Spring Classics in Summer

Holland to Belgium - 14 Day Classic Road Cycling Tour from $6460 NZD
14 Days
  • 2019
  • Best time to travel: June
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  • Availability Guide:
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The Netherlands might be small and very flat but is a cyclist’s dream. There are the famous canals and impressive art collections of Amsterdam, the springtime tulip fields, lush countryside, windmills galore and many old Dutch towns. Belgium is a giant when it comes to its lively culture and scenic rolling landscapes. Its unique location means it’s a crossroads of cultures and languages.

Our tour includes small sections of five classic European races, but each day we’ll stop at some highlights of the region. You’ll stay in good hotels and great local cuisine will be on offer throughout the tour.

Cycle door-to-door (~100 km/day) or a morning ride only (40km-60km) followed by a transfer to the hotel if you prefer. Although our route is mainly flattish with some rolling hills, the keen roadies will get a taste of some of the region’s classic climbs. Mostly you will ride on sealed roads or bike paths, usually away from busy traffic. But we’ve included some cobblestoned paths for those wanting a unique challenge! The support vehicle is always available and non-cycling partners are also welcome.

Amsterdam to Brussels

Amsterdam
  • Road Cycling
  • Grade
  • Minimum group size: 16
  • EUR 1,250 single room surcharge
  • EUR 480 road bike or e-bike hire
  • This tour is invoiced in EUR
  • The old Dutch towns and windmills near the IJsselmeer, the biggest lake in Holland which used to be part of the Zuiderzee (Southern Sea).
  • The rolling hills of beautiful Limburg and this region’s steep, narrow climbs that are part of the Amstel Gold Race.
  • Classic rides: Liège to Bastogne and Ghent to Wevelgem.
  • The beautiful valleys, ancient towns and gastronomic delights of the Belgian Ardennes.
  • Following the wheel tracks of the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen) race – a Belgian national obsession.
  • Visit the Tour of Flanders museum.
  • Serene country lanes connecting old Flemish villages and picturesque farmland lined with impressive windmills.
  • Training rides of cycling great, Eddy Merckx.
  • Cobblestones of the famous Paris-Roubaix race, finishing at the
  • Roubaix Velodrome.
  • The poignant and beautiful city of Ypres with its nearby memorials for ANZAC soldiers from World War I.
  • Visit the New Zealand memorial to the Battle of Passchendaele (near Zonnebeke).

Full Itinerary

DAY 1

Arrival Day: Amsterdam

No cycling

Welkom in Amsterdam! You’re already in cyclists’ heaven in this Dutch capital. It's said to be the most bicycle-friendly city in the world but you may still be astounded by the great number of cyclists on the roads. This afternoon we’ll meet at our charming hotel in Amsterdam (300m from the Central Train Station) where you’ll be fitted to your hire bikes (or unpack your own bikes). Before dinner (not included), there’ll be a pre-tour briefing where you’ll also be introduced to the support crew. Then you’re free to explore this city and its vibrant nightlife on your own.

Meals: None

DAY 2

Amsterdam - Emmeloord

Cycling: 111 km; Lifestylers: 40-67 km

Today, it's onto our bikes for the first time as we cycle out of Amsterdam. After only a few kms the city gives way to the province of North Holland’s farmland where plenty of windmills line our route. The first part leads us along the Amstel River to Broek in Waterland, a former vacation village for sea captains. Next is the small village of Monnickendam (monks’ dam) which was founded by monks in the 1300s. Further down the bay, we’ll cycle through well-known and picturesque fishing villages such as Volendam and Edam (the home of Edam cheese). We continue along the dyke to the harbour town of Hoorn, then it’s only 20 km to Enkhuizen from where we catch the ferry to Friesland and the town of Stavoren (known as “Starum” in the Frisian language). Our last 44 km (flat) ride to Emmeloord takes us along the IJsselmeer, the country’s largest lake and a water-sports haven. As you pass through the villages and green fields of Friesland, you’ll see the region’s famous Frisian cows.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 3

