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Fabulous Flanders — part 1

Well, I'm back from Belgium. I could utilize a thousand different adjectives to express what took place over my five days there, but I'm still not sure it would do it justice. The whole experience was priceless. The scenery. The history. The people. The food. The riding. The camaraderie. The accommodations. The beer. The atmosphere. The culture. And, of course, the cobbles.


And, I honestly believe, none of this would have been remotely possible without Trek Travel. The Wisconsin-based company promotes the fact that it is not just there to serve their clients, but it is there to amaze them. And that was certainly accomplished — over and over again.


In an attempt to recount Spring Classics-Flanders, and the memories I will daydream about endlessly for years to come, I will tell my story over the next five blog postings. Here is what's in store, I hope you enjoy the ride:


Part 1 — Trek Travel & My New Friends

Part 2 — Cobbles & Climbs

Part 3 — Tour of Flanders

Part 4 — Trip Highlights

Part 5 — The Belgium Experience


Trek Travel & My New Friends


Right from the start, I realized my cycling trip was going to be special — not even close to anything I'd experienced in the past. The entire time we were based at Hotel Harmony in Ghent, one of Belgium's oldest cities and the historic capital of Flanders. The location alone certainly set the tone.


River Leie from my hotel room.

As promised, Trek Travel took care of everything. Our living quarters were top-notch, with my own room looking out onto the River Leie. Our two European-based guides, Wouter and Wiebe, were extremely welcoming — quick with a handshake right from the get-go — and then making sure each of us were properly fitted to our provided Trek Domane road bikes.


Along with myself, there were nine other people discovering the beauty and wonders of the Flemish countryside. All but one were from the United States — three with ties to Utah, a couple from New York City, and individuals from Colorado, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. The remaining gentleman hailed from Australia. He and I were the "youngsters" of our little peloton, at 71 years of age. The rest were in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. There were varying degrees of bike-handling skills within the group, with the keen interest of the sport bonding us together. Instantly, I felt a kindred spirit with my new friends and realized they had my back — no matter the situation.


It was the little extras furnished by Trek Travel that stood out for me. Like the never-empty water bottles, ride and post-ride snacks, showers at finish-site locations, and the group meals and social hours. In chatting with another cyclist — who was attending the Tour of Flanders pro race with a different touring outfit — I soon learned that what we were enjoying by way of Trek Travel was far and above his own situation.


And there were other examples of what I would refer to as the Trek Travel "difference."


During our ride on the fourth day, we stopped at Bar Gidon in Geraardsbergen, the city where the famous cobbled-climb the Muur is located. Bar Gidon is a well-known cycling cafe owned by former professional cyclist Frederic Penne and it houses the official fan club of the popular Belgian cyclist Remco Evenepoel. There, I received my first tasting of mattentaarten, a small, round sweet puff pastry cake.


With former pro Koen de Kort.

Come to find out, the cake is a specialty of Geraardsbergen, which was granted the Protected Geographical Indication by the European Union in 2006. This means that they can only be made in the city or the nearby municipality of Lierde.


On that same outing we had another special touch provided by Trek Travel. We had the pleasure of riding with Koen de Kort, a Dutch former professional cyclist who is now a team support manager with Lidl-Trek. It was really neat rubbing elbows with someone who had raced in the Tour of Flanders, I believe, a total of fourteen times.


He was nice. The two guides were nice. Our group of ten was nice. Everything about our Spring Classics-Flanders trip was turning out to be nice.



NEXT WEEK: Fabulous Flanders — part 2 ... Cobbles & Climbs


Wouter, our guide on the left, and our cycling group. (Photo courtesy of Trek Travel)

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I have always been impressed by you, even more now! Who is the guy in the picture behind you in the flat cap?

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