Tuesday, 9 May 2017

FNRttKust 2017

This time last week we were all making our way to Brussels.  Except for Claud.  Claud's train never left Swindon.  That was a great shame.  Claud was wearing Lion of Flanders cycling socks and everything!

I made my way to Brussels with the help of my sister Kris who drove my bike and I to Lichtervelde train station.  Me not finding my lock was on my mind, and Kris suggested we visit the local bike shop - there was plenty of time.  I'm pleased we did.  Not only was I able to buy a lock, I had a good laugh with the owner and stepped back in time 30 years.

"Hooglede velomaker"
He made a couple of philosophical statements, like 'you can buy a bike in every sweetshop, but you can't buy sweets in a bike shop'.  Or did I mis-hear that?  His point was that bike shops are disappearing.  Well, if you are in Hooglede (which is near Gits), you might like to pop in before this one disappears.  You can't buy sweets, but you can buy pots and pans and have your dry cleaning done to boot.

Kris left me in good spirits and totally up for the ride, the fifth and final edition of the Flemish Night Ride to the Kust.   Once in Brussels, after a super fast train journey, I was even more smiley as I saw Tintin and Snowy popping up from behind some buildings.

Kuifje and Bobbie
I made my way to the Grand Place and had my customary waffle with strawberries and a hot chocolate. Yum!  It didn't take long for Fridays to arrive.

The Fridays!

We left at 11PM as planned - amazing!   We were lead out by our Brussels specialist BalkanExpress.  The Eddy Merckx factory was a photo opportunity not to be missed.  At Groot Bijgaarden we were joined, as planned, by Frank, a local randonneur and friend of the Fridays.

It was a quiet night. We had no mechanicals, no rain and no headwind.  The most noise we heard was being shouted at in Aalst, as usual.  No, not as usual, more than usual!  I had told Frank that we usually get shouted at and he replied 'just shout back'!  So we did, and the punters loved it.  Think I heard an 'Allez Eddy'.

Some of the more unusual experiences were being stopped by a hedgehog (makes a change from the kangaroos)

It's a hedgehog!! (photo by deckertim)

and yorkshire preferring to walk the route than cycle it.


The middle of the night stop is at only 60km, so we can't be hallucinating yet.  But when you enter our hosts' house and see the tables 'groaning with food' as StuAff put it, you think you have arrived for something more wonderful than a mad cyclists tea party in an 'Alice in Wonderland'  kind of world.  I wanted to try everything and began regretting eating that waffle in Brussels!

Thank you sooooo much!!
Yorkshire was sure that this stop was overhyped, but 'it turns out to be quite the opposite' she said.  There was soup, two types of soup, quiches, three types of quiches, croissants, three types of croissants, chocolates, lemon cake, brownies, bread, cheese, ham, fruit, yoghurt ....

And then we left holding a take-away bag with more of the home-made yumminess.

On to Bruges, making good time, even ahead of time.  This is going swimmingly.

Smedenpoort - Bruges (photo by deckertim)
I love the stretch between Bruges and Ostende.  That's when the sun comes through.

However it's also the stretch and the time of day when Sunday cyclists come out for their training.  I want to emphasise that cycling clubs in Belgium are at the top of the pecking order.  They have priority over everything and everybody.  You see, amongst them will be the future Tour de France winner.  So if they want to go four abreast whilst we hug the path edge, single file, then that is what needs to happen.  Don't fight it, let the future Tour de France winner and his entourage do his thing.

There is no point being annoyed at the road works either, is there.  But I must admit that I was ggrrr'd to find the smooth tarmac of the 'Groendreef' dug up.  We were nearly there and I had visualised sailing into Ostende, through the park, onto the esplanade ... Never mind, it's not too much hardship really.  Just like club cyclists on the tow path, we should expect some road works somewhere along our 143km route.  It's 142 now, yet again a couple of kinks have been removed, thanks to Frank's advice.

Going along the esplanade was a treat.  That is proper Ostende.

Ostende (photo by deckertim)
Caruso didn't disappoint either.  What a breakfast!

Sums it up.
So that was the fifth and final FNRttKust.  There are options for next year.   It could even be self running.  Date, time and location is known, people could just turn up. There is the 24 't Hoekske in Gent and the Bruges station break is convenient enough.  In Ostende, there are plenty of options.  Caruso was initially chosen because they open at 7AM - not that we ever got there at that time!  

Thanks to everybody who has joined and contributed to the FNRttK ride over the last five years - it went from strength to strength.  The last version has been billed 'the best ever'. It certainly was the longest, ETA was spot on for the first time, had the most riders, we ate the most food and had the least mechanicals.  It will be hard not to turn up next year ...

Photos are here: Photos
Photos by Tim: Photos by Tim