Im heading to Europe next spring for 10 - 14 days to see flanders, pr, and possibly gent and am looking for advise on the best way to experience these races live.
Should I try to see each race from several locations or should I just camp out at one location all day? Ideally I would like to hook up with a local to help get me around but I dont know how feasible that will be since I currently dont know anyone over there.
I dont think i am interested in doing one of those professional group deals because I will be with my wife who does not ride.
I am also interested in doing other bike related things during my time there. Im planning on doing the Flanders sportive the day before the race. I wouldnt mind trying to race once or twice while out there too.
- MTB isn't necessary, i have done the 140km version several times on my road bike. Just make sure you have the right gears/wheels. You'll have to deal with some nasty cobblestones, so pick wheels with low rims. A lower gear might come in handy on the steeper climbs (Koppenberg, Patersberg, Muur,..).You don't wanna walk there do you? Not that I doubt your abilities, but especially on the climbs, it can be very crowded and often the masses go slowly uphill.
You can pay register on the day of the event, start and finish are at the same place. This year it got so crowded on the Flemish roads, the organisation started thinking of spreading the event over several days. We'll see what happens in 2010.
- Watching the race (Vlaanderen) is great! Myself I like to go watch the riders once, early in the race and watch the rest on tv (and I live 200 meters away from one of the hills ). Some people prefer to go spot them 5 to 10 times. Great as well, but you don't really have a clue about what's happening in the race.
Most pubs broadcast the races, so once you've seen the riders in real life, head over to a pub asap.
Here 's a list of races in the lowest amateur categories in Flanders, they're all crits. The names at the top (WAOD, VWF,...) are the different organisations. They all have different age categories and if you ask the promotors, they 'll probably let you start in an older group.
Don't underestimate this though. Average speeds are like pro speeds (40-45 km/h), only the distance is much shorter (40-75 km) All riders are very experienced.
If you have race experience, you'll do fine. Just follow the pack. If you haven't, I wouldn't recommend you trying it over here for the first time.
Though that may be the shortest way to professional cycling....But that's another story.
Kermesses are different: that's the "elite zonder contract" category. Even though they the name says they don't have a (pro-)contract, most of them live like pros or work part time. The best racers in this category are as good as 'real' pros and capable of finishing 'real pro races'.
Most smaller Belgian classics have some elite zonder contract teams at the start, Ronde van Belgie also, I'm sure that's the case in Holland as well.
The OP was looking for the lowest category possible, so I don't think elite zonder contract races (kermesses) are a good idea (you also need a UCI license to start in elite zonder contract events, don't no if OP has one)
pity. i liked the free for all, even if i was one of the first to be spat out.
Yeah, but you were not alone, In 2006-2007 Tom Boonen rode some kermesses, lots of people thaught how great it would be to race alongside Tommeke so some of these reces had 250+ riders at the start.... Just everyday racers who took a UCI-license