In previous posts, I had linked info on cyclotourist events, i.e. untimed randonnées, which are numerous in Belgium, and especially in Flanders (see the posts in the Belgian Cyclo Calendar 2011 category). By the way, a very good website for an uncluttered and simplified calendar is the Go Cycling website.

However, as a reader pointed out, I have not provided any links to Gran Fondo events, or timed Cyclosportives. They are less numerous, and can be fairly easily listed here. It’s interesting that all of them take place in the Ardennes, and are thus located in Walloonia and not in Flanders.

First, the three Bio Racer Ardennes Challenge (registration here)

Gran Fondo Ardennaise (5 June 2011, Hamoir)

- La Magnifique des Ardennes (25 June 2011, Bouillon)

Super Grimpeur des Ardennes (20 August 2011, Malmedy)

And the others are:

- The Gran Fondo Eddy Merckx (18 June 2011, Huy) (which is the most “prestigious” event and event part of the UCI World Cycling Tour)

- The Velomediane Claude Criquelion (27 August 2011, La Roche-en-Ardenne)

La Christophe Brandt (18 September 2011, Verviers).

And a last one which takes place close by, in Luxembourg:

- La Charly Gaul (4 september 2011, Echternach).

To have  a more exhaustive listing including cyclosportives in neighbouring countries, you can use the Cyclobenelux website. All in Dutch, but it is pretty straight forward to get the main informations (click on “Cyclo’s” in the main menu and then use the “Browse Projects” to get the listings per country).

As far as I’m concerned, I’m thinking of doing one in August or September. In the meantime, I’m planning on doing the 136 km circuit of the Tilff-Bastogne-Tilff cyclo. I understand it is quite hard and different from what we are used to here around Brussels hills-wise, but it does not have any pavés. So it can’t be that bad.

 

As a follow-up to my earlier post concerning the Bianchi Trofee, I have to mention the labeling of events organised under the umbrella of the Vlaamse Wielrijdersbond (VWB – the Flemish Cyclists Union, not to be confused with the Wielerbond Vlaanderen, affiliated to the UCI).

They award the top events the Heroica Classics label. For 2011, twelve events have this label. They include the two “Classics”: the Superklassiker, on 1 May 2011, and the Sean Kelly Classic on 6 August 2011.

The next category are the 52 “Semi-classics” (some of which are included under the Heroica Classics label). The “Open category” groups other good events which don’t apply the official VWB tariff (some of which are also included under the Heroica Classics label). Then come the “1st category rides”, which are aspiring semi-classics. The other events are not labelled.

The calendar of the VWB is available on their website.

Plenty of interesting rides!

Branding permeates our life and everybody consolidates. For some things, this is a pain. But for cycling events, it makes things simpler for people like me: it creates a label and simplifies choice of quality events, without necessarily affecting the quantity of events.

I have already mentioned the Banque Postale Tour and Flanders Classic events in previous blog posts (respectively here and here). Another one I recently found out about is the Bianchi Troffee.

It has been set up by the cycling clubs of the Pajottenland and the Dender valley (so the area just West of Brussels) in order to promote the cyclo events they organise. There will be fifteen in all this year, in 2011, spaning from 17 April until 9 October.

As for the events under the banner of the Banque Postale Tour and of Flanders Classics, these are not races or even timed events, but basically organised randonnées. I dislike the word, but these are “cyclotourist” events and not “cyclosportives” in the strict sense (the latter term usually referring to timed events).

The concept is that you ride with a bunch of other cyclists on open roads, with a circuit marked by the organisers (on the ground or with signs), feeding stations and some form of broom wagon should anything happen to you. Cyclists being cyclists, you will be (sort-of) racing against co-participants along the way and will probably try to pass people (and be passed by old flandriens with steel bikes). But in the end, these are pleasant and facilitated strolls trough the countryside.

The winter is still here, but the spring is already within reach and with it, the first races and cyclosportives here in Belgium.

Indeed, with the spring comes the start of the season. The PROs have been racing in Australia (Tour Down Under), the Middle-East (Tour of Oman, Tour of Qatar) and the Iberian Peninsula (Vuelta a Andalucia, Volta ao Algarve).

But it is not unfair to say that the season really starts with the classics: Milan-San Remo (La Primavera), Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), Gent–Wevelgem, Paris–Roubaix (L’Enfer du Nord), Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège (La Doyenne). Before and after Milan-San Remo, the calendar is also sprinkled with “semi-classics” on the cobble-stones of Flanders.

Last year, in 2010, the main flemish classics and semi-classics were united under the umbrella Flanders Classics, headed by the flemish television-tycoon Wouter Vandenhaute. 

The idea is to promote flemish cobble-stone races through a brand and give those races more bargaining power towards sponsors and the media (and most probably towards teams as well).

The Tour of Flanders (Tour of Flanders/Tour des Flandres) has a strong position in the international cycling circuit, and this is used to help lift the other Flemish spring races: Omloop Het Nieuwblad (Circuit Het Nieuwblad, the Belgian season opener previously known as Omloop Het Volk), Dwars door Vlaanderen (Across Flanders/A travers les Flandres), Gent-Wevelgem, Scheldeprijs, (Grand Prix of the Schelde/Grand Prix de l’Escaut), Brabantse Pijl (Brabant Arrow/Flèche Brabançonne).

This year, the PRO races are complemented with cyclosportives open to the rest of us. A cyclosportive was already organised for the Tour of Flanders for a while, but now all six have their cyclo event.

All the info can be found through the links bellow:

Personally, I will go for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad next week-end with friends. We will do the 65 km circuit, which is going to be  a good fitness test. This is getting exciting!

Btw, for more sources of info on forthcoming (and smaller) races, I had written a post previously here: Spring Planning.

The winter has really come down upon us. I did not go for my Sunday ride last week-end: it is not only the sub-zero temperatures, but now also the snow.

I have not given up on training though, and go for my regular in-door spinning sessions at the gym. I will just have to find the courage to go for a run on the week-end to train my endurance.

In the meantime, and in order to keep myself motivated, I have started searching for cyclosportives in Belgium. The season starts in February, which is somewhat optimistic I guess, and events are held pretty much every week-end. Plenty of opportunities, for all tastes, from big events to smaller brevets.

Anyway, here are few sources to find events:

  • Cycling.be (which belongs to the msn portal) has a pretty good calendar.
  • Grinta! also has a selection of events it publishes on the web. The rest is in the magazine (which I will have to subscribe to, as it is very difficult to get in Brussels).
  • The Banque de La Poste Cycling Tour, which regroups the more large-scale events, has its own website, but nothing for 2011 yet there. The calendar is available elsewherethough.
  • The cyclosportive Tour des Flandres/Ronde van Vlaanderen also has its own website. Registration is already open, the event will be held on 2 April 2011. This is a huge thing, with 19.000 participants last year.

These are the main sources of events. Once you spot one in the calendar, the details will often by included in the website of the organiser which google will find for you.

So only two-three months and off we’ll go!