With Liège-Bastogne-Liège completed, Luke GJ Potter and Eugène “Skil” Dillon go to Flanders. During their Driedaagse de Gendt, they complete Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields and the Philippe Gilbert Classic. Waffle sampling continues for our brave hero.



As this report is long, 4,603 words long, I recorded it in Audio format.

Just type “Breeze Shooting x Luke GJ” into your Podcast Client, or click this link: BS⤬LGJ #004.


Media Links

Photos: Belgium 2019  //  Philippe Gilbert Classic 2019

Strava: Gent-Wevelgem - In Flanders Fields 125km w/1,452m  //  Philippe Gilbert Classic 2019 154km w/2,576m

This report picks up where “Wallonia 2019 | Belgian Waffle Hype Train - Stop 1” left off.


Driedaagse de Gendt

Sunday 28th April

Eugène “Skil” Dillon, Shane Phelan and I sat around the breakfast table. I avoided the Cow’s Milk that gave me stomach issues the previous day. In its stead, I consumed many a Croissant and Pain au Chocolat. We were whiling the time away awaiting for our Taxi. It arrived. Eugène departed the Hotel Campanile the same way he arrived, casually riding his bike to the train station with a backpack. Shane and I used a Taxi for our bike bags.

We arrived at Liège-Guillemins. It was a different prospect to what it was when we were there twelve hours ago. It was now bustling with people, where it was a desolate place the night before. The elevators were working, so I didn’t have to make multiple trips up the stairs with my bags. I was very excited at the prospect of there not being any train changes from Liège to Gent. Our Campanile Compact dissolved when Shane had to change trains at Luven. He was going to the Airport.

Dave Maher went to watch the start of the Professional Race, of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he sent us a Video. It was miserable rain.

Eugène and I railed our way northwest. Leaving Liège, Waving Wallonia bye, Flanders flew into view. Eugène warned me about possible bike thieves at Brussels Nord. My bike bag was covering his bike near the carrage’s door, so safe enough.

Wallonia is the French speaking part of Belgium. I have a fleeting grasp of written French. Flanders is the Dutch and Flemish speaking part of Belgium. I have no grasp on Dutch. Except for “De derailleur zit in het wiel”, which means that the Derailleur is in the Wheel. It was a phrase I picked up from when Mattieu and David Van Der Poel broke a retro cyclocross bike in a Sporza.


We arrived in Gent-St. Pieters Train station. From just sampling the vibes outside the station, I knew it was better than Liège. As if I could feel Flanders. It was a different world entirely. Gent reminded me of Galway. We found the Taxi rank that eluded Eugène days prior. Eugène cycled to his B&B. He knew his way around. He spent time studying in Gent, and annually returns to ride in Spring.

Our accommodation was fifty meters apart. He was in a B&B, and I was in a self catering hotel room. The Aparthotel Castelnou didn’t have very straightforward reception hours or early restaurant opening. I choose the self-catering room, so Eugène and I could get some early starts, by decoupling myself from the hotel breakfast.

We were cycling at least two of the next three days. Our plans were to meet, Eugène’s friend, Nico to cycle Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields on Monday, and we had already signed-up to the Philippe Gilbert Classic on Wednesday. We had a slight idea to go to Oudenarde to ride some of the bergs of the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Tuesday

If you’ve been on a cycle with Eugène before, you’ll know that he brings wraps with him instead of sports food. Our first task was to go shopping. One massive problem, it was a Sunday and all the shops close early, very early from an Irish point of view. Eugène was intent on going shopping. We walked to one supermarket super fast. It was closed. Then he re-routed and speed walked to another one he knew. I was under massive pressure with the walking. Eugène’s legs were slightly longer than mine. Even though we had the same foot cadence, he was pulling out a gap on me with every stride. He had me lined out in the gutter. I’d have to publicly embarrass myself by jogging up to him repeatedly. He had that “Dutch Directness” in his heart now.

I was in a hyper-stressed state at the moment. It was raining slightly, so everyone was wearing hoods and umbrellas. There were bikes flying about the place. Trams were wizzing around. I had recently seen a girl get hit by a Dublin bus, when she was wearing a hood in misty rain. I seen it happen out of the corner of my eye, but the sound of the Wet Slap will stay with me for a long time.

Eugène eventually gave up the ghost of getting shopping. Although his walking speed never wavered, we arrived at lunch. I was destroyed in sweat, a wedding dancefloor amount of sweat no less. He explained over lunch that we were walking fast in order to get to watch the end of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Our lunch was a nice cafe chain, called EXK. The Vegetarian and Vegan food was labeled with a sticker. All the food types has names. For Example, my baguette was a “Brieuc”. The bread crust was hard, and the roof of my mouth was slightly tender. I had a job on my hands to eat fast. I let Eugène talk shite, as when words were coming out, food was not going in. I would finish faster than him. He didn’t know we were racing.

