Ronse to Halle

Distance: 73.97km
Time: 4hrs 52 minutes
Average speed : 15.2km/h
Total distance: 156.24km

grinning like idiots — Fietsers!!! — the Muur of Geraadsbergen — belegde broodjes

We headed to Ronse’s Grote Markt last night for dinner, passing under the “Red Bull” finish banner for the go-karting marathon, which had finished at 7pm as promised. It was already partially packed up, lorries driving around the course picking up the tyre barricades very efficiently. It was a lovely evening, still warm, and we chose a cafe-style restaurant with tables outside, and had stuffed mushrooms and pizza.

We slept well, enjoyed an excellent breakfast in our hotel, and extracted the tandem from the garage, ready for the day’s exertions. We’d planned to ask Gary the Garmin each morning to calculate the best route to our first ‘node’ of the day, but when we asked him to get us to node 34, some 800m away, he plotted a complex route of about 5km in a silly circle around Ronse. So we decided to wing it, and managed a surprisingly flawless return to the Fietsroute system on our own.

We knew from the profile of today’s route that it would be pretty hilly, and so it proved, with an early climb of 100m, well before we were warmed up properly. It always takes a few kilometres to ride off the stiffness of the day before, especially on the second day, for some reason. The climb was followed by a long gliding descent, though, and that was the pattern of the day: climbing 100m, then gliding back down to sea-level, up again, down again, up again, repeat to fade…

The tracks were wonderful, as yesterday, and it was difficult to cycle along them without grinning like idiots, it was all so quiet and peaceful, traffic- free, and in beautiful countryside. The node system seems to work really well, although having Gary helps, since he shows the whole expected route as a line to follow, just announcing when we reach a node and indicating the next node to look for, rather than giving turn by turn instructions.

We’re getting quite used to being ‘Fietsers’ now, which is the name used round here for cyclists following the routes. Sometimes there are orange signs giving us information, saying ‘Fietsers!!!’, and then something incomprehensible in Flemish underneath. We’ve learned that Omlegging is a diversion, as is Omleiding (in some subtly different way). The sign with the most exclamation marks today said Ongepast, but we had (onge)passed it before we had a chance to wonder what it meant. Having subsequently looked it up and found it to mean ‘unsuitable’, it’s probably best we didn’t understand it! Don’t remember anything dodgy about the subsequent section, fortunately.

Before lunch we went through Geraadsbergen, very lively, with a big market we had to wheel through on foot. The road kicked up, and then the signs directed us onto a very steep cobbled section. Hard work on a fully-laden tandem, and as we slowly crawled up it we started to see posters showing professional cyclists racing up it. It was the Muur of Geraadsbergen! A 20% gradient in places, and quite long, it’s often part of the Tour of Flanders, apparently. We managed to get to the top, but it was tough! Must be horrible in the Spring Classic races, when it’s cold and wet.

We stopped for lunch in Galmaarden, a few kilometres and one more cobbled climb further on. It being Monday the two bars were shut, but a bakery was open, offering belegde broodjes (filled breadrolls) and eclairs (er…), so we purchased some broodjes and an eclair each (well, we’d earned it, going up the Muur!) and sat in the square in the sunshine to eat them.

After lunch: more climbing, more descending, cycling in the sunshine through fields of crops, until we spotted our hotel on the skyline, a big white house, Villa d’Elbeek. It’s lovely, wooden floors, high ceilings, beautifully decorated. There’s a restaurant right next door, so we won’t even have to drag our weary legs too far this evening!

Here’s today’s track:

Ronse to Halle