Emmeloord — Harderwijk (Gelderland)

Cycling: 100 km; Lifestylers: 40-60 km

Now in the peaceful eastern province of Overijssel, we firstly head to the Weerribben-Wieden National Park, one of the Netherlands’ hidden treasures. At the Park’s centre, the village of Giethoorn is crisscrossed with canals and wooden bridges. Many of its old, thatched houses can only be reached by boat. There are no cars, but the canal-side footpaths are perfect for cycling. We’ll take a break in Kampen, home of the “Kampers” dialect. It is one of the nine (must-see) Hansa towns, a medieval league of harbour trading towns, with well-preserved town centres and monuments. A little further on is Elburg with its medieval walls and moat. We continue to our destination of Harderwijk, a beautiful historic town on the shores of the Veluwemeer. Its believed to be the exact middle of the Netherlands.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4

Harderwijk — Arnhem

Cycling: 70 km; Lifestylers: 50-70 km

On our bikes we leave Harderwijk and before long arrive at Paleis Het Loo near Apeldoorn. This Palace, built between 1684-1686, was a former hunting lodge for King William the 3rd. After a coffee and a stroll through the Baroque Dutch gardens, we continue south to the Hoge Veluwe National Park, the most famous in the Netherlands, where wild boars, sheep and deer roam freely. Located in the middle of the Park is the famous Kröller-Müller Museum, a national art museum and sculpture garden. It boasts the second-largest Van Gogh collection in the world with almost 90 paintings and over 180 drawings. For those more interested in cycling than art, there are options to ride various loops in and around the Park. The final leg to our accommodation, located on the outskirts of Arnhem, is less than 20 km. If you would like to explore Arnhem its only a 5km ride into town.

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 5

Arnhem —Valkenburg aan de Geul in South Limburg

No cycling

Today we can have a relaxing breakfast in the city of Arnhem. Almost levelled during World War II, Arnhem has rebuilt itself as a vibrant and diverse fashion and design capital. Next, we’ll transfer to the Netherland’s southernmost province of Limburg, the country’s only hilly province. Our base at Valkenburg, by the river Geul, has been the scene of numerous historic sieges and conquests, and was occupied for four years by the Nazis. Now a busy and upbeat cycling centre, Valkenburg is THE place to be for the Amstel Gold Race, the Netherland’s premier road cycling race. It has been part of the UCI World Cycling event for a record five times. Valkenburg’s Cauberg hill has been at or near the finish line of the Amstel Gold Race many times. It’s a make-or-break section for riders with end-of-race fatigue. The Cauberg has also been included in three Grand Tours, the BinckBank tour plus others. This afternoon you have the option to ride around Valkenburg at your leisure.

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 6

Valkenburg: Amstel Gold Race

Cycling: 98-150 km; Lifestylers: 40-70 km

Make sure you have a hearty breakfast if you want to test yourself on the Amstel Gold race route! The full distance is a challenging ride, but our support van is always there if you prefer less time in the saddle today. The route will take you all around Limburg’s rolling hills. Being on the footsteps of the rugged Belgium Ardennes, Limburg is also famous for its short, narrow climbs so its perfectly designed for cycling enthusiasts. Challenges include many curves, abrupt turns and often strong headwinds. The race route changes year-to-year, but often includes up to 30 short climbs with little time in between to recover. The Cauberg is featured of course, as well as the Keutenberg and the Eyserbosweg climbs. Definitely one of the toughest classics of the season, The Amstel Gold race is generally held in late April before the Ardennes race, La Flèche Wallonne. We’ll see the Ardennes for ourselves in the coming days. For any non-cyclists today, there’s lots to eat, see, and do in this vibrant town. Visit the historic shopping street of Grotestraat, keep an eye out for Valkenburg’s unusual rammed-chalk houses and explore the natural setting. There are also plenty of walks up hill, down dale, and around catacombs and quarries.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 7

