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Flanders Conquered By Wheelers

posted 13 Apr 2011, 15:23 by Kevin Monaghan
(By Shay O'Toole) 
April 2nd, 2011 was yet another historic date on the Lakeside Wheelers’ calendar as it saw 17 Members take to the start line of the famous Tour of Flanders in Belgium, making this the largest Wheelers team to date, to participate at an international event.
This hugely popular sportive which is renowned for seriously steep cobbled hills and roadways, is staged annually, on the first Saturday in May with the pro peloton taking a similar but slightly longer route the next day. With several weeks of training behind them, the Wheelers cheerfully cycled ten miles along a beautiful canal pathway, on a gloriously sunny morning to the start in Ninove, for the 140KM event.

For the next 6-7 hours the Wheelers crisscrossed the famous route, hitting several stretches of punishing cobbled laneways and village streets that shook the body from the tips of their heads to the soles of their feet. It was absolutely amazing to experience this type of cycling that most of us only get to see on TV, and to be honest it will be very difficult to complain about poor road surfaces in Westmeath again.

The highlight however is the climbing, which comes in the form of 17 extremely steep hills that range in length from 500 metres to 2 KM, again, all cobbled which make it extra difficult. The most famous of these climbs is called Koppenberg, which, with a maximum gradient of 22% is an absolute beast and an awesome sight to see, with literally hundreds of cyclists weaving their way up to a point where many just roll off their bikes into the gulleys. There is also the Muur in Geraardsbergen where we were based for our three day adventure. This twists and turns around a cobbled back street with yet another leg burning maximum gradient of 20%, to a church on top  from where there is only one more to climb on the way back to the finish.

By 6pm on Saturday evening all Wheelers were back in Ninove exhausted, but we had no difficulty downing a few nice cold Belgian beers to toast our achievement. We still had the 10 mile return journey along the canal back to our hotel to contend with, but between the adrenaline and the beer everybody was in good spirits.

The following day after a well deserved lie-in we hit the streets to watch the professionals take to the very same cobbled roadways, and what a race it turned out to be. We had prime position on the slopes of the Muur to see Fabien Cancellara lead the peloton to what was to become one of the best finishes to this race in years.

With the dust settled on the cobbles of Flanders and everybody back to reality, this trip will be remembered by those who
travelled, for many years to come and all are to be congratulated on the exemplary way they represented Lakeside Wheelers both on and off the bike.

The travelling party were, in no particular order, Robbie Kenny, Charlie Sheridan, Shay O’Toole, John Nugent, Mark Monaghan, Dermot Hogan, Kevin Marshall, Brian Collentine, Joe Duffy, Damien O’Brien, Mick Reynolds, Noel Kennedy, JP Kilmurray, Karl Pentony, Darragh Caffery, Mossie Keane, Michael Hynes and John Kiernan (guest from Wicklow).
The Lakeside Wheelers gang who took on and conquered the mighty Tour Of Flanders course.