my alarm goes off: Flemish hills are waiting! It's been too long since I've been riding there, but today's We Ride Flanders or 'de Ronde' as the locals call it is finally on. And it promises to be a beautiful day!


The last half hour on the way to the start in Oudenaarde is already fantastic. Under a brilliant blanket of mist, the Flemish countryside awakens. Hill peaks and trees just stick out above the fog, just like the church towers of the somewhat lower lying villages. The sun comes through agonizingly slowly like a kind of Philips Ambilight. Here I will be bouncing for another seven hours or so over cobblestones and fall silent on steep bad roads. Or both. What a feast!

No 'Muur'

As usual, I ride the 177 km route. There is also the possibility to ride 217 km, but that trip starts in Antwerp and finishes in Oudenaarde. You can use the shuttle service or be driven to Antwerp before and after, but that doesn't really appeal to me. Yes, you do ride more kilometers, but you end up with fewer cobblestone sections and real climbs. To my horror, however, I see that from the loop of 177 'De Muur (wall) of Geraardsbergen' is removed. Now we do a 40 kilometer loop a bit more north, after the 2300 meters of delicious bouncing on the Paddestraat. Here we encounter some more cobblestone lanes with the Lange Munte and the Lippenhovenstraat and numerous shorter nameless pieces. Also nice, but de Muur really belongs in it of course.


Very quiet

It was remarkably quiet for me on the course. Right from the start I rode from small group to small group. Normally it's a bunch ride until the Wolvenberg (first climb). On each stretch and climb I was able to keep up. Especially on the Koppenberg, there was (finally) plenty of room to accelerate. Normally there is a real traffic jam and sometimes even dosed participants are allowed through to ensure dispersion. This is probably because the participants of this year could choose whether they wanted to convert their registration to now or to the edition of 2022. It did not affect the atmosphere at all! Lots of chatter, lots of people standing by the side of the road taking a look. One or more signalmen at each difficult traffic point. Wonderful villages, miserable roads, beautiful views. A must for every amateur rider!


Only downside: the sun shining all day. Flanders is supposed to ride in the wind and rain. As Will Tura sang: ... "Nowhere does the rain fall so tender and rushing. And nowhere does the wind blow so lovingly, so softly" ... So hopefully next spring it will be that way again.

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