Cycling in Flanders - Experience the Beauty on Two-Wheels
A rugged terrain of cobblestone lanes, steep hills and bergs can hardly be classified as the perfect way to enjoy the sport of cycling...except in Flanders.
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Taking pride in their unique landscape Flanders boasts of their ancient meandering pathways, fresh meadow sceneries, ancient villages, art cities and some of the most exciting routes. Pedaling through the cities, visiting the castles, ruins, museums and churches is an experience that takes one into the history of this mesmerising land. Whether it be an art excursion that you are on, or a beer tour, Flanders has some of the best and the most unique activities for all enthusiasts.
The history of cycling in Flanders is rich with stories, names and records. A visit to the church museum that exhibits cycles from all eras is a sight enough to prove that this sport is no less than a religion here. Be an audience to any of the world-renowned tournaments, and you will find yourself as part of a crowd of thousands of devotees, cheering their heroes, as they ride through the winding circuit at speeds that is, quite frankly, unimaginable by all those who aren’t a part of this experience.
With everything to make a cyclist’s vacation here fun, comfortable and exhilarating, Flanders has accommodation and cafes, and even signages that can make the laziest person hop onto two-wheels. To get a much broader idea about the sport and its origins mingling with the roots of this region, you can visit the Cycle Museum, the Flanders Center and the Sportimonium.
If you are a cycling enthusiast, or a traveller, who is looking at Flanders as your next holiday destination, these are definitely some things you must consider to indulge in.
1. Feel the Speed
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You may wonder why the history of this sport is so important. You could always go for a casual vacation, enjoy the sport and come back. But no, with such engaging tale to tell, it would be almost criminal to be ignorant of the people who made a culture that still rides in the heart of every Flanderien.
Leading the way, as always, is Eddy Merckx. Often referred to as The Monster, he is, till date, the most successful sportsman in competitive cycling. While he was known for his impeccable talent, precision and speed, we have another name Johan Museeuw, who added to this story in his own way. Titled as The Lion of Flanders, he ruled the cobbles in a way that no one has ever been able to. Which brings us to yet another sportsman who is in no way the last one in this list! Tom Boonen is a name of today. The winner of the most prestigious awards and accolades, he is loved and admired by all. These three fantastic and intimidating names have created important milestones in the history of cycling in Flanders.
Named after the champions who have left a mark on the boulevards of Flanders, you will find the most treacherous routes to the most dynamic ones for competitive cycling here. With the famous Tour of Flanders in the East and the Freddy Maertens in the West, you also have the Eddy Merckx in Antwerp and South Limburg to explore. You can either be a part of the crowd, or better still, the competitions! Rigorous and challenging, these races will push you to the limit!
Following are some of the hand-picked routes which are unique and fun!
Lucien Van Impe: Named after the sportsman himself, this route is located in the East of Flanders. Paying tribute to his phenomenal performance, especially in the summer of ‘76, this route takes you to the places where he has trained and practiced!
West-Vlaamse Bergenroute: An uphill all the way, this circuit is one that goes up the famous, ancient hills of West Flanders. Important historical sites can be seen on the way, as well as some exotic towns and villages.
2. Pedal at your own pace
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If you aren’t into exciting racing experiences, why not take one day at a time and traverse through the hills and fields just for leisure. Flanders is loaded with eateries serving the most flavoursome, traditional goodies, breweries that give you the best beer, and spectacular sites like churches, museums and castles. Apart from these, there are fragrant villages and lively towns all across this land that will welcome you with broad smiles and all.
Flanders on a cycle is as exciting as it is relaxing, with as much to see as to feel. Pedal along the open roads, through villages and woods, across rivers and canals, through parks and up the hills for a wholesome, unimaginable experience.
If you are wondering how best to absorb the vibe of the sport and the land, it is recommended that you take a few days to pedal through various courses. Long distance routes are plenty and take you through its diverse terrain with grace. Wonderful, homely Bed and Breakfasts along the way help you take a break whilst touring the villages. Not only limited to homestays, accommodation amenities made for tourists range from hotels to hostels, ideal for all kinds of travellers.
Long distance routes are perfect for those looking to be on the road for a couple of days. One-day excursion too are equally exhilarating. What you will find unique, and immensely helpful here are the signages. Meant especially for cycling enthusiasts, you will find boards that lead you seamlessly to your destination. While the East boasts of a sublime countryside and castles, you will find yourself surrounded by vibrant hues of green in the parks of Limburg. And out of the many routes that show you ruins and sites, these are some that will help you seep in the vibe and maybe get a little tipsy by the end of the day!
Beer Cycling: The art of brewing beer in Flanders is from a whole different time. And what better way to enjoy a chilled pitcher than during your break from pedaling! From flavours to the aroma, every beer that you taste has a distinctive personality. Opt for Geuzeroute for the best experience!
Domein Bokrijk: Cycling through the water, without getting wet! Ever heard of this? Domein Bokrijk is one such place where water on either sides will be till your eye level, yet not a single drop will wet you. With its fascinating lakes and mining history, you would have found your favourite site in Flanders right here!
Here we are. Just imagining how a cycling tour in Flanders would be, is enough to tickle your toes! So, put on your cycling shoes, pack the lightest bag and set out on this vacation, which is no less an adventure! Race through the rough pathways and pedal slowly to enjoy the breeze of the countryside.
See, smell, taste and hear what this land says Breathe in the fervour, breathe in Flanders...