Mouscron 2023: Cobbles, Bergs... and Sun!
6-8 October 2023
This year 9 members jumped at the chance of sampling the delights of Belgian cobbles, culture, hospitality (and even the odd beer) on our annual Mouscron weekend. Some of us were experienced Mouscronites (Stew Forbes, Malc Rawlins, Ian Bradbury, Philip van der Veen, Chris Harrison & Dave Scott), others cobbles novices (Dom Valente, Ian Ryder & Danny Roberts).
It all began back in 2007, when Stew Forbes got chatting to the president of Cyclo Club Mouscron in Belgium... ever since, their end-of-season Randonnée has become a highlight in the Club calendar.
Rather than just nipping over for Sunday's randonnée, we make the most of the trip to experience the fabled cobbles of Flanders, travelling over early on Friday for a short ride and a longer one on Saturday.
It's not just about cycling. Flanders was of course the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of WW1, and is strewn with poignant memorials and well-tended graveyards (see Phil Starling's account of his 2022 battlefields tour with 3 other members). As has become customary for the shorter ride on Friday, we visited the Menin Gate in Ypres to pay our respects.
Friday was also Cobbles Lesson 1: a ride up the Kemmelberg to the French war memorial. We soon discovered the translation of 'berg' is 'pain'.. and the French for 'rattle' is 'pavé'.
At least we were blessed with summerlike weather: solid sunshine and temperatures in the mid-20s. A Mouscron record!
The great network of cycle-lanes, excellent road surfaces and courteous drivers helped remind us we weren't in England.
Day 2 was the Big One: Tour of Flanders (Lite). A series of short but very sharp cobbled climbs, including the iconic Paterberg and Koppenberg (think the Carfax stuck on the side of Barhatch), the Muur van Geraardsbergen at the halfway point, plus the less-well-known but still challenging Taaienberg, Valkenberg and Eikenberg.
A breakaway contingent chose to skip most of the cobbled sections and stick (mostly) to tarmac. (Can't think why? - Ed.)
The cobbles & tarmac teams reunited for a well-deserved lunch at the top of our last major climb, the Muur van Geraardsbergen (scene of many an epic Tour of Flanders duel). Huge portions of omelette & chips, washed down with gallons of Coke.
The 30-mile return leg was a little less hilly, but we definitely weren't short-changed on cobbles.
No trip to Belgium would be complete without sampling the local fayre. As our hotel was on the outskirts of the pleasant town of Kortrijk, that required a 40-min walk.. or for some, a 10-min taxi trip. After our exertions we felt we deserved our hefty dinners and rehydration. Rude not to.
Despite our cobbly bergy legs, we made it up in time to sign in for the 80km randonnée in nearby Mouscron. Along with over 300 other cyclists from various local clubs, we followed a series of (quite small) yellow arrows at each junction - no fancy GPX route provided, that would have made things too easy.
As always Cyclo Club Mouscron proved admirable hosts. Our €4 entry fee entitled us to a feed-station halfway round and a sandwich back at HQ.
After a spot of banter we headed off to catch the afternoon ferry back to reality - and a long sleep. Will we be back next year? Watch this ___
We're off... Full English on the early ferry from Dover.
Friday's warm-up ride... Ypres loop.
First few miles... even Belgium has windmills!
Nicely two-by-two in the glorious sun!
Here goes... the Kemmelberg.
OK.. that's what 20% on cobbles feels like.
Greeting the locals back in Ypres
Time to chill.
Day 2: the long one. Cobbles ahoy.
Berg 1 of 6: the Paterberg (OK, this bloke was just a spectator).
OK... what's next?
Muur van Geraardsbergen... tick.
That Muur seemed to go on a bit?
Reward: the world's biggest omelette atop the Muur
Last day: the 80k Randonnée. Flat tarmac at last!
Team HC: raring to go.
Even time for selfies.
Cyclo Club Mouscron: excellent hosts. Just what we needed after 80k.
Leaving it all behind. We'll be back... hopefully with the sun.
Riders: 9 out, 9 back.
Distance: 133 miles.
Avg speed: who cares?
No Ps or Ms.