Valkenburg — Bastogne

Cycling: approx 100 km; Lifestylers: 40-60 km

Today we head to Belgium, starting with a one hour transfer to the town of Stavelot, in the province of Liège in the French-speaking Walloon region. From here we follow the route of the arduous L-B-L (Liège-Bastogne-Liège). Often called “La Doyenne” or “The Old Lady”, the L-B-L began in 1892 and is the oldest race of the cycling classics. Favouring mountain specialists it’s also one of the toughest races, sometimes with snowy conditions. We should have no such issue with the weather in June, as we cruise through the Ardennes’ rolling hills, beautiful valleys and ancient towns. Our challenging L-B-L finish will be at the top of Côte Saint-Roch in Houffalize (457m a.s.l.), where the steepest parts have an 18% gradient. Then it’s a short transfer to Bastogne, although some of you may choose to cycle the 30km.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 8

Bastogne - Ghent

Cycling: up to 70 km; Lifestylers: 40 km

We’ll start with a transfer (approx. 2 hours) to the town of Meise, on the outskirts of Brussels. This region of Belgium is the home of the great Eddy Merckx and today we will ride one of his famous training routes, starting from the house (and bike factory) where he used to live. You’ll see a surprising part of Brussels’ Green Belt today. Barely 15 km from the city centre, this area known as Flemish Brabant, has woods, parks, castles, and picturesque villages. After our ride it’s a short one hour transfer to Ghent, located in the Flemish Region of northern Belgium (population approx. 260,000). Described by Lonely Planet as “Belgium’s best-kept secret”, Ghent is as beautiful as Brussels but without the tourist hordes. Despite the World War II Nazi occupation, its medieval architecture is surprisingly intact, and steeple-topped buildings abound. This evening you are free to explore the city. Be sure to try some local specialities including mastelien (bagels), waffles, chocolate and elderflower liqueur. You may also wish to try the classic Flemish dish, stoverij – a meat stew.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 9

Ghent: Tour of Flanders

Cycling: 103 km; Lifestylers: 40-60 km

From the hotel we’ll ride south to Muur van Geraardsbergen. Then on OUR ‘Tour of Flanders’ we’ll tackle some of the legendary ‘mountains’ of the ‘Ronde’ before finishing in Oudenaarde, a small city famed for its ancient tapestries – and of course, cycling. The Tour of Flanders (and the Tour of Flanders for Women), often pass through here and are considered one of two “Cobbled Classics”. The ‘Tour of Flanders’ race day is a national holiday in cycling-mad Belgium. Its best climbs are a mix of brutal and bone-shaking cobbled sectors. As our ride finishes in Oudenaarde, we can visit the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen which houses the Flanders Museum. It covers a century of history from when the Tour began, including bikes, memorabilia and interactive displays. These include gloves worn by Belgian great Eddy Merckx. Another well-known Belgian cyclist is 2x World Champion Freddy Maertens who worked at the Museum for many years (until 2017). He now works there occasionally as a ‘special guest’ and we hope to secure him as our guide! After an epic day its just a short transfer back to our hotel in Ghent.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 10

Ghent - Ypres

No cycling

You’ll have a few hours to stroll around historic Ghent before this afternoon’s transfer to Ypres. On the way we’ll visit New Zealand’s Memorial to the Battle of Passchendaele (World War I), also known as the Third Battle of Ypres. On October 12th 1917, a total of 846 New Zealand soldiers died in this battle. You may like to visit the Memorial Museum (cost €8pp). We’ll also stop at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery on the Western Front. It has more of New Zealand’s fallen World War I soldier’s graves than any other cemetery (approx. 520 in total, with 322 unidentified). The New Zealand Apse here serves as a monument to the missing 1176 New Zealanders with no known grave. Every evening at 8pm a moving ceremony takes place under the Menin Gate. It has become part of daily life in Ypres and the locals are proud of this simple but moving tribute to the courage of those who died defending their town. This ceremony is highly recommended and you should be there soon after 7pm.

