Reigate’s Premier Cycling Club

The Norwood Paragon was founded in 1904 to promote and encourage all areas of cyclesport. The club has a rich history of racing both on the road and track with current emphasis on road racing, TTs and MTB racing

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2022 Ronde van Vlaanderen 2022 Sportive

Not exactly a race, but certainly a well organised event. The first weekend in April saw Andy Murray, Steve & Dave hang up their MTB’s for road bikes & head over to Belgium for the first Tour of Flanders sportive to be held in a couple of years.

Ex-Surrey League racer & general all round nice guy Paul Bishop organised a mini-bus trip for the 184km, middle distance event, which the interpid Paragon pair were part of. Watkins had been before & had warned Mascall of the savage cobbles & cyclists throwing themselves under his wheels previously.

Long time Norwood Paragon stalwart Andy Murray picks up the story for his day…..

It had been a long wait to be back in Oudenaarde for the Ronde. My 2020 entry for that years’ covid-cancelled event had been carried over to this year. A lack of miles over the winter had left me feeling a bit underprepared. Fortunately three weeks of good weather at my Manchester base had put 500 plus good miles in the legs, who would have thought that a North of England training camp would provide better weather than Majorca!

The morning of the event was sunny but cold, very cold. I opted for an early start which meant that there were fewer riders doing the short (75km) route, meaning that I missed out a bit on the big event atmosphere, but could at least pick my own line up the narrow cobbled climbs.

In deference to my age my ambitions were modest, namely to get up all 11 bergs without walking! Happily I was going much better than expected and was actually able to enjoy the climbs although the freezing air on the Koppenberg had me feeling as though I had left an important part of my lungs on the climb!

After the Koppenberg I had warmed up and settled into the ride, the climbs come thick and fast with rarely more than five or six kilometres between them and those kilometres often contain some sneaky unlisted drags and climbs.

By the Oude Kwaremont there was a lot more roadside support from fans already gathering for the next days race, welcome encouragement with just the Paterberg to go. Any worries about riding all the climbs quickly disappeared as I concentrated on retaining an element of style for the cameras!

All that now remained were the 14km from the top of the Paterberg to the finish in Oudenaarde, the lack of other riders on the eight and a half kilometre headwind slog to the line meant that I had to do all the work on my own, at least the next day Mathieu van der Poel had Tadej Pogačar to pull a turn!

Best moment of the ride? Probably when chatting with an Italian rider who I had just caught on the Koppenberg. He was complaining that at 55 he was getting too old for this, I replied, how do you think I feel at 72, then dropped him on Mariaborrestraat. No good for Anglo-Italian relations, but very satisfying.

Andy.

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Steve’s trip story continues:

As the mini-bus travelled towards Ashford for the Shuttle on Friday, images were coming through of a snow covered Paterberg. Was this really a good idea – riding 180 km, 2500m of climbing, cobbled roads and in arctic conditions??

Saturday at least was dry but a minus 3 degree wind chill factor saw us putting on all our winter clobber. Having ridden it before, I tried to explain to our Flandrian virgin Dave what was ahead but as always, he was completely unfazed. (Editors note: I’m pretty sure this wasn’t true!)

Riding in our group of 7 we made steady progress avoiding the rather dodgy riding of some of the other over-enthusiastic 16,000 participants. The Mur was the first major climb, at 1 km with an average of 9.2% and a maximum of 19.8% and on cobbles it certainly warmed us up.

With the kms ticking by it became apparent that not all our group had put in the training miles. Having to continually stop and wait in the wintry conditions was not ideal so eventually we decided to split and 4 of us pushed on.

The atmosphere was amazing with cheering spectators on every climb. At the last feed station Dave spotted a coffee wagon and after a large black coffee we were ready to tackle the last few major climbs. The penultimate climb, the Oude Kwaremont was tackled with renewed vigour, Dave riding strongly and leading us over the top. Now with only the Paterberg to go our confidence grew. At only 400m long but with an average of 12.9% and a maximum of 20.3% it was always going to be hard. Despite the arctic conditions, with remnants of the snow still left on the adjoining fields we crested this last iconic climb.

It was now down to the last 9 km into a vicious, cold, northerly wind. The Paragon express train got into gear with Dave and I sharing the pace. We picked up many riders and those who stayed with us were grateful for the tow.

Although the conditions were challenging it was great day on the bike and the following day we climbed back up the Kwaremont on foot, fuelled by copious amounts of Belgian beer to watch the professionals. A truly memorable weekend.

Steve.

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So all in all, a great event (if a bit flippin’ cold) was had by all. I’ll certainly be booking a return trip next year & would encourage anyone in the club to come along & enjoy the delights of the Flandrian countryside.

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