The Pedaleur du Flanders merch

Our next stop was a proper cycling cafe. I had been in two “proper” cycling cafes in my cycling career thus far. In Nice, Cafe du Cycliste. Most recently, I frequented was Rapha in Boulder, #RCCBDR. We went to “Pedaleur de Flandres”. It is a new cafe. The owner was a mechanic on the now defunct BMC Team. It was a sweet setup. Bike hooks on the wall so patrons could bring their steeds inside. Bike spares for sale. They had their own “Pedaleur de Flandres” merch, including an amazing looking Emerald shade, minimal branded BioRacer jersey.

The Professional Race of Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Luik-Bastenaken-Luik in Dutch) was being played on the TV. We ordered coffees and schooched our chairs, as to not obstruct the other patrons. There was just under 70km to go in the race. They were hitting the Hellingen thick and fast now. It was super cool remembering all the climbs and talking about our adventures.

As the race neared its conclusion. We ordered some Tea. We were served the Tea in French Presses. It was cool. One of the Astana riders almost clipped a fan at the same point where I took a wrong turn before the Roche-aux-Faucons. Jakob Fuglsang (Bird Song in English) made his race winning move on the Stephen Roche the Falcon climb. Michael “Rusty” Woods was riding with one leg warmer on as he tried to close the gap. There was an audible gasp when BirdSong almost crashed on the descent. He went down it marginally faster than I did. Fuglsang held on to win. I replayed the crash a few times to Eugène, as the lads on r/peloton are very quick to pirate the highlights. A second screen experience is always great for sports.

Annamiek Van Vluten won the Women’s race, with my traffic buddy, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig getting tenth. Friend of Orwell Wheelers, Lizzie Diegnan signalled her postnatal return to the top level by also finishing inside the Top-Ten.

We went back to our hotels to change for dinner. The walk to dinner was so good. Gent was an amazingly beautiful city. Our destination was an All-You-Can-Eat Indian buffet. I’m very wary of spicy food before a long cycle, so I stuck to the mildest Vegetable curry there. I also took all the remaining Vegetable Pakora, as that’s my favourite.

We went home. I rebuilt the bike. Which was a super quick job, as it was not preparing for air travel. I had a quick shower, with a fantastic shower-head, possibly a Hansgrohe Raindance, and went to bed.

Monday 29th April

“We’re late boss” Eugène stated. No “Good Mornings” or “How ya”. His re-adaption to the local culture was almost complete. We hastily set off riding towards the southern suburbs of Gent. Our aim for the day was to get picked up by Nico, in Merelbeke, and drive to Yprés.

We cycled a cool route by a canal. It was both interpretations of the word “cool”. Due to the speed of our departure I didn’t have time to put on my gloves. We were eight minutes behind schedule, all because my stomach hates foreign countries. My digestive system’s internal monologue; “Oh you’re on time and just about to leave, guess what, Bonus Bathroom Visit Boiiiiii!!”


We arrived before Nico, so Eugène could’ve said “Good Morning”. Nico was using Waze to navigate and it showed us some parts of the motorway to skip, it was a Monday morning after all. Nico had an Italian exam to take in the evening. We unloaded the bikes at the Yprés Train Station Park and Ride. From there it was a twenty minute ride to Kemmel, the hub town of Gent-Wevelgem. There is a signposted route to follow from Kemmel. We set out following the Red Arrows.

We could see in the distance the Kemmelberg. It was a large mound with a tree covering and church steeple sticking out. We’ll get to the Kemmelberg again and again later, one hundred kilometres later.

As cycling routes go, this was easily in my top five rides. It was just fantastic craic. We were flying down farm lanes into ninety degree corners and then up hills. It was just Farm Track, 90° corner, punchy climb, repeat for 120km.

Deep in the Flanders Fields

I saw LOADS of tractors doing farming. It was just like the Farmer's Journal that I grew up looking at big agricultural machinery ploughing, tilling, sowing and spraying fields.

Along this route there were the most awesome looking houses I’d ever seen. It was easy to see why most Belgian cycling teams are sponsored by companies in the building industry. There was one house that truly took my breath away, its Garden Shed was nicer than most houses I’ve ever seen. It had a melancholy effect on me. Due to Irish planning laws, I would never own such a beautiful structure.

