Unique Schaal Sels race takes on Belgian cobbles and dirt roads

Never heard of the Belgian Schaal Sels race? It's worth a look with a crazy route that runs through farm fields on dirt roads and cobbles.

Photo: kramon

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You’ve likely never heard of Schaal Sels. Since 1921, the Belgian race had taken the rather dull form of the kermesse. But with media and team interest fading to almost nonexistent, organizers invited former pro Nico Mattan to design a totally new course that would deliver some excitement for 2015.

He didn’t disappoint.

With the addition of some 30 kilometers of cobbles and another 19 of dirt and gravel, the race became something entirely unique. Heavy rains the night before added even more treachery, and though the race started under sunny skies, chaos erupted at the first gravel section, where riders, cars, and motorbikes slid across the mud-slicked road. And that was before the route began winding through cornfields, across farm tracks, and through industrial zones.

Unfortunately, the race was stopped on multiple occasions. A UCI commissaire’s car became stuck in the mud, and riders at one point discussed quitting the race. But they continued on, and despite the mayhem, there were no serious injuries.

“Most riders were ecstatic about the new course,” says photographer Kristof Ramon. “This was a race for the history books, stuff of legends.”

VeloNews will stream the 2016 edition of the race for free on Sunday, August 28.

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