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Belgium can feel like an anomaly. It’s a place where cyclists rank right up there with footballers in national popularity, oftentimes surpassing them. Need more proof? Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s young phenom Remco Evenepoel recently signed an endorsement deal with a national pizza chain. Cyclists, pros and enthusiasts alike, train year-round despite rain falling here on average every second day of the year. And you don’t necessarily need to be inclined to don skin-tight clothes to enjoy the sport. Visit a bar on any given day of the year and you’re liable to see patrons young and old, fit and less so, guzzling ales while crowded around a television showing a bike race.
This place lives and breathes cycling. And one of the most authentic way to experience the country, and Flanders in particular, is by bike. For our tour through Flanders aboard the Specialized Creo, we stitch together several cities in the region, hitting the sectors of cobbles that make this place a destination for cyclists the world over.
Perhaps no climb defines the region quite like the Muur van Geraardsbergen, aka the Kapelmuur, in Geraardsbergen. The chapel here, surrounded by thousands of screaming fans come race day, presents both an iconic photo opportunity and a location for a race-defining move in many spring classics. The climb is an essential part of any bike tour of Flanders. But there’s reason more to stop by Geraardsbergen, and yes, it’s food.
Mattentaart, a puff pastry with a cheese curd filling, is a regional delicacy that has to be experienced in its birthplace. It’s so iconic to this region that the European Union has granted the treat Protected Geographical Indication, meaning it can only be made here. Now that’s worth a stop, providing a delicious way to mix up the many frîtes stops that inevitably happen on a trip to Belgium.
And after a day of taming cobbled bergs on the Creo, we have to stop by the café at the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen in Oudenaarde. While the prospect of topping off our caffeine reserves sounds tempting, we really want to take the opportunity to savor a pint of Kwaremont, having mere miles ago tackled the namesake climb that serves as a cornerstone of the current Tour of Flanders route.
Finishing a day of exploring Flemish cobbles at this museum is only fitting. Where else will you find an entire permanent museum dedicated to one bike race? It serves as a testament to cycling’s importance to national identity here—why we’ve sought out a ride here and why we will return many times in the future.