The house in question

As the climbs wore on, I began having a tough time of it. My gears in the 28t, 25t and 23t cogs were slipping when I got out of the saddle. I was risking a collision between my top tube and my undercarriage. I didn't have the leg speed to go fast on the 32t out of the saddle. The bike definitely needed new cables, and maybe a rear mech.

We climbed to a monastery, allegedly where Leffe beer was brewed. It had a fantastic view over the valley. After this descent we arrived in a town, where we had coffee. There were some patrons in there already eating Frites.

On the berg, before the Bananaberg, we passed a group of school kids, I was breathing heavily, trying to keep up with Nico and Eugène. Everything went into slow-motion for a few seconds. My eyes picked up the trajectory of a large black and yellow object. It was on course to enter my mouth. Would I be inhaling, or exhaling when we collided?

I swallowed a Bumble Bee whole. Straight into the lung.

When the kids got to the top of the berg, they encountered me trying, unsuccessfully, to hock/puke the bee out. One of them asked “Is the climb that hard?” We laughed, and Nico replied “He swallowed a Bee.”

Unable to get it up, we continued on. I despaired that the Bee and I were now one. I have not watched the end of The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum. So I presume it ended well.

The Bananaberg had a terrible surface, and it was just a banana shaped road that left and rejoined the main road about Seven Hundred Meters later.

The Irish Round Tower Monument, it's not leaning over, this picture was taken at 45kmh.

We passed a myriad of World War One Monuments. There was the Christmas Day Monument, which was full of old footballs. The Irish Monument was a Round Tower.

We visited Frank Vandenbrooke's Grave. Nico was part of his fan club, The Frankie Boys. The grave was decorated with all sorts of Cycling Memorabilia, including a worse for wear Zipp 404. Nico also pointed out a corner cafe, now closed. It once belonged to the Vandenbrooke family.

Frank Vandenbrooke's Grave

Our final quarry took us back near the town of Kemmel. The Kemmelberg is the jewel of the region. It is the only cobbled climb that we encountered. The cobbles were fairly tame. We rode both sides of it. It was incredibly annoying to have to ride this in the saddle and just be in the 34-32t. I looked on forlornly as Nico and Eugène utilised their gears up it.

On the first descent of the Kemmelberg I seen a mouse, it ran out in front of Nico and got ran over. We looked back, the mouse was jumping all over the place, poor guy.

On the second climb of the Kemmelberg, we met some bike packers with big bags. It's a Seventeen Percent Grade Cobbled Climb, one of them was on a Fixie. He walked up it. His other friends on touring gears almost caught me, but I held them off.

We rode back into Yprés, got a roll in a Deli. It was hard to communicate that I didn’t want meat on it. Nico drove us back to Marlebeke. Where we were just in time for some evening commuter racing. There was one lad who was on a hybrid and had a big backpack. He had myself and Eugène struggling to hold the wheel. Although we both had hunger knocks.

We ate the rolls in Eugène’s B&B. We made plans to go to the Supermarket to get food, so we could cook dinner. Eugène wasn’t walking as fast this time, so it was a good shopping experience.

We made dinner, well Eugène made it. Back in Sierra Nevada 2015, Eugène was known as DJ Porridge, this evening he was known as Professor Pasta.

As we ate, we watched a Frank Vandenbrooke documentary. Local lad, Eugène translated it for me. We got to see the Corner Cafe that Frank’s mother ran in it’s hay day.

Tuesday 30th April - The Day Game of Thrones Officially Died

Finally I could have a lie in. I was due to meet Eugène for Brunch. Breakfast in my hotel was really nice. I chubbed up on Croissants and Alpro Vanilla infused Soy Milk.

I returned to my room to watch Game of Thrones Season Eight Episode Three: The Long Night. I watched the first half before Brunch. It was terribly lit and the main characters had mega Plot Armour. Contrasted to Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers battle for Helms Deep, cinematography had relapsed. It didn’t bode well for the rest of the episode. I had known that Game of Thrones was total bullshit since Season Six. The vibrant world created in the books, was now a shallow shell of itself.

Please don’t die George.

We're out of Slogans, do something!

Eugène and I went to a nice Vegan Market, where we got rolls and coffee. Eugène was now in my world. His regular order of a Skinny Latte was not an option. Skinny Cows Milk was not on the menu. This was a place for humans, and not Baby Cows. He couldn’t understand all the plant-based milk choices that lay before him.


We walked around Gent for a few hours. I got a proper Belgian waffle. It had caramel topping and a mini Belgian flag in it. I was left unimpressed it was not up to the Stroopwaffle standard that I had now become accustomed to. We walked back to Castle St, and made plans to meet for Dinner.

That is a Waffle, I can confirm.

