Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2011 How to go racing in Belgium

As you may have guessed from my earlier posts, I really enjoyed racing in Belgium. The racing was hard, aggressive and relentless – exactly the way I love it – I only wish I was out there earlier in the season (although health issues would have surely made it an even tougher task).

Anyway – going there and doing the races was surprisingly easy. Both Mel and I have for years travelled the world independently racing on the mountain bike so this was really no different (other than my bike bag being lighter). Belgium is a hugely welcoming country for a cyclist – time and again I was surprised just how hospitable people were.

Anyway, people who have raced there before will not get much from this quick guide but I'm writing this to hopefully inspire some more folk to travel there and try the best racing in the world.

Getting there:

I flew with RyanAir to Charloie Airport which is just south of Brussels. My flights from Ireland were €120 and bike carriage to and from Belgium was €80. Currently, RyanAir allow you to fly with a bike bag weighing up to 30kg. More than enough for the bike and the rest of my kit.

Getting around:

If you want, you can take trains/bike to all the bike races but my trip was going to be pretty short. 5 races in 6 days meant that I didn't want to spend time messing around with train time tables etc... I wanted to get the max out of each race and not spend an hour riding to and from races in the rain. I use both ArgusCarHire and Expedia to find the best deals. I book them through which also gives me a €5 voucher for each rental. My car, a new Peugeot 308 costed €155. During my trip I drove almost 800 kilometers – fuel costed €55 for the trip.

Staying there:

Oudenaarde is without doubt the center of Belgian cycling – it lies in Flanders and is close to most races. I stayed in a guest house there that I found from this list. I paid €35 a night for my own room including breakfast – it was grand.

Races – tell me about the races:

So the standard race is the Kermesse (or Kermis?). It is basically a lapped race of about 100 to 120 kilometers. The laps can be between 4 and 11 kilometers and be on big roads, small roads, farm lanes, cobbled roads/paths and if you are lucky, climbs. These races are called 1.12B

To find out where the races are go to this website, select weg, select kalander and in catagorie enter 1.12B (and of course the dates you want to look at). That will give you a big old list – then with the help of google maps enter the signon venue and your location to find out how close the race is – decide from there.

Entering a race costs €3 and usually a €5 deposit for your number which you get back. There is usually a frame number so either take a holder for it or lots of zip ties (oh, and take lots of pins for the number).

The races start full gas and continue as such – arrive warmed up and ready to suffer from the start :)

After the race, drop back to get your deposit back and collect your prize money. Prize money isn't great but it does run deep – you get a LOT for your €3!

I found these sites useful for finding out information:

The Chain Stay - lots of great info and advice

Also, thanks to Paddy Clarke (an Irish racer living out there) for lots of pointers.

Drop me some comments if there is anything you would like me to expand on.


Diarmuid said...

Nice one Ryan. Will have to bookmark this page, just in case ;)

sabina moon said...
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