Under the radar and not over the top…

It’s not often I open an article with the headline coming from a lyric created by 1990’s hardcore techno act Scooter, but these are different times.

Cycling is back however with racing over the weekend in Italy with Strade Bianche and today in Lombardy.

Being a fan of Belgian riders, especially those with a cyclo cross slant, you could be forgiven for not getting too far past the performance of Wout Van Aert at the weekend.

He proved once and for all that there is more to converts from the mud and dirt than Mathieu Van der Poel and Zednek Stybar.

His dominant performance in dispatching a group of known grand tour and classics stars was a win for all ages. It was all the better for us having had such a wait to see it.

But down the results list and in the breakaway today is the name of a rider who is going under the radar but is impressing.

The next cab of the rank was likely to be Tim Merlier who was starting his transition to the road and was present in the opening weekend of Flemish classics back in February. But for me Quinten Hermans could be the better bet.

He was up there without being super impressive on the rough stuff in the winter, but has settled in with Wanty/Circus since the restart. He is clearly able to get in a move and hang in until the latter stages of big races.

I will be keeping an eye on him as I think a breakthrough win could be coming soon.

23/7/2020 – Beers of Belgium CC update

There is always lots going on behind the scenes here at Beers of Belgium CC and I am looking forward to getting the jersey on and getting out there promoting this page of the Fendrien website.

This will hopefully coincide with the return of bike racing and we will be able to recreate that moment when a beer is sipped in front of the TV after a strenuous training ride where you have pretended to be Greg Van Avermaet.

So keep an eye out for the kit delivery and our team jersey out there on the roads.

Beers of Belgium CC

Roman brewery Tour 2018

https://www.roman.be/en/oldest-family-brewery-belgium

On a rare child free weekend in the short period between the road season and ‘cross starting, the Wife and I took a drive from Lincolnshire to the heart of Oudenaarde for a weekend of walking the hellingen and some food and beer testing.

We stayed at the beautiful Beans and Dreams coffee house doing all of the touristy stuff like eating steak and frites in the town square and working our way through some of the beers in the tiny little bar near the Ronde Van Vlanderen museum.

The first full day saw us take the steep little road out of town towards the Roman Brewery.

We had been booked on a tour which ironically saw us joined by one of the cycling clubs of Antwerp who wanted to ask me loads of questions about whether Chris Froome was asthmatic or not…

The tour guide took us to one side to explain politely that the tour was predominantly going to be in Dutch/Flemish but that he would try and keep us up to speed. He seemed impressed that a British couple were so keen to take the tour.

The buildings themselves were really old and impressive. You see this brewery regularly on TV footage of all the big classics in this part of the world and the giant stills were so well polished and the barrels stacked so neatly that you knew this was a class operation.

After the tour there was a tasting which I thought would be a couple of small glasses to try but this was 15 minute free bar… My wife handed me the car keys before trying a couple of tripels and a nice ruby.

Thankfully the pricing of the shop was such that we could fill the boot of the car (using Antwerp cycling club officials as extra pairs of hands) before heading back into town.

One of us grumpily and the other one groggily.

I will let you decide who was who.

What I will say is that everyone who is a lover of Belgian beers should make the time to take a tour. People are so proud of what they produce and so passionate about it. That comes across in everything they do and say.

The theatre in the presentation of the drinks, even in a free tasting show care for the drinks, it was magical.

Once this is over and we are free to move again, who’s up for a trip?

Missing my favourite bar in Brugge

21 Draughts, still talked about to this day.

A nondescript ferry from Hull to Zebrugge on a December Saturday evening in 2014 probably isn’t the start point for too many Belgian beer related tales. However this one starts on the vessel locals affectionately call “The Party Boat” offering super cheap weekend trips abroad to Amsterdam and Brugge.

It was £35 return including cabin and coach transfer and isn’t much more expensive now. The cabins are best described as snug. My Brother in Law who is a submariner uttered the words “Bloody hell, its tight in here” when we went in to claim our bunks.

I had a pre determined reason to go to Brugge that weekend. It was partially Christmas shopping and partially recce for my trip to the Ronde Cyclo for the following spring. What followed was something quite special!

We left the ferry and took the coach into Brugge before meeting up with a friend of mine (another cycling nut) from Amsterdam. The train and coach station converged so it was easy to meet up before sauntering across the cobbles into town.

I know that people criticise Brugge for being commercialised and more expensive than other towns in Flanders but there is a magic and ambience to the place that I think is unique.

After getting a breakfast we looked for somewhere to quench the sort of thirst only a night bobbing about in the North Sea can give you. 21 Draughts was the destination we found.

The service and expertise were amazing and it was there I took my first sips of delights such as Brugge Trippel and Bornhem, drinks that remain on my list to this day.

As opposed to getting out and sightseeing for the day, we didn’t leave until we needed to catch the last shuttle to the boat back to Hull, only pausing for a cone of frites and mayo… naturally.

When I went back for the RVV cyclo the bar was still there and the wife enjoyed one too many before driving to Oudenaarde to meet me the next day after the sportive. However the next time we went back to the town the bar was closed and gone.

21 Draughts is still loved and talked about in our family and much missed. A lovely spot just back from the square and reasonably stocked and priced.

It’s trips and experiences like these that make my love for Flanders and its ale so strong, and despite my favourite bar no longer being there, I hope one day to take the foam off one in the the town.