I finished off the episode of Game of Thrones. Dear God, it was terrible. The poor lighting continued, plot armour was present and they killed off the villain, The Night King, with no backstory. I was left with a massive depression. I spent so much time on Reddit, looking for someone who could present a way that the story could be shoehorned into its former glory.

Only death can pay for life, it was also the time that Quin, from the Ideas Of Ice And Fire YouTube Channel, was proved right and accepted by the mainstream Game of Thrones audience. He had been saying that Game of Thrones was garbage for a very long time. People were ignoring him, but now he got the credit that he deserved.

We had Dinner in another Vegan Restaurant. It was a Buffet Dinner. I chowed down on all manner of things, form Onion Rings to Chickpeas and everything in between. We made plans for our super early Dwars Door Vlaanderen (Across Flanders) Train Ride tomorrow.

I made Sambos for the train ride. I also had a Sophie’s Choice regarding popping a large yellow saddle sore. I popped it and filled it with TCP. Hot Crotch!!

I couldn’t sleep the depression from Game of Thrones was too strong. I spent ages on Reddit looking for more reasons to justify spending nine years of my life on this garbage. Just like Lost and Prison Break before it, Thrones was now something I rued once loving.


Philippe Gilbert Classic

Wednesday 1st May

The final leg of our trip would see us ride the Philippe Gilbert Classic Sportive. It is part of the Champions Tour, some of the big riders have a sportive; Johan Museeuw, Greg Van Avermaet and Sven Nys. It covers some of the climbs from Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but it includes the Muur de Huy from the finish of La Flèche Wallonne. At 152km and 2,500m climbing, it’s challenging but very doable. Only one issue, there are two trains back to Liège, at 17:30 and 19:30, we were aiming for the 17:30 train.

We had two options on the train from Gent to Liège to make the connection to arrive on time for the Sportive in Aywaille. The later train, at 0630 would give us a 7 minute layover in Liège. Eugène reasoned that “Seven Minutes could be dodgy boss, train could be late, we should take the earlier one.”

My alarm went off at 0400, on the orders of Sgt. Dillon. Very little sleep, due to the Game of Thrones depression. This morning's exercise required military precision. The train to Liège and an onward connection to Aywaille would depart at 0530, on the orders of ...IDK, some Belgian Guy. Luckily I awoke early, as my waxed chain was nearing 400km, and a large proportion of that was in the wet. I should’ve done this the night before, but I forgot. I swapped over to the second waxed chain that I had prepared before I left Ireland.

Eugène before the elbows were put in the Chris Froome position.

On our ride to the train station, we encountered many drunk people. There was some public holiday, or student thing happening. The train to Liège was smooth. We sat in a coffee shop to eat the sambos I made the night before. With plenty of time before the train to Aywaille, my digestive system gave me the warning light. Time to find the bathroom. There was a homeless guy outside the bathroom, it didn’t open until 08:00. Bugger! The train would depart at 08:07. I would barely be able to hold it until the top of the hour. I would not last until the train. The homeless man opened the door to the bathroom. What kind of a weird place is this French Belgium? Could he not just open it when he arrived. I was in and out in three minutes, possibly a record for me.

The train was running late. We met three other Sportive attendees on the train. With the late train we could see the groups leaving. Philippe Gilbert himself led a group out, the pace would be 30kmh. The sign-on was pretty quick, despite the throng of people. We did push through the crowd a little bit. Rubbing is Racing!

It was 9.4km to the foot of the first climb. With our need to make the 17:30 train, Eugène wanted us to push on wherever we could. So we jumped onto a fast group. There were a few instances of riders in this group, just sitting up and letting the wheel in front go ...on the flat, when they’re under no pressure. Then we all had to go hard to close the ever-widening gap. I hate cyclists sometimes, what goes on inside the mind of the Sportive Rider?

On the first climb, I tried to get into an easy gear, but my chain jumped off the 32t cog and into the Spokes. I shouted a barrage of four letter words, some of which are unprintable. My main fear was that “De derailleur zit in het wiel”. I sorted out the mech. This was no issue, as I made the same fix in Tymon Park after a CX Training Crash with half the skin on my knee cap remaining. There was a guy in full An Post kit on the climb, I said “Hi”, he didn’t, I went on with my day. Eugène waited for me over the top. I explained what happened. I told him it was going to be a tough day for me, as my gears were now buggered. I had to channel my Spirit Animal, the Honey Badger, because Honey Badger don’t care.

The Roche-aux-Faucons (Stephen Roche the Falcon) was the fourth climb after 30km. We stopped at the top of the third one to ...empty our bidons. Raising our Watts per Litre, if you will.

