The Tour of Flanders

Beer, frites, and cobblestones

Riders grind up the Koppenberg Hill at the 2009 Tour of Flanders

Riders grind up the Koppenberg Hill at the 2009 Tour of Flanders     Photo: Ctankcycles/Wikimedia

When Belgian Nick Nuyens won the 2011 edition of the Tour of Flanders—and beat favored Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara—fans reacted as if he had saved his country’s honor. The next day, the newspaper Het Nieuwsblad put Nuyens on the cover and called him “Our Savior.” Which is all to say, in Belgium, they take their bike racing seriously.

They also take their beer seriously. Each year, drinking begins early in the morning as riders depart Ghent for a 150-mile-plus lap around the Flanders. If you’re willing to do a little General Lee-style driving—and have a competent navigator—it’s possible to view the race on several of the legendary cobbled bergs, or hills. Start your day at the Grand Depart in Bruge and watch the race roll out while you enjoy a few waffles or frites, served properly in a paper cone. The debate over which of the nation's five thousand frites vendors is best never ends, but like bagels in New York City, you can't really go wrong.

Wash those down with the day’s first beers at De Trollekelder, then rally to some of the most famous bergs: Oude Kwaremont, Koppenburg, Valkenberg, and Eikenmolen. For the 2012 race, the legendary cobbled hill of the Muur-Kapelmuur was eliminated in favor of finishing circuits around the town of Oudenaarde (also home to the Tour of Flanders Museum). It’s difficult to get close to the finish line, but any bar you find—De Mouterij is one of our favorites—will have the race on TV. Buy the locals a round and they might even translate the commentary for you. For a more organized trip, Bike Belgium arranges travel to Flanders as well as several other spring classics.

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