SRAM ambassador Anja Kallenbach typically heads to the mountains for her cycling adventures… But for this #My1x outing, she couldn’t resist testing herself on the legendary cobbled climbs of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).
I wanted to bring my SRAM 1x to what it is made for… rough roads. Actually, stone roads. OK, this is not really my usual terrain, but I was really curious to ride on the legendary cobblestone climbs of the Ronde van Vlaanderen! We chose a 140km route that included 1,500 meters of climbing. We tackled many of the Ronde’s hallowed hills – Molenberg, Eikenberg, Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Koppenberg, Valkenberg, Tenbosse, Mariaborrestraat, Steenbeekdries, Taaineberg, Muur van Geraadsbergen, and the Bosberg! So, plenty of cobblestones as you can see in this route map.
We started from Ninove, rolling 25km before the first cobblestones started. These roads are small and made from sections of concrete, so you start getting used to some shaking. With windy conditions, I started wondering what was wrong. Where were my legs? It was difficult to hold more than 25km per hour. Then I looked at my Quarq power meter and realized the conditions were already demanding.
So, I was already wondering how I would finish the day with all of the cobblestones and steep hills yet to come. Then suddenly we turned and faced the cobbled climb, the Molenberg. I chose to ride my Focus Cayo with SRAM Force 1 because it allowed me to easily shift, even while everything – my bike and myself – were rattling. The cobblestones had big gaps between them. I tried to ride as fast as possible. The bike was hoping from stone to stone transporting the shaking right up into your brain. I was thankful I had 28mm wide tires (Zipp Tangente R28 Course) on my Zipp 30 Course Disc-brake wheels. I would not like to try with smaller ones.
Good. Now I know it’s possible to conquer the cobblestones. But I maintained my high degree of respect for the steep Paterberg and Koppenberg. Then I faced an issue confronting every cyclist – I was really hungry. I was beyond needing just energy bars.
Then came the Paterberg. You suddenly turn right and the road full of cobblestones seems to climb up to heaven with parts around 20 percent. Unbelievable! You can´t go fast anymore as each pedal stroke becomes a challenge. The stones throw you from left to right, so it is really difficult to hold the balance. You zigzag.
I understand now why the pros want ride at the front of the peloton here; you need so much place with your zig-zag, but the small road has not enough space for everybody. I managed to arrive at the top and had to stop immediately to calm my breath and heartbeat.
Then not many kilometers later, the next legend: the Koppenberg! I already have been there one time for a photo session, but didn´t remember this climb was sooo hard. The stones were wet, so very slippery. I really thought I would fall or put a foot down, and then it is almost impossible to get going again because it’s just too steep! But I managed to scale this legendary climb, though I don´t know how. Again, I had to stop with shaking legs and completely out of breath! Now I was really happy that the hardest part of the day was over.
Some hills later (Valkenberg and Tenbosse were not so difficult) followed the longest cobblestone climbs of the day with the Mariaborrestraat and Steenbeekdries. Wow, it shook from your inside out! We passed some cyclists standing beside the road with their chain fallen down, but this issue doesn’t happen with my SRAM 1x. It shifted precisely as always as if you were on a smooth road.
Then of course we were waiting for the most famous hill of the day the Muur van Geraadsbergen. It introduces itself to you with the sign of 19 percent, so I had a lot of respect. But I must say, it is less difficult then the Paternberg and Koppenberg, but much more beautiful! First the lights shine through the forest on the stones and then you turn right to face the last part up to the beautiful church and you have a great view on the top.
And you know just one left: the Bosberg. The final kilometers we rolled with the wind at our backs with a slight descent, our reward!
To finish this great day, we finally enjoyed the famous Belgian frites, which we had smelled already all the day, and yes, they were really tasty!
For more information about me and my journeys on my bike or for gear or touring advise, contact me on my homepage: www.anja-kallenbach.com or follow me on Instagram, Twitter: @anjakallenbach, or Facebook.