Lotsa riders on Saturday (Photo Belga)
This week-end I exceptionally rode on Saturday and took the opportunity to ride the Peter Van Petegem Classic, which is part of the Bank van De Post Cycling Tour circuit of cyclos. It was the first time I did it, and I was quite impressed.
The route was not linked to a specific PRO race, contrary to what is often the case, and was just a pleasant ride across the Flemish Ardennes, all the way to the Zwalmstreek (the region along the Zwalm river). The cyclo is sold as a ride on the training grounds of Peter Van Petegem, a former classics specialist from the Quick Step – Innergetic PRO team. He now lives in the region, in Horebeke. His wife runs a Bed and Breakfast there, Le Pavé.
The Flemish Ardennes, with nicer weather than Saturday though. (Photo by Seven2358)
The Flemish Ardennes are probably at the center of cycling in Flanders and thus in the galaxy. It is the region between Aalst, Geraardsbergen, Waregem and Merelbeke, or, as a Belgian would probably say, the part of East Flanders (see Google Maps) south of the E40 and east of the E17 freeways. It is an area with gently sloping landscapes, picturesque villages, winding roads and rows of poplars. And lots of cyclists, because it is really an ideal place to cycle.
The turn-out for the Peter Van Petegem Classic was pretty large (6000 people in total). I arrived quite late, at 9:45, and it was challenging to find a parking spot. In the end I parked along Siesegemlaan, the main highway coming from the E40 freeway. I then cycled to the start, paid my 11 euros and went off.
I only did the short route of 85 km (other options were 162 - 136 – 113 km, and even 41 km), which meant I only encountered two real bergs: the Muur of Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg. Those two, when taken alone, are fun and manageable, even with lots of other cyclists on them, especially in dry weather. The rest of the route was quite flat, with just a few modest and short slopes. Very little cobblestones as well, just one or two very short stretches. The other routes did not contain many more bergs, just a little more cobblestones and a few more slopes .
So something quite different from the Tour of Flanders Cyclo, but far from monotonous. The scenery was glorious, the roads largely traffic free (or rendered safe through the number of cyclists on them) and the main crossings secured by stewards. Plus this started in Aalst, about 30 minutes away from Ixelles, so at Brussels’ door basically.
The ride was pretty uneventful I would say, just really pleasant. Probably one of the most beautiful I have done until now, with just the right amount of people to make you feel you’re part of a mass event (but not up to the point where it actually causes massive bike traffic jams like at the Ronde cyclo). And with just enough climbs and slopes to make it interesting, but nothing too hard.
Included in the price, at the end, an Adriaen Brouwer Dark Gold beer. Only in Belgium. I love this country.