VC Walcot rider Claire Cottrell speeds through Flanders countryside on a gravel track

Velo Club Walcot members return happy from pedalling-packed trip to the Belgian Classics


Over 3 days and 300km (87 miles), Claire Cottrell and David Acklam tackled the infamous cobbled climbs, joined the Gent Wevelgem Sportive and rode the 112km Red Loop of the Tour of Flanders. They still found time between rides to watch the professionals race in the E3 Harelbeke Spring Classic race, spotting world champion Peter Sagan in action –  and of course enjoyed some of the local food and legendary Belgian beer.


Professional cyclists including World Champion Peter Sagan compete in a race in Belgium

God-like being and World Champion Peter Sagan goes into battle at the E3 Harelbeke Spring Classic. He didn’t win this one but he did a couple of days later at Gent-Wevelgem.


Together, Claire and David bagged 19 out of the 25 climbs featured in Simon Warren’s excellent ‘Hellingen: A Road Cyclists Guide to Belgium’s Greatest Cycling Climbs’  (find it in the cycling section at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath – Ed)  a total of over 3,400m (11,257ft). No mean feat given that apart from being paved with huge, slippery stones, the classic Flandrian climbs earn their notoriety for being short but brutally steep.

With his tour-guide flag well and truly waving, David explains that “The Gent-Wevelgem sportive gave access to West Flanders which incorporates many WW1 sites as it goes through Ypres and the Menin Gate and which is of special interest to me as a distant relative Private Tommy Acklam of the East Yorkshire regiment is one of the names on the Gate.”


Pilgrimage to Flanders; where David’s ancestor Tommy Acklam is inscribed as one of the fallen.


David goes on, “It’s not all cobbles, though. There is a huge network of minor roads that criss cross the flat and rolling countryside. The area gets a lot of coverage at this time of year because of the cycling Classics, but its open all year round and only two hours away on the other side of the Channel.”

The two were impressed by the Belgian enthusiasm for cycling. Claire commented, “Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming everywhere we’ve been, and their support of cycling is amazing, they love it. We’ll definitely be back. Big thanks to Dave for arranging and navigating the rides.”


VC Walcot cycling club riders in full club strip proudly show off their race numbers

Team VCW: lovers of good food and not afraid of a few cobbles


Tyre nerds will be interested that both riders were on Continental Gatorskin tyres with Claire on 32mm front and rear at 80psi and David on 28mm with 90psi rear and 80psi front. No puntures.


Cyclists' famous cobbled climbs of Flanders

Famous cyclists’ cobbled climbs of Flanders: Haaghoek, Muur, Kattenberg, Kwaremont, Koppenberg, Haaghoek (from other direction), Jagerij, Molenberg.


Closer to home, VC Walcot is organising its own tribute to the Spring Classics on Sunday 8th April 2018, with some fiendish climbs on the gravelly and pot-holed lanes around Bath followed by a communal viewing of Paris-Roubaix on Eurosport at The Bath Brew House. More details to follow…

Meanwhile, watch former pros Dan Lloyd and Matt Stevens on GCN ride and rate the 5 Hardest Cobbled Climbs in FlandersAccording to Claire, “I would agree with [their] order, although we did do Kwaremont after a beer!”