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Belgium is a small country with roughly 11 million people. For those prone to cycling addictions, we have put together some must-see locations that will allow you to ride your brains out, but also get a great overview of the culture, history and culinary delights of one of our favorite countries to visit.
[dropcap]Images: Jeff Clark, Tim Schamber (panoramic)[/dropcap]
CLIMB THESE FIVE
Koppenberg: Rising from the village of Melden. This beast of a climb is short, but steep. (Average of 11.6 percent but goes to 19 percent in the middle section.)
Paterberg: Only 6 kilometers from the Koppenberg, the Paterberg is the last climb of the Tour of Flanders, 13 kilometers form the finish. (Average of 13.7 percent with a 20 percent section. Seek out the gutter.)
Oude Kwaremont: A beautiful, but long climb (2.2 kilometers). Start out slow then punch it. (Average of 4.1 percent with a maximum of 11 percent.) A standard climb in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and E3.
De Muur: If you climb only one (that would be silly), choose this one. Essentially Flemish. Pace yourself on this one and keep your eyes focused on the chapel at the top. Once you see it, you are home free. (Average of 9.2 percent with a maximum of 19.8 percent.)
Then buy a shirt that says, “I Defeated De Muur.”
Kemmelberg: The top of the Kemmelberg is the highest point in West Flanders. The scene of great tragedy in World War I, it is now the focal point of Ghent-Wevelgem and the riders climb it twice. (Average of 8 percent with a maximum of 17 percent.) Check out Cycling-in-flanders.com for more insight, and make sure to download their helpful app.
Here’s how you take on De Muur
MUSEUMS TO SEE
Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen (Oudenaarde): You may just run into Freddy Maertens as he is there every day. Also, bring boatloads of money to buy a great selection of goods in their store. crvv.be
WieMu/Wielermuseaum (Roeselare): We were really impressed with the creative direction of this museum. Spend a few hours here and pick up their magazine and an assortment of other cycling items in their shop. wielermuseum.be
EAT, DRINK, SHOP
Ghent: Make sure to visit De Karper and try an Orvelo and then make your way to Bar Bidon for a coffee.
Oudenaarde: Get to the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen around noon and order the beef stew at their café. Chances are Freddy Maertens will be having lunch there as well.
Mechelen: A great city very close to Brussels (10 minutes by train). Spend the day on a bike tour and then spend a few hours with our new friends at Peloton de Paris. pelotondeparis.be
Berchem: Make sure to visit Velo Dome, a stylish bike shop inside the historic old building of brewery De Koninck. Have lunch outside then make your way into the shop. velodome.cc
FOLLOW THE SIGNS
Cycling in Flanders has created the Tour of Flanders route, three cycling paths (Blue 78K, Yellow 103K and Red 114K) that feature great signage so you can stay on course. The route includes a timing system so you can see how you compare to Cancellara. liveyourowntourofflanders.com