After a five week touring adventure around New Zealand I was off on a completely different sort of a holiday, a trip to Northern Europe to take on two icons of the world of cycling: The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Before you get too excited I should quickly point out that these weren’t the professional races, but rather the mass participation sportives which are organised as part of the same weekend. Over the course of the week I undertook an 80 mile circuit of the Tour of Flanders and a 105 mile section of Paris Roubaix, both providing plenty of excitement, fun, and pain.
My Week of Classics
My only previous sportive experience was at the Prudential Ride London. Whilst the flat, smooth roads of the home counties don’t exactly match up to the pavé of Northern Europe, I knew for certain that a well prepared bike would be a massive aid in getting through the event. I chose to ride my Genesis Croix De Fer 20. I’d just spent 5 weeks rolling around New Zealand on it so I knew my body would be dialled into the position, although a few minor adjustments would be needed. There’s a lot to be said for versatile bikes, they’re great for racing, training, touring, cyclocross, bike paths, pavement, you name it, and they’ll be able to cope with it. I’m already eyeing up the range of Kinesis Bikes stocked by PBK for my next purchase. They represent such good value for money and can be quickly modified to cope with almost any demands.
Tyres were going to be key for this getting through both of these events. I’m a HUGE fan of Continental as a brand; I’ve raced and toured on them now so they’re tyres that I trust to do the business and not fail when they’re needed most. I was looking for a predominantly slick tyre and was struggling to decide between the GP4000 and the famed Gatorskin. In the end I opted for the GP4000 purely based on my previous experience but decided to up the width to a 28mm from my usual 25mm preference for that extra level of comfort over the cobbles. As well as bike performance I was also keen to ensure I maintained my personal performance, and for this, there was only one nutrition company to turn to: MyProtein. Whilst MyProtein don’t have a huge reputation in cycling, they are viewed as the go-to brand in many sports; I’ve honestly lost count of the number of rugby players and rowers I know who use their products for fuelling and recovery. I used a combination of products during the ride including energy gels and nutritional bars, and ensured I had a big serving of recovery shake awaiting me at the finish.
With this being Northern Europe I knew the weather could be rather unpredictable throughout my week. I packed two sets of clothes for the event: my Team PBK-Santini jersey and bibs, and also my ever so reliable Castelli Gabba and Nanoflex Bib Tights in preparation for rainier weather. I opted for the Team PBK kit for the Tour of Flanders, but ran a hybrid of Gabba and Team PBK bib shorts for Paris-Roubaix due to the likelihood of weather changes throughout the day. I absolutely love riding in the Team PBK-Santini kit, it looks so smart and professional – I know it caught the eye of plenty of Belgian cyclists out on the route. The Gabba is hands down the best item of clothing I own, it does an incredible job of repelling the rain and keeping you dry whilst also ensuring you don’t overheat like is often the case with rain capes… truly the best non-bike specific investment I’ve made in cycling.
Overall, I had a great couple of days riding on some of the most iconic roads, bergs and cobbles that our sport has to offer. I really would recommend both of these rides to anyone, you feel totally involved and part of the spectacle that is the cobbled classics. Preparation is key; prepare yourself, your bike, your mind, and nothing can really go wrong!