Tour de France on the doorstep

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Are the French coming? A watchful crowd looks south across the rolling fields of Wallonia, just before the road to Brussels enters Waterloo. An invasion is expected soon. It is 18th June 1815 and the French army is about to … Continue reading

Tour de France 2018 – our dusty day in hell

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The sun is glaring down, baking the land in Belgium and Northern France. The landscape is fluffy clouds and blue skies above golden fields which have begun to be harvested early because of the heatwave. But across one set of … Continue reading

Two roads that will make you want to visit France next summer – the low and the high of the Cevennes

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There’s no finer way to plan a trip to France than to watch a few hours coverage of the Tour de France. The tourist authorities of each region pay a small fortune to have the helicopters fly overhead and capture … Continue reading

Of all the cycling bars in all the towns, in all the world, I had to walk into this one

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In my previous post I congratulated myself on finding a cheap apartment in a fantastic location in Milan (for that was the city in the images). However I was not there by accident. I chose it because it was near … Continue reading

Take your mind off Brexit: Fantasy Tour de France team 2016 uploaded

I am sick to death of mindlessly browsing the web to read other people’s anger about English football and Brexit.

Instead its time to mindlessly browse the web looking for minor details in the stage rankings of the Tour de Fhttp://www.velogames.com/rance.

Our annual competition for bragging rights has been extended to a wider circle so we can trash talk each other as much as is needed to lift the gloom. Our glorious league of 7 is nothing compared to the 33,000 who have signed up to the whole competition, but of course it is the only one that matters.

Bring it on.

www.velogames.com  for your own entries?

If you own the bike company why not ride to work on a Tour de France ready superbike?

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One of the amusing diversions at our recent Bike2work event at Eurobike was guessing what bikes the company CEOs would ride. In theory it was a bit complicated. They all had to drag themselves out of hotels all over the … Continue reading

British Tour de France winner? Time to wear the yellow again!

When Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France in 2012 I rode round the UK countryside like I had won the race myself. And it inspired one of my personal favourite posts on idonotdespair.com “On Sunday I shall wear yellow”.

Kevin mayne

It is one of favourites because I had so much fun writing it and I was on a euphoric high of fandom. Back in the summer of 2012 not so many people read my blog, but it did get a link in the weekly CTC newsletter so it was probably my record number of views at the time, therefore I was even more chuffed. And any excuse to listen to the wonderful Jenny Joseph poem I plagiarised is a good one.

I may even have gone a bit over the top around the same time when I took on the mad Norwegian football commentator challenge.

Then in 2013 Chris Froome became the second British winner so I could don the yellow again, this time to ride out with my new Belgian cycling club which caused some smiles.

It is almost inconceivable that since 2012 there have been 3 British winners of the tour after 100 years of occasional flurries and few stage wins.

So on Sunday I feel I have no choice – it is out with the faded CTC yellow top again to celebrate Froome’s victory. A bit smug perhaps in the land of Eddie Merckx, the poor old Belgians haven’t had too much joy in the tour of late although Greg van Avermaet and Serge Pauwels gave them some good moments and the Belgian teams Lotto and Etixx have won a lot of stages.

But Sunday will be our day. On Sunday I shall wear yellow. Now I wonder if Cavendish can do something special on the Champs?

Tour de France in Belgium 2015 – unforgettable moments

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It is now four days since I cycled to Huy to watch the Tour de France stage finish at the summit of the legendary Muy de Huy. In the way of these things the excitement of the Tour has rolled … Continue reading

Long day. Tour de France viewing at Mur de Huy, and back!

Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin MayneThat’s a long hard day under our belts. or rather our wheels.

160 km for me and nearer 200km for Thomas and we got to see an amazing, eventful stage that ended in Huy

There will not be much blogging tonight. It has been a 2 beer ride, and I don’t say that very often with Belgian beer on offer.

So that’s it – most important job of the week done. Fantasy Tour de France Team submitted

There may be lawns to mow, bikes to ride and repair, dog to walk, emails to send.

But the week before the Tour de France the annual challenge has been issued and only one task matters. Building a Tour de France team to beat my brothers and my son.

This is a great way of bringing some extra entertainment to our watching, even if we really want the British riders to do well we can add some spice by hoping for a daily win. Not that I need any incentive, it looks like the most exciting Tour in years.

So here, unveiled for the first time is this year’s I Do Not Despair roster over on www.velogames.com , our chosen platform.

fantasy velogames

On Monday I will be reporting in from the top of the Muy de Huy as the race goes for an exciting stage finish at the top of the climb used for the annual Fleche Wallonne classic race in the spring time. With temperatures over 30 degrees at the moment it might be a long hot ride down there, but I have had this day in my diary all year, so I’m going, cooked or not.

Not much prospect of a Belgian winner on the Mur as Philippe Gilbert is injured, but apparently they are expecting over 100,000 spectators to this little town for the finish in this ampitheatre of sport.

Part 2 of my guest post for DiscoveringBelgium.com “New Year’s Revolutions: The Best of Belgian Cycling for 2015”

Part 2 of my guest post for Denzil Walton’s www.discoveringbelgium.com has been published today.

Last week it was all about places for you to ride.

This week its “Watching cycling with the Belgians – beer, frites and the most passionate fans in the world” 

I have suggested some of the best cycling to watch this year including the Six Days of Ghent, the great settings for cyclocross races and  of course the road classics.

An extra bonus for 2015 is the Tour de France which comes to Wallonia in July.

www.dicoveringbelgium.com

For links to my own accounts of visiting the various races mentioned click the tabs at the bottom of the page.

