Nectar in beer form
Avoiding an icy bike path
As if any reason is needed to accept an invitation from distributor Onimpex to visit the Bio-Racer clothing factory in Belgium, there was the fact that the Gent Six and Koksijde cyclo-cross were to take place on the proposed weekend. Added to this the possibility of joining a ride starting from Oudenaarde, home of the Tour of Flanders museum, on the Saturday morning and DA and I needed no further persuasion to say yes.
The journey to Tessenderlo, home of Bio-Racer, took us via Antwerp, where snow showers blotted the sky and coated the motorway, to Zolder racing circuit. Any hopes of joining the legendary chaingang that often uses the circuit were dashed by the weather, which encouraged us to stay holed up in the luxurious De Pits hotel.
At the factory we were shown the manufacturing process from first drawings of a jersey design right through to the finshed garment. More of this process in future articles but we were pleased and impressed to see, emerging from the FP-740 digital dye sublimation inkjet printer, a series of “papers” with RCUK colouring and logos.
Once we’d got our hands on the finished articles (which look pretty good, if I say so myself) we set off for Oudenaarde and our digs for the night. There was just time for a chilly scoot out along the Schelde bikepath to Berchem and back before snow began to fall and, by the time we got too our restaurant, it was coming down heavily with occasional breaks.
Of course, after a few bottles of Orval, the sight of blizzard conditions outside was enough to dissuade us from driving into Gent to watch the Six and we contented ourselves with the prospect of the ride the next morning. This was to be a more organised version of the Rapha burn-up ridden by DA last year, but the conditions looked pretty uninviting and, when he checked Twitter, it looked to have been cancelled.
Still keen, we turned up at Caesar’s cafe to await developments and eat a pain au chocolate or two. The car park in the town centre was covered in slush and, when newly-appointed Team Sky bike manager Andy Verrall turned up with Rapha-Condor’s Dean Downing to confirm that the roads outside Oudenaarde were treacherous, the ride was postponed until early afternoon.
With our ferry booked for 16:00hrs, DA, Ken Jones of Onimpex and I didn’t have time to wait. Dressed for the conditions, we set off towards Wortegem, ploughed through slush until we reached drier roads, dropped back down into Berchem, climbed the Kluisberg and got back to Oudenaarde in good time for the bash back to Dunkirk. Shame we had to drive straight past Koksijde and the cyclo-cross, but there wasn’t another ferry until eight o’clock and I was looking forward to a piping hot lasagne.