Flanders blog: Cycling geek heaven

Cycle Sport spends an afternoon at the Tour of Flanders museum

Words by Edward Pickering

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No, the title doesn’t refer to some of the more obscure corners of the internet, the kind of place exciteable nerds earnestly discuss great 47th places of cycling history. Cycle Sport has just spent the afternoon at the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen – the museum of the Tour of Flanders, in Oudenaarde.

It really is cycling geek heaven, a treasure trove of bike racing paraphernalia. It’s got a series of exhibits centred around the Tour of Flanders, a cafe serving hors-categorie portions of apfeltaart, and Freddy Maertens is often to be seen working the reception desk. Here are the six best things about it…

1. Old bikes
The oldest bike is from around 1910, a Minerva, that looks more like a gate with wheels than a bike. Gears? Don’t be soft – count yourself lucky they’d invented the pneumatic tyre. There’s also Tom Simpson’s 1962 Gitane, complete with five gears, frame-mounted pump and down-tube shifters, plus Vladimir Gusev’s dust-encrusted Trek, circa the mid-2000s.

Tom Simpson's 1962 Gitane

2. Statto heaven
We could stare at the large floor map of the climbs of the Tour of Flanders for hours. In fact, we did. That’s why this piece has gone up so late in the day. If numbers are more your thing (and you should possibly seek help if they are), the climbs are analysed down to the minutest change in gradient.

3. The ‘Wat is een Flandrien?’ display
If you need to ask, “what does that mean?” then you don’t deserve to know the answer. The display heavily features the most Flandrian Flandrian of all, Briek Schotte. “Iron Briek” was as tough as old leather.

4. Cycling paraphernalia
The museum is full of old jerseys, caps, shoes, books and magazines. When people email in to tell us how rubbish our magazine is compared to the old days, this is what they are comparing us to, in spite of the fact that there’s a lot less creative writing in race reporting these days. Allegedly.

5. The jerseys display in the bar
Remember the red Catch Sprints jersey from the Tour de France? The Combine jersey? They’re arranged in all their retro glory above the bar.

6. Leif Hoste having a face like a slapped arse
This picture was taken about five minutes after local boy Hoste was marginally outsprinted by Alessandro Ballan in the 2007 Ronde. It still makes us giggle.

Entry to the museum costs seven euros 50, and you’ll be committing crimes against cycling fandom if you don’t make at least one visit in the course of your life.

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