In the pedal strokes of the greats

The ease of travel these days means you don't have to confine your riding to just the UK over a bank holiday, especially when it's the last of the year. Having recently reported in issue 5 on the Tour of Flanders and how accessible the Belgium cycling scene is as a whole. A few days ago we found ourselves once more back in the flemish flatlands.

Although we were there primarily on a fact finding mission for an article to be featured in our next issue we spent the night in one of Belgium's oldest cities, Geraardsbergen. Steeped in history the city has an array of cobbled streets and beautiful architecture. For many the sight of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Oudenberg sums up the importance of the area for cycling fans.

The road that leads up to the Chapel carries with it more folklore than the building itself. The Muur or 'the Wall' as it is also known has figured in either the Tour of Flanders or the Eneco Tour since the 1950's. A fearsome climb that fills even the most accomplished of riders with fear, at 110m in length with a maximum gradient of 19% - it is truly a 'wall'.

On a day in late summer it's hard to imagine the savageness and severity of such an ascent. Only when you see others riding it do you fully realise its magnitude. While we were there several mountain bikers spun by in 'ultra granny ringed gears', it wasn't until two road bikes attacked the climb that the true impact was realised. It's like compressing Box Hill into into a tenth of its original length but on cobbles.

Even our hotel room had a faded image of the Chapel adorning its walls with local brew Muurken - a 7.0% blond beast of a beer further confirming the status of the Muur's heritage. With information signs retelling its great races of the past, it's hard not to be moved by its presence.

The cobbled road opposite the church of Saint-Bartholomeuskerk still carried the remnants of Stage 5 of this years Eneco Tour's timed section with the finish line markings opposite the Chapel also visible. The initial reason for our visit had lead us to a chance meeting with Giant-Shimano UCI ProTeam rider Tom Dumoulin, who became the Eneco's fourth leader after this stage, finishing the Tour third overall.

We strongly recommend you make full use of the Euro Tunnel, visit Flanders and find out for yourself why this nation is so steeped in cycling history.