In three days BW Cycling head to Belgium with 12 of our clients and 16,000 other cyclists to tackle the Tour of Flanders sportive. These events go hand in hand with the recent popularity of road cycling and offer the perfect long weekend for enthusiastic Brits. Head over on Friday and only miss one work day, ride the event on Saturday, few local beers Saturday night and then watch the professionals tackle the same route on Sunday before heading home.
The Tour of Flanders is by far the most popular of the early season events and characterised by its 18 cobbled climbs. These ‘Bergs’ vary in length and severity, the toughest being the Koppenberg and the Patenberg, with a rough cobbled surface and gradients hitting 22%!
These events require a little extra prep and technique to other sportives, so here are our my top ten cobbled sportive tips
Tires- Go for a slightly wider tire, a 25mm works well or 28mm is better if your bike has the clearance. Go for good quality tires with the best rubber compound, you can not beat Continental GP4000 or 4season in our experience
Pressure- Do not pump your tires up as hard as for smooth roads, so 90PSI for lighter riders and 100PSI for heavier riders, this will allow the tire to deform
Cleats- Make sure your pedal cleats are in good condition, you may have to walk the odd climb because of traffic so need to have some wear left in them
Bottle cages- You are going to need all the fluid you can and want to keep your bottles on your bikes. Make sure your bottles are secure as cages will be tested on the cobbles
Bolt check- As part of your pre race service do a full bolt check (ideally with a torque wrench) and check everything is tight. This includes the bottle cages!
Bar tape- Some riders fit a second wrap of bar tape to help with vibration, if you are going to try this then do it early and have time to try it. It is not comfortable for everyone, especially smaller hands.
Stay seated- On the climbs you are best off staying seated and keeping some weight on the saddle and therefore the rear wheel, especially if the cobbles are wet
Elbows down- On the climbs think about pulling your elbows down and back, this is a mountain bike technique and works well, pulling your upper body weight onto the front wheel to keep the bike balanced and switches the core muscles on to make you more stable.
Ride the edges- If traffic allows then look for the edge of the road to ride in, there is generally a sweet spot between the edge of the cobbled road and the curb/grass which is level and smoother.
Always take a hat and thin waterproof - The weather can change hugely during the ride, always take something you can wear under your helmet and a thin foldable jacket, to keep your core and head warm.