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OSTEND 600

A weekend in Belgium For UK audaxers living in the southeast, a short hop across the Channel opens up a world of possibilities – and the good news is that you don’t even need to be able to speak Flemish… Words Martin Brice, Photography Titus Halliwell EVENT Ostend 600 DATE 11th June 2016

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DISTANCE 600km LOCATION Ostend, Belgium ORGANISER Randonneurs.be WEBSITE www.randonneurs.be

ere’s a shocking bit of news: the land of TinTin and strong beer has the most wonderful cycling. All of us dream of that perfect ride: wonderful tarmac, flat land, straight roads, no traffic. Titus Halliwell and I found it on a 600k calendar audax. What’s more, we found it in Belgium, of all places. It’s easy to get to – especially if you live south of London, it’s just a trip through the Tunnel and an hour’s drive on the autoroute to Ostend. Audaxers brought up on a diet of Ginster’s pasties and garage sandwiches will be delighted to hear just about every bar in Belgium seems to sell excellent coffee and apple cake with cream. Also, this X-rated event was easier to enter than a UK audax. The Belgians just check the weather forecast and rock up at the start with a universal entry form filled in and a €5 note. (We had emailed the organiser saying we were coming but had no reply.) There’s no pre-entry and none of this “no entry on the line” or “all entries two weeks before the event” that we have in the UK. This is, I suspect, is for two reasons: n It’s an X rated event with about a dozen riders expected, so no problem swamping the controls n The organiser doesn’t need to order brevets printed for his event, he already has dozens of the same card and hands you one, with the routesheet. This is in French and in Flemish

– I’d downloaded it and translated it into English before we left home. We followed the GPX track of the official route. Not all these events are X rated – last year Titus and I entered the Brussels-Paris-Brussels 600k organised by Frank Steenput and that cost €30 each and included a snack stop, a F1 hotel room and a bag drop. That event was more slickly organised but it was a PBP year. After the 6am start from a car park in Ostend, we were keen to stay with the leading group to ensure we had an easy exit from the town. Riders have their own segregated lanes marked with reddish tarmac, and cyclists’ traffic lights giving priority over cars at junctions so it can be a bit bewildering for a UK cyclist. We stuck with a group of six as we left the town but as we reached those straight, flat, traffic – free canalside roads with the perfect tarmac they moved into a bunch with stronger riders at the front and reached 30kph. I lost my bottle and with 585k yet to ride was nervous of running out of puff so they dropped us and we never saw them again. This 600k involved two loops, the first 300 going north to Breskens then eastward around Tense and back through Ghent and Bruges to Ostend. The second was a very different experience because it involved France. We were going well as we reached

Waiting for a bridge to open

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Arrivée Summer 2016 • No.133

www.aukweb.net

Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...

Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...

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