Belgian pros take on staggering 365km ride around East Flanders during unexpected off-season

Riders are finding their own ways of dealing with the disruption, but this one is crazy

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

While Europe is struggling to deal with the effects of a coronavirus lockdown, two Belgian pros used the unexpected off-season to stack a staggering amount of kilometres in one ride.

Oliver Naesen, Classics specialist and Ag2r La Mondiale rider, and companion Maxim Pirard took on an immense 365km ride around East Flanders on Wednesday (March 18), spending more than 12 hours in the saddle.

Naesen’s season has been completely derailed, as he had been looking to capitalise on previous results in the spring Classics, before all the major one-day races in March and beyond were cancelled.

While many pros are spending their training time indoors on the turbo trainer, particularly in Spain where riding outside is banned, Naesen and 22-year-old Pirard decide to test the limits of their endurance.

Starting at 5.30am in Teralfene, just west of Brussels, the pair set off south on an enormous tour of the region.

The route took them around Ronse, Oudenaard, Zelzate and to the outskirts before they finished the day-long adventure back in Teralfene.

It wasn’t an easy ride either, as the pair averaged 30.4km/h on the mostly flat terrain, while Naesen averaged 182 watts and hit a maximum power of 861.

He also set a few fast times, taking third on the Strava leaderboard for the 30-minute Belgo-Dutch frontier (W-O) segment.

Naesen says he burned around 8,000 calories (while Strava seems to be suggesting he only burned 1,944), for the ride which took a total of 12 hours and three minutes of moving time, or 12 hours and 51 minutes of total time.

Pirard, who raced as a stagiare for Bahrain-Merida in 2018 but is currently not riding for a pro team, also set a few impressive times, taking second on the Belgo-Dutch segment and taking seventh on the 200m zandgangklim segment.

While it’s unclear when racing will return (the next race still scheduled to run is the Critérium du Dauphiné in June, we can expect some huge performances from Naesen if he keeps this training up.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.