Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Few words set cycling fans’ hearts aflutter like “cobblestones” or “spring classics.” Flanders, home a century ago to the greatest battlefields the world has ever known, today sets the stage for different kinds of battles, those fought on two wheels. Legends are made here. Careers defined. Win the Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Vlaanderen as it’s known in Belgium, and contract renewal worries melt away for the rest of your career. But these roads aren’t just for the pros.
Cycling allows us intimate access to its hallowed grounds like no other sport. Baseball fans can’t just up and pitch at Wrigley Field whenever they feel the urge. Basketball fans can’t knock on the door of Madison Square Garden. And soccer fans can’t just get a few touches in at Stamford Bridge. Cyclists, on the other hand, can on any given day ride the storied bergs of Flanders, home to the greatest displays of single-day racing each spring.
The 17 cobbled climbs featured in the most recent Tour of Flanders, and a cast of extras that have been included in the past, are all functioning roads open to the public outside of race days. The Kwaremont, measuring 2.2 kilometers and which reaches gradients upwards of 12 percent, ranks frequently among the hardest of them, owing to its brutal length (and its inclusion a cruel three times). The Koppenberg ranks right up there for different reasons. Though just 600 meters, it reaches gradients up to 22 percent. It’s so difficult that riders often set a foot down on its steep inclines. And that’s just two climbs. The rest—including the Kwaremont, the Paterberg and the Kapelmuur—present their own difficulties. Not a single one is easy. Think otherwise? You can go find out for yourself.
It is this direct access that gives cycling fans a greater appreciation for the valley that separates us from our heroes on two wheels—the absolute super-human efforts it takes to reach the finish of these races, let alone win. Visit Flanders and experience its cobbled bergs, teeming with history, first hand, and you will leave with an even greater appreciation of the difficulty of these roads.
When the roads are so tough that at times even pros have to dismount and walk, you know you’ve found a worthy opponent. That difficulty presents a perfect opportunity for the Specialized Turbo Creo to shine. Providing an industry-leading e-bike experience, which Specialized has complete control over because it designs both the frame and motor, the Creo lets riders get the most out of big days in the saddle, covering more ground with the same effort.
The Creo by no means does all the work; you very much reach the top of each climb with a full appreciation of its difficulty. While you’ll still have to work up a sweat to get up the steep pitches, its up to 240 watts of assistance ensures that you won’t have to set a foot down on the likes of the Koppenberg. And afterward, you’ll still be able to enjoy walking around Flanders’ ancient roads to grab a Trappist tripel and break down every part of the day.