Keeping up with Old Geezers
A day after a reasonably fast 100 km fixed gear ride in Antwerp province on Saturday, I rode 70 km single speed in the 2012 edition of the Retro Ronde van Vlaanderen. The weather was very agreeable, and, as last year, the mood was festive. The most attractive feature of these vintage cycling events is that the overwhelming majority of the participants are there to have fun, not to compete. And, of course, there are plenty of beautiful bikes to please the eyes.
The route this year was more forgiving than last year: 10 climbs, 4 km of cobbles, and 5 feed stops. Not riding a geared bike, I walked up 3 of the climbs, but the Koppenberg climb, where even Eddy Merckx was reduced to walking up one year in poor weather condition, was not even included this year. The cobblestone portion was greatly reduced as well; 4 km divided into 11 stretches is really nothing. The emphasis this year was clearly on ‘fun’ rather than ‘challenge’, which I think is much more in keeping with the expectations of most participants.
That said, it is still a route that requires a fair bit of effort. One Brit whom I recall seeing last year on a stunning early 20th century bike came on a penny farthing this year. Hats off to the nutter.
In the last 1/3 of the route, I joined a pair of Flemish pensioners that were going at a good clip. One was on a dark red Gazelle and the other was on a white / light blue Pinarello. Their vintage steeds have clearly eaten a lot more miles than I can imagine. The chap on the Gazelle, who was leading us, explained to me that his friend on the Pinarello is usually faster than him, but his friend is tired today because he had been in the saddle for 4 hours the day before. I thought, ‘Well, I did too, but you boys are old enough to be my papa and yet you’re both going at a good clip and going up all the climbs without dismounting… And, all in good spirits!’
I will need that sort of good spirits for G2MC charity ride, and if I have half the legs of these old geezers, then I shall be floating up the Alps like a mountain goat…