After this climb, I struggled so much with the gears. I didn’t know what gear I was going to get nor when I was going to get it. Eugène, despite his recently acquired Dutch Directness, was very patient to wait up for me. The most disappointing part was that this mechanical issue was all my fault. I should’ve been proactive and sorted the bike myself before the trip. It was impacting someone else’s enjoyment. I felt like a trash human being.

The mansion on the bridge of Huy

The next highlight was the Muur de Huy after 84km. I somehow ended up on the front of the group, leading out the climb. We went downhill, then uphill a bit over the bridge. There was a sweet looking mansion up the river, so I took a photo of that. This was some unbelievable multi tasking by yours truly. The group behind was so big that I had to keep the pace high on the uphill over the bridge. At the foot of the Muur, which is French for Wall, I moved over to the right side of the road and let the group go. I wasn’t trying to set a fast time on this climb. I got to stop half way up and take a picture of the town of Huy. There was a feed stop at the top. One rider had an unbelievable looking Trek Madone, with Pearlescent Paint.

The town of Huy, you'll not see this view on TV.

 As the next large number of kilometers were gently rolling, to repay Eugène, I pulled on the front for a long time. I pulled until I could pull no more. My fatigue was a combination of lack of sleep, cognitive load fatigue from the gears and a sore bottom from not being able to get out of the saddle due to slipping mech. With 30km remaining I told Eugène to go on.

I crawled up the Cote de Xhoris, the third last climb, 5km at 3%, with an average power of 117 Watts. The next climb was the Niaster. I thought that this was the back side of the Redoute. And that I would not have to climb it again. Sadly, we still had that steep climb to come.

The sign for La Redute

Just one more climb to go, La Redoute, 1.5km at 10%. This was a slog. I went downhill and finished with 80 minutes to spare before the train. Eugène had somehow put 40 minutes into me over the final 30km.

We took a podium photo, as I forgot to take one after Liège. Then we got water from Philippe’s Brother. We set about our main aim, a selfie with Philippe. I was very nervous approaching him. I abandoned all my photography skills, self learned photography skills. The sun was causing darkening of the photo, as the lens struggled with the color range it was trying to capture. Philippe pointed it out with a "I know you Irish don't know the sun" We got the best photo of all time. We had some small banter with him, he’s a good lad.

We made the train back to Liège and onward to Gent. We made the train back to Liège and onward to Gent. I noticed that I had one last StroopWafel in my Jersey Pocket. It was nice and toasty, slightly melted caramel and white chocolate. This was now a great train ride.

My legs were wrecked for the cycle back to the hotel. We had to dodge more drunk people. They were day drinking, but they were all sad. AA Gent lost the Cup Final to KV Mechelen, a second division side.

We got a take away dinner from the Vegan restaurant. The owner threw a fit at Eugène for us bringing the bikes into the Courtyard. We didn’t want the sad drunks to attack the bikes on the road. In case they went a bit Edward Norton on Jared Leto in Fight Club; “I felt like destroying something beautiful.”

I packed my clothes and bike, as I watched Liverpool lose 3-0 to Barcelona at the Camp Nou. In the TKAS Whatsapp Group, for the Orwell Summer Weekend Away, we had some dinner banter going. Helen was trying to discern who wanted to eat dinner in a room with no Television, and who wanted to watch the final, in the restaurant that was booked. It looked like Liverpool’s Champions League dream was over. I texted the group to say that I would not like the Television

We met Philippe Gilbert.

You do the After-Math

Thursday 2nd May - Present Day

The travel back went smoothly.  I had the bike checked into Joe Daly’s for a service. The bike needed a lot of replacements; cables, bottom bracket, headset bearings and rear wheel hub.

On my way to work on Friday, Shane was on Newstalk talking about Pat Quirke. It was two Fridays in a row where Shane’s voice was the first one that I heard.

I did a lot of travel that weekend, as I wanted to put my suitcase and bike back to my home in Galway, and then meet my friend Daragh in the Mongolian BBQ for All-You-Can-Eat Vegetables. It was hard to source a vast quantity of vegetables in Belgium.

As Liverpool beat Barcelona to qualify for the Champions League Final, I texted the TKAS WhatsApp Group; “F**k the dinner.”

I started my training plan for my season’s next goal, L’Etape du Tour.

Eugène and I are making plans to return to Belgium for Holy Week in 2020. We have a basic Itinerary of Ronde Van Vlanderen (4th/5th Apr), Volta Limburg Classic (7th Apr), Gent Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix (11th/12th Apr). Based out of Gent, so early train journeys, all welcome. Just bring a working bike and tubes, lots of tubes.


Read more of related adventures tagged with #LukePotter | #EugèneDillon