Thanks again Denzil for the opportunity to spread the word and for the great ideas on your blog.

 

Grand halls, parks and sculpture of South Yorkshire in autumn’s glory

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We have just returned from a weekend in South Yorkshire which was looking stunning in autumn sunshine. Not quite Peak District, not quite Yorkshire Dales, the hills and valleys west of Barnsley around Penistone are just as stunningly beautiful for … Continue reading

On Sunday we will wear yellow – again!

Yellow hatOne year ago I promised I would wear yellow on my Sunday bike ride to celebrate the first ever British winner of the Tour de France.

I think it is time to dust off the colours again, this time to celebrate Chris Froome which is going to make it an extraordinary double for those of us who have endured years of cycling starvation. My Belgian club probably won’t even register the colour change, but I will know.

I cannot bring myself to celebrate the fact that he carries the brand of the loathsome Murdoch empire but I can’t help but enjoy yet another three weeks of wheeled chess on the roads.

Two more good reasons too – firstly family bragging rights in the in Fantasy Tour de France competition – sorry boys, eat my shorts! Maillot Jaune pour moi.

Fantasy Tour de France

Finally even if Froome was not riding under the British flag (Belgian TV will only call him “the white Kenyan”) I think his win is cause for celebration among another special group of cyclists. Let’s hear it for the nodding donkeys, the people whose style doesn’t leave the purists humming, the upright, those of us who cannot bend like a hairpin and lie sleekly over our handlebars.

Not for us the smooth style of Wiggins or the low frontal area of Cavendish, the silky descending of Nibali.

I was prepared to take Dan Martin as our hero for the year, but let’s face it, Chris Froome is for us.

Bring out your yellow on Sunday and celebrate.

L'Equipe headline page Froome

Front page news – white stripes, wheeled terrorists, the Tour de France and the Prime Minister. Only in Flanders?

Last Friday I was taken to the front line of a full on cycling row that has erupted in Flanders, finally forcing the Prime Minister who was on a foreign trip on to the front pages of De Standaard to insist that he “would be looking in to it”

I have to share this storm in the tiniest of teacups because I don’t think we would see anything like this anywhere else except in the cycle sports mad world that exists around Ghent. And the story also has the dumbest punchline.

The background to the story is common enough. The community in Gavere, about 10km south of Ghent have complained that the “wheeled terrorists” have taken over their riverside and that they are constantly afraid. We have heard that before in many countries, most recently in the UK where there is a simmering row about the numbers of cyclists on canal towpaths or around the Olympic Road Race circuit at Box Hill.

However the difference here is the scale and the political fallout as the “terrorists” hit back.

Scheldt River path Gavere Flanders

The battleground is a long wide and perfectly smooth traffic free path that follows the Scheldt south from Ghent for miles making a perfect environment for cycling and walking.

But its strengths are its weakness.

The smooth asphalt is a beautiful temptation for roadies to fly along at speed and the width means that the sort of club groups that are common in Belgium can travel down it in big echelons, especially at the weekend. And we are talking big, I see groups of 30-50 riders where I live and round Ghent I guess numbers are huge.

And speeds are high, as we rode the three of us were doing close to 20mph at times and we were passed by faster groups.

So out of the blue a series of white “rumble strips” – the now notorious ribbelstroken have appeared across the path.ribbelstroken

The first row was apparently whether they were initiated by the municipality or by Waterwegen en Zeekanaal (waterway and sea canals) who manage the navigation. Had the mayor of Gavere exceeded his authority? Or does the fact that they are spread over a wider area implicate the navigation managers?

But regardless of the origins of the work the sports cyclists were soon up in arms that anybody would mess with their training route. With their influence it soon hit the pages of De Standard and ribbelstroken became a new hot topic. While we were out for a ride there was another newspaper photographer out for the evening getting background shots and pictures of the offending strips. His presence prompted a stop for a lively debate by the roadside.

By Monday it had got to the Prime Minister of Flanders Kris Peeters, far away in France on a visit to Le Tour. Another distinctly Flemish twist, when was the last time your Prime Minister nipped off to see the Tour in another country? Well it was all above board, he was there as a guest of DCM, the Flemish company that co-sponsors the Vacansoleil pro bike team in the tour, not a jolly of course.

He probably thought he was away from domestic concerns but in France he had the misfortune to be ambushed by Vancansoleil pro Thomas De Gendt who it turns out likes to use the offending route for his speed training.

I have to say that the prospect of one of the world’s top riders doing 50kmph down a riverside path probably confirms every local citizen’s worst prejudices about wheeled terrorists, but he certainly got the Prime Minister on the spot. So by Monday the ribbelstroken were right up there on the front page news of De Standaard right beside the pictures of Chris Froome and within the day the Mobility Minister was out there riding her bike up and down the towpath with the local cycling groups.

The punchline?

Well it looks like the Mobility Minister was discrete in her words when she said “It was not as dramatic as I had heard.”

Not dramatic? It was pathetic!

This is a country with some of the finest cobblestones on the planet. Cyclists go out of their way to race over the rumbly stuff. It is the world centre of cyclocross. And frankly Belgian road surfaces can at times be almost third world. Anybody who remotely considers himself to be a serious cyclist around Ghent should be laughing at the pathetic little ripples on the path.

In line skaters – yes, big disruption. Wheelchair users – definitely an issue. So yes the strips will be cut back to allow movement round the ends.

Ribbelstroken GevereBut the self-promoting hardest bike riders in Europe? Come on chaps, give us a break! Even the senior citizens ride didn’t bat an eyelid.

But the hard men of Ghent have spoken, apparently the experiment will not be continued.

Ahhhhh,