Tour of Flanders Centre shows visitors how to race like the pros

Summary

In the run-up to the Flanders in Dialogue event for expats, the director of the centre dedicated to cycling tells us what makes the Flemish Ardennes so unique

Riding the cobblestones

Though it might seem a bit out of the way if you live in one of the big expat cities like Brussels or Antwerp, the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen, or Tour of Flanders Centre, is strategically located to make the most of its name. It’s right on the main square in Oudenaarde, East Flanders – the heart of Belgium’s most famous classic cycle road race.

In fact, the Tour of Flanders is coming right up. On 1 April, cycling fans will once again line the famously brutal cobblestoned hillsides for the one-day race. Those gathering for Easter Sunday dinner will no doubt have it on the telly in the background. Because just like Easter, “de Ronde” – the Tour – is regarded as a holiday in Flanders.

All of this will become clear during the next Flanders in Dialogue, a series of info evenings aimed at Brussels expats. The next one is coming up next week, and the topic is cycling. A previous winner of the Tour of Flanders will talk about the experience, as will the director of the centre dedicated to the event, Geert Joris.

The Tour of Flanders Centre is open every day for those who want to relive the Tour or just find out a little more about its history, its winners and its famously tough route. The permanent exhibition is dedicated to the race, while temporary exhibitions cover other topics. On now is a show about pro women cyclists, and soon cycle races during wartime will be explored.

“The Tour of Flanders is one of the best ambassadors of Flanders in the world,” says Joris. “That’s our cue to fulfil two missions: Inform visitors about cycling in the region and let them experience it for themselves.”

Rent a bike or bring your own

The museum and experience centre, with written guides in multiple languages, describes the country’s most famous cycle race and lets you relive some of its most exciting moments. You’ll also learn about cycling in Flanders in general – from the story of the great Eddy Merckx to how racing bikes are put together.

The rest of the centre is dedicated to getting you out on the road. It rents bikes, provides maps of cycle routes and even has showers and lockers. Anyone on a cycle holiday heads first to the centre, but even local day-trippers can stop in to get their bearings in the beautiful Flemish Ardennes.

What makes the Flemish Ardennes unique in the world are the steep hills and the cobblestones

- Geert Joris

The centre sees 80,000 visitors a year, and wants to double that number. So it’s planning more activities, like guided cycle rides. Starting in April, every last Thursday will find an After-Work ride taking place at 16.00.

“We’re planning to install more showers and also a bike garage so that people who want to spend time here and in Oudenaarde can store their bikes safely,” says Joris. This can also be handy if you want to stop in at the centre’s cycle cafe.

A veritable expert in the Flemish cycling scene, Joris will talk about the centre “and the heroes of pro cycling” at Flanders in Dialogue.

Flanders in Dialogue: Cycling in Flanders, 26 March 19.00-20.00, followed by reception; Herman Teirlinck building, Tour & Taxis, Havenlaan 88, Brussels. The event is free, but advance registration is required