Our final day in Oudenaarde was going to be a big one: we planned to ride the Kwaremont, the Patterberg and the Koppenburg – all steep, all cobbled, all routinely used in the Ronde.
The Kwaremont is long and gradual with rounded, broken and missing sette (Belgian blocks); fortunately, the grade eases up in the middle allowing for a bit of recovery. By contrast the Patterberg has relatively smooth pavers, is steep in the middle and slackens towards the top. We found both climbs without any wrong turns, and despite Chris’ narrow tires and my flatland gearing we managed to top out without incident.
The Koppenburg proved harder to locate, and after some help from a pair of local riders we arrived at the slick right-hander that marks the base of the long climb. The road surface is moderately rough with a slightly smoother and very tempting gutter. We turned around at the farmhouse that marks the top of the climb and returned the way we had come. Descending Belgian cobbles is not recommended.
- To ascend a steep grade on a bicycle without touching a foot to the ground. Example: Chris and I cleated the Kwaremont, the Patterburg and the Koppenburg.
On our way back to Oudenaarde we stopped in at the aptly-named Koppenburg tavern – a neighborhood pub filled with working-class guys taking a noontime break. Bike racing is serious business in Belgium, and even among these non-athletic work-a-day fellows we enjoyed near celebrity status.
Later that afternoon, after accidently locking ourselves out of the Airbnb, Chris and I parted ways: he was off to Ghent to meet his wife, and I was off to Geraardsbergen to spend the night with Jurgen before driving to Paris for my flight home.