GHENT 6 / KOKSIJDE CROSS: A VERY BELGIAN WEEKEND
It is one of the greatest traditions for British cycling fans – a trip to Ghent to see the legendary Six-Day race.
The most atmospheric track event of them all takes place from Tuesday, November 20, to Sunday, November 25, and the number of Brits heading over the channel will increase as the weekend approaches.
With Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish teaming up this year, there’s even more reason to make the journey.
And whoever set the race calendars was a genius because the World Cup Cyclo-Cross takes place at Koksijde on the Saturday afternoon, offering a chance to see Sven Nys and the boys battle the sand dunes on the Belgian coast.
So, if you haven’t booked your ferry, flight or Eurotunnel ticket… why not?
The real hardcore will even ride out from Ghent to Koksijde – 50 miles each way – to watch the cyclo-cross. Remember to take lights, though, because it will be getting gloomy on the return journey.
Need help? Visit the Cycling Weekly forum to swap information before heading to Belgium.
67th GHENT SIX-DAY
When is it? Tuesday, November 20 to Sunday, November 25
Where is it? At the Kuipke velodrome in the centre of town. A stage of this year’s Tour de France finished on the road adjacent to the track
Ticket prices: From 15€ to 28€ per day if bought in advance; 17€ to 30€ if bought on the day
Hours: 7pm to 1am all week; 7pm to 2am on Friday and Saturday; 1pm to 6pm Sunday
Who’s riding? Bradley Wiggins & Mark Cavendish, Iljo Keisse & Robert Bartko and Bruno Risi & Franco Marvulli are three of the top teams entered
Why should I go? The atmosphere is electric, if a little boozy and smoky. The racing is frenetic. And there is a British duo who have a great chance of winning
Event’s website: www.zesdaagse.be It’s in English
KOKSIJDE WORLD CUP CYCLO-CROSS
When is it? Saturday, November 24. The men’s race starts at 2.30pm but before that there are junior, women and under-23 events
Where is it? On a purpose-built course in the grounds of a Belgian army barracks at Koksijde on the coast, flanked by sand dunes, sinking in glorious cyclo-cross friendly mud
Ticket prices: 14€ on the gate, or buy them in advance for 10€ from the Cafeteria Zwembad or Café Sportcentrum in the centre of Koksijde. Look out for the posters in town
Hours: For a full day’s racing get there at around 10am. But to see just the men’s event, get there at least an hour before the start
Who’s riding? The start list won’t be published until nearer the event but all the stars will be there – Sven Nys, Bart Wellens, Lars Boom, Erwin Vervecken, Radomir Simunek, Sven Vanthourenhout
Any tips? If you want a spot on the hill, get there early and hold your position with sharp elbows. Failing that, walk backwards round the course and stop wherever you are as the riders come past. This gives you a great feeling for the whole circuit and you should get round at least once in an hour. The curry hotdogs are a must – as is a Jupiler beer or two (as long as you’re not driving). Steer clear of the nutters swigging brightly coloured spirits from bottles. Make sure you buy a red, yellow and black jester’s hat if you want to fit in with the locals
Why should I go? Unless you’re sleeping off Friday night’s hangover, or are desperate to go for a ride, you have to go to the cross. Koksijde is only 50 miles away from Ghent by motorway
Event’s website: www.veloclubkoksijde.be It’s in Flemish but click Wereldbeker Cyclocross 2007 link for the World Cup
THE LOWDOWN… AND OTHER THINGS TO DO
Take your bike. Every direction out of Ghent takes you over roads made famous by the legends of Classic cycling. Head for the paths that run alongside the River Schelde – routes that all riders in the Ghent area use for training. Or go south to the hills that make the Tour of Flanders. There are plenty of sign-posted routes to guide you. And if the weather is lousy, it only adds to the authentic experience.
Visit the museum at Oudenaarde. This isn’t just one for the anoraks. It gives an insight into the scale and passion of cycle sport in Belgium. There’s memorabilia galore, including old jerseys, bikes, trophies and posters. Just be careful – it’s possible to spend a fortune in the shop. Maps of the popular bike routes are available here too.
Eat, drink and be merry. Of course your evenings will be spent at the velodrome but if you are in town for lunch there are plenty of places to eat. Our favourite when in Ghent is the Monopol Restaurant in Korenmarkt. It’s reasonably-priced, the steak is as soft as melting butter, the moules-frites are among the best in town and the rabbit stew is tremendous. For a swift half before heading to the track, try the tiny Bierhaus next to the canal. All the favourites – Leffe and Duvel – are here, but try Orval. Another great bar is the Dulle Griet in Vrijdagmarkt.
Do some early Christmas shopping. Chocolates, jewellery, perfume. All perfect for saying: “Sorry I spent a long weekend watching cycling in Belgium.”
Are you going? Let others know on the Lounge> section of our forum. www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/forums