Meals: Breakfast

DAY 11

Ypres: Ghent-Wevelgem experience

Cycling: 99 km; Lifestylers: 40-60km

If you would like another day away from the saddle, take time to explore the many moods of Ypres (also known as Ieper). Many ruined buildings have been sympathetically rebuilt, including a replica of the 13th century centre of industry, Cloth Hall. The Sint-Sixtus Trappist monastery here produces beer consistently ranked best in the world, although little beer is produced! There is plenty to see in Ypres. For the keen cyclists, we’ll be trying a stretch of the Ghent-Wevelgem – a Flanders Fields Classic. This road cycling race with its great finishing sprint on flat terrain, runs in March before the Tour of Flanders. Famous climbs include Monteberg, Kemmelberg (fully cobbled), and Baneberg (partially cobbled). Alternatively you could go for an easy ride around WWI sites, including Hill 60 and Polygon Wood, where there is a New Zealand memorial. Some may like to visit the site where Canadian war poet John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 12

Ypres: Paris-Roubaix route (northern France)

Cycling: 75-115 km; 40-60 km

We’ll decide on the day if we ride or transfer some of the way from Ypres to the French town of Lille near the Belgian border. From here you’ll have the opportunity to ride a northern section of the Paris-Roubaix route, otherwise know as “the Hell of the North”. Famous (or notorious) for its cobblestoned (pavé) country roads and rugged terrain, this one-day event is one of cycling’s oldest races. Riders, if they finish at all without crashing, often cross the line caked in mud and dust. The race highlights include several cobblestoned (and quite difficult) sections. We’ve selected race highlights for you, where cobblestones are only optional! Our triumphant finish will be at the Roubaix Velodrome. On the way back to Ypres we know of a great little place in Warneton to stop for a cold beer or three! We think a bus transfer from here back to Ypres will be most welcome!

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 13

Ypres — Brussels

Cycling: 42 km

It is a somewhat poignant today as we visit Ieper Salient. The Salient, a natural ridge, was the scene of some the biggest battles of WWI. Ypres, while never occupied, was almost constantly bombarded and reduced to ruins after fighting between German and Allied forces. Nowadays it is a small but thriving city, with some key buildings respectfully recreated. As we take a leisurely ride around the outskirts of Ypres, we’ll notice that history dominates. After stopping at a couple of important sites, our ride will finish in De Dreve where we’ll have lunch (and maybe a beer) at Johan Vandewalle’s cosy WWI café. Johan’s place is a real ANZAC café and you may not want to leave! However we need to transfer to Brussels this afternoon.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 14

Brussels: departure

No cycling

Today our diverse tour in the Netherlands, Belgium, and northern France comes to an end. You can depart any time after breakfast, or you may wish to extend your stay and soak up the architecture and culture of this stunning city. We hope you’ll leave with new friends and amazing memories.

Meals: Breakfast

Tour Inclusions and Exclusions:

Tour Includes:

  • Accommodation in 3* to 5* hotels
  • Meals as listed in the itinerary
  • Support vehicle and driver
  • Cycling guide(s) – numbers depending on group size
  • Drinking water while cycling
  • Route maps and profiles
  • Dinner with Eddy Merckx (highly probable)
  • A day with Freddy Maertens (2x road race champion)

Tour Excludes:

  • International flights and airport taxes
  • Passport and Travel Visa requirements
  • Travel insurance (compulsory)
  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • Meals not listed in the daily itinerary
  • Bike hire (available on request at extra cost)
  • Entrance fees and sightseeing tours (unless specified)
  • Pre and post tour nights
  • Single room surcharge
  • Personal expenses, drinks (except water while cycling)
  • Tips for guides and driver

Tour Video