I stopped believing in Santa Claus many years ago. I started believing in Belgian rides this year. In preparation for my Ötztaler Radmarathon, I rode many rides in The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. And even though I loved every ride as such, there is something about Belgian rides. It is Belgium where the season starts every year in Spring. Belgium hosts many of the famous Spring classics. In Belgium, Belgians are zot (crazy) about cycling. Hence, this year I slowly grew attached to the Belgian bumpy roads and love their famous cobblestones. I really enjoyed cycling the Belgian rides.
That is exactly the reason why my alarm-clock was set for 5:45 on the second day of Christmas, because to be honest, a person has to be a bit ‘zot’ to do that.
As I was driving alone on this cold, dark December morning, I started to doubt my believe in these Belgian rides a little bit. Was this fuzz really all worth it? Was it going to be as great as I expected it to be? Was it ever going to be light today?
My doubts, however, disappeared immediately after taking the highway exit ‘de Pinte’ and my arrival in Oudenaarde, Belgian’s old cyclingheart. I wasn’t the only ‘zotteke’ to get up this early on this dark & cold Boxing Day. As a matter of fact, the cycling centre of Oudenaarde was filled with a colorful bunch of enthousiastic cycling lovers. And while I received my Christmas themed cycling cap, poored myself a cup of coffee and took a bite from a calorie-rich, chocolate bun, I knew I had every right to believe in Belgian rides. Then Santa Claus arrived. Only in Belgium.
After a short briefing – okay, so it is going to be 125km instead of 100km (which it said on the visual) and there is going to be a 2,5km cobblestone slowly uphill strip in there (didn’t know that – whoopie!), 150 cyclists, around a dozen accompanying motorcyclists (wegkapiteins) and the pacer car started a – what almost felt like a happy carnaval – parade (including musical guidance). In Belgium, motorcyclists accompanying a group of cyclists are protected by Belgian law. As a matter of fact, the entire group of cyclists is seen as one large vehicle in Belgium, one of my fellow cyclists explained to me. Really? My cycling heart started pounding profoundly. Only in Belgium.
For me, it was a rendez-vous with Belgian cyclists whom I met during the previous social rides by Grinta! and a meeting with some new cyclists who I am probably going to meet again next season. We chatted about our plans for 2020 the crazyness (or not) of the Festive500 and ofcourse ‘De Ronde’ which most of us will participate. Before I knew it, we arrived halfway, at the stop for lunch. We crossed the border. Back in the Netherlands this time. The motorcyclists lost their traffic protection by Belgian law but we gained a great lunch, warm soup & bread and an even warmer reception by the Dutch cycling fanatics from Kopwerk.
After the break, we started our way back to Oudenaarde, headwind and cobblestones ahead of us. The pace varied a bit to keep the group together, but especially the accelerations made me and my fellow cycling blogger, Steven Verniers (Ötztaler buddy, remember?) hungry.
Hungry figuratively at first (we can’t wait for 2019 to be over and 2020 to start) and hungry literally a little bit later. It was time to eat. Sandwiches in Oudenaarde. And time to drink, because there would be an unlimited amount of Kwaremont at our disposal upon arrival. Only in Belgium.