|Period costume is the order of the day|
One of the main differences between the vintage scene and sportive type rides in general seems to be the atmosphere and the type of cyclist each event appears to attract. Now Im sure there is some crossover of participants on these events as I also take part in one or two home grown sportive's on my modern steeds ( steel of course) and I have no doubt Im not alone in that, but, I have to say there is a much more relaxed celebratory atmosphere on the vintage rides which seems to embody a era long since past, that harks back to a joy of cycling and the freedom that two wheels brings. One lovely element that I wholeheartedly approve of is no cycle computers!! So no Garmin here, no average speeds, max speeds or power outputs and most of all no STRAVA. Just the wonderful joy of two wheels and three triangles to tackle in this instance, cobbled tracks and hills deep in the Ardennes country side. Brilliant.
Saturday dawned and I headed down into Oudenaarde to check out parking and get my bearings, There was also the opportunity to take part in a short 25k ride that took in the Paterberg and the Koppenberg cobbled climbs. The Paterberg got the better of me as I slipped a gear halfway up and resulted in the walk of shame but I shook off my disappointment and managed to ascend the Koppenberg where others were falling by the wayside.
|My school boy hero has his own cycle route|
|The walk of shame up the Paterberg|
Back in the centre of Oudenaarde the cycle jumble was in full swing as was the music and a fantastic dance group called the Dipsy Doodles. The town also plays host to the " Tour of Flanders " Museum which is well worth a visit ( more of this in another blog) The afternoon saw the town centre Retro Criterium take place with various race categories which on this occasion I was happy to watch (but may take part in next year). All this added up to a real vintage vibe and a great atmosphere. However the highlight of the afternoon had to be meeting Tom Simpson's daughter Jo and talking about her dad, just wonderful.
|There was even a penny farthing race|
|Some wonderful vintage bikes|
|Alex Stefanovic ( third rider from the left) in full flight, well ok then medium flight.|
|Lead out lap for the multi speed Criterium race|
|The highlight of the afternoon ....meeting Tom Simpson's daughter Jo|
So Sunday dawned, a fresh, bright and sunny morning, it looked like it was going to be a great day. The atmosphere at the start was electric and with a blessing from the local priest and a wave from the town Mayor we were off, heading out into the Ardennes.
|A busy start line|
|The Town Mayor and Priest|
|The first feed station|
|And another feed station|
|The final feed station|
So I guess the photos sum up the day for me and whilst I could wax lyrical I'm not going to, It was just a great day out, a great weekend away, meeting some wonderful people for whom riding on two wheels brings so much pleasure. Belgium is a great country with a rich cycling heritage and the Retro Ronde doffs its hat to... not only this but so much more.
Happy days and see you all next year.