I'm going to Belgium for the first time this winter; with my own season over I plan to drink beer and watch some of the pro races there.
I'll travel with just a backpack I can store, and not have a car. Getting to Koksijde for the World Championship races looks simple enough. I don't know anything about the venues for some of the other races I hope to attend, besides what cities they're close to.
Do any of you have advice for getting to any of the following--from the nearest rail station or city center? I would think some of the local fans use transit to reach them too.
Kasteelcross in Zonnebeke (Ieper)
World Cup in Hoogerheide, NL
Parkcross in Maldegem
Consecutive days outside of Antwerp:
Krawatencross in Lille
Superprestige in Hoogstraten
I appreciate any suggestions those of you who have been there can give.
Unfortunately, a lot of these races are essentially in the middle of nowhere. Most often fans who don't want to drive organize charter buses through the various supporters clubs here in Belgium to get to the races. Otherwise, you have little choice but to go by car.
It's probably not impossible to get to most of these through some combination of train, bus, and long walks, but you'll spend hours to make trips that might be only 30 or 60 minutes in the car. For example, to get to the race in Hoogstraten (which is actually in Minderhout, by the way) from Antwerpen Centraal you can drive for about 30 minutes or use a combination of three different buses and walking several kms for a total travel time of about 2 hours.
The race organization in Koksijde has made special arrangements to link the course to major transit hubs, but the others probably not. So, I'm sorry to say, your best option is almost certainly to rent a car.
If you absolutely can't rent a car, you're going to want to head to delijn.be to look up the best route on bus/tram/train to races. It's sometimes a bit tricky to get real information on where exactly the races are, but Worlds, the World Cup, and Superprestige will all have easy to find websites. Lille and Maldegem are pretty small races, and may not really have much information. If you can figure out how to search for them (and then decode the cryptic race announcements) you can probably find some basic info on wielerbondvlaanderen.be.
Good luck and have fun!
+1. the above is good advice. If you head to koksijde, maybe plan on visiting Ghent and/or Bruges a couple days before the race. both cities are worth a visit and not far from koksijde, which will allow you to get there early and stake out some space.
beer: it may be the only time you get your hands on some Trappist Westvleteren (Saint Sixtus Abbey), so track that down if you can. Not available by retail (have to pick up at the abbey), but some nice beer joints will have some on reserve. Trappist St. Bernardus is also worth a try (less exotic than Westvleteren, but uses the same recipes and shares some history with Saint Sixtus).
Belgium is great. Enjoy it. Cheers!
I appreciate the information, Dan and Patrick.
Yes, during the last few days I took what appeared to be venue addresses from the event websites (helpfully linked to on the cxmagazine UCI calendar) and after some hours with Google maps and trial-and-error searches on the SNCB and De Lijn sites put together itineraries. Most of the trips aren't too bad, though I wouldn't have thought the most complicated and circuitous of the routes would have been from Antwerp to nearby Hoogerheide, where the race is in the town.
I wasn't aware of the wielerbondvlaanderen site. It'll help me to confirm some vague areas on the event sites.
Westvleteren is high on my list of things to sample and see. I checked the calendar for In de Vrede, across from the abbey, and I plan to take a train to Poperinge and walk the 6k or rent a bike. Will look for St. Bernardus during my visit too. Otherwise I'll try whatever the local breweries offer. Thanks.
Not a reply but a related question, does anyone have experience getting tickets to Superprestige events? I'll be in Belgium for the Middlekerke event and I'm hoping to get tickets in advance, or a least avoid a 'sold out' sign once I get there. Anyone have thoughts on:
- do events usually sell out?
- where to buy tickets in Belgium?
- easy ways to get tickets online
- any other tips on what to expect
Hopefully someone who knows more than I do will answer your question, but I can't imagine the regular series races would sell out. Though the difficult sections appear crowded with fans, there's plenty of course-side space with no one at all (when I see races online). I've bought tickets just for the World Championships, but I'm aware of people paying at the gate for that too.
Here is the link to the website for the Middlekerk race. The Chrome browser seems to translate reliably. If you don't have that you can try using the Babelfish translator site. Or know Dutch.
Below I pasted what the translated site says about tickets:
Presale: € 08.00
Presale Middelkerke inhabitants and residents of the 2nd: € 05.00 (limited to 2000 tickets. Max. 2 cards per person)
At the ticket: € 10.00
UCI members and 65 +: € 09.00
Children under 14 years: Free Tickets and presales from December 1
Tourist Middelkerke - J. Casse Avenue 1-8430 Middelkerke - +32 (0) 59 30 03 68
Tourist Westende - H. Jasparlaan 173 - 8434 Westende - +32 (0) 59 30 06 40
To answer your questions:
- do events usually sell out? --- No, I have never known a race to sell out ... there is not assigned seats, so they take all that come
- where to buy tickets in Belgium? --- You can buy tickets the day of at all races, there are ways to prebuy the tickets, but it's just as easy to get them the day of.
- easy ways to get tickets online --- See above, not needed
- any other tips on what to expect --- Bring mud boots (wellies, gun boots) ... get there early to be able to walk the course, see which spots are best and soak in the atmosphere.
It's some craziess over here at the races, but a ton of fun. If your at any of the races my team does, be sure to stop on by and say hello!
Gregg Germer, Team Manager - Renner Custom CX Team - www.rennercustom.com/cx
Thanks Gregg. Checked your site, glad to see the Canadian content in your team. Good luck at the Worlds and if you're at MiddleKerke I'll be sure to say hi.
As suggested by Dan, renting a car is best. Most of the events are not near transport.
Your welcome to consider staying with us here at The ChainStay, we offer accommodation for cyclists in Belgium and have availablity in January. We can make an inclusive price for you for staying here which includes transport to most of the races on your list. We do both world cups and will be traveling to the World Championships. Oudenaarde is a short train ride to most major cities in Belgium, which makes day trips quite easy.
I'm also looking to get out to Westvleteren at some point, so that might happen.
Any specific questions on Belgium I'll be more than happy to answer. I'm a bit busy with the Christmas Cross at the moment, so it might be a day or two to reply.
Gregg Germer, Team Manager - Renner Custom Cyclocross Team
Owner - The ChainStay