If you follow pro cycling at all you know that we’re smack dab in the middle of the 2012 Spring Classics in Europe We’ve already had Oomloop Het Nieusblad and Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders, Paris Roubaix, Fleche Wallonne are still to come. Tomorrow is the 96th edition of the Tour of Flanders. You know that this is one of the big name races and you are probably familiar with some of the more famous sections of the route: the Molenberg, the Kwaremont, and the Koppenberg. These are some of the legendary, riduculously steep farm roads that make this race so thrilling to watch.
What you might not know is that many of these famous cobblestoned climbs (“Hellingen” or “Côtes”, as they are referred to in Flemish and French respectively) are situated very close to the Belgian town of Oudenaarde. Therefore, the importance the Tour of Flanders has on Oudenaarde can’t be understated. For Flanders, race day is like combining the World Cup and the Olympics all into one day, with closing ceremonies in Oudenaarde.
You shouldn’t be surprised to hear then that Oudenaarde is quite proud of the Tour of Flanders. How proud you might ask? Well, located just off of the main town square is a museum dedicated solely to this famous one day race. Imagine that if you will. This is not a 3 week stage race, like the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia. It is not a race that includes all of Belgium. It is not even a two day omnium. It is a one day race… with it’s own museum! You don’t see that in many other countries.
Visitors to the “Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen” Museum are invited to follow in the footsteps of past winners with very interactive exhibits sure to entertain cycling enthusiasts. You’re greeted from the outside with a wall of jerseys from past teams that participated in the race. You can see the start sheets that racers sign before rolling to the start line. And of course there’s detailed info about the history of the race and the course itself.
If you’re not too familiar with the race, the museum offers up a 13 minute intro into what it’s all about. (the intro is below)
Maybe most interesting though is an installation explaining the different types of cobblestones encountered in the race. Yes, you heard that correctly. Did you think that there was merely one type of cobblestone? Not only are there different types of cobbles, each has its own ride characteristics. Fascinating stuff!
And if just seeing the cobblestones isn’t quite enough for you, you’ve also got the option to hop on a virtual reality simulator bike and experience the different cobblestones for yourself. Hopefully, if you’re an avid cyclist, you’ll get outside to ride them for yourself, but the simulator is fun for the whole family (riders and non-riders) to get a sense of what this famous course is really like.
If you’re passing through Flanders and you’re a cyclist, seeing Oudenaarde and its museum is a must.