A designer working for LEVA-EU member Insync will lead a team of riders tackling historic Belgian cobblestones – on a bike brand used in the early days of the event more than 100 years ago.
Emma Cooper, a graphic designer at Manchester-based, Indian-owned Insync’s Global Design Centre, is part of the five-person squad that will enter the 104th edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) event in April to raise funds for a cancer charity.
Insync is sponsoring the team and providing their Viking Roadmaster bikes, a brand unveiled in 1908 and ridden in the professional Tour of Flanders race when it launched five years later.
The 237km ride, from Antwerp to Ghent, takes place the day before the pros battle it out to enable the public to share the experience of riding the famous cobbles.
Emma and riders Vincci Fung, brothers Liam Lee and Dale Lee, and Nick Rule are all members of Chorlton Velo and have decided to raise money for Cyclists Fighting Cancer, which gives bikes to children and young people affected by the disease. The charity was chosen because it fits with the company’s ethos to champion cycling as a force for good.
All are experienced riders used to taking on epic rides, with Emma having pedalled across Taiwan, Majorca and the south of France previously. This will be the biggest event they have ever taken on though, and the first where they wil ride Reynolds steel bikes.
Emma said she anticipated the challenge taking six or seven hours, although there would be some unusual conditions to tackle, depending on the weather. It can be anything from close to freezing to 18 degrees in early April and bad weather can prove a challenge even for experienced riders.
She said: “I’ve always wanted to do this so I’m really looking forward to it. After 200km the hills and cobbled streets start so, while we want to be at the front of the pack to avoid being slowed down by crashes, we will also need to conserve energy for the tough ending. The Reynolds’ required steel frame of the Viking bikes make them the perfect bike to ride because the steel soaks up the worst of the bumps without adding much weight, much better than a carbon frame would. It’s great to be bringing the history of Viking back to the race where the brand was ridden all those years ago.”
The team has been training together in West Yorkshire and the Peak District, taking part in local audaxs through the winter months, and will travel to Majorca for more intensive sessions in March.
“It’s a matter of becoming adept at riding hard against stiff, freezing headwinds before suddenly winding around a bend and finding ourselves at the foot of a cobbled, unforgiving climb,” said Emma, who has designed the British Racing Green look of the bike as well as a Viking-branded kit for the five to wear.
“We want to be able to trust it, because the ride is so long, and a lot of the test will be a mental game. We’ve never ridden as a team before and it will be a challenge to make sure we stay together because we all have different strengths and weaknesses, although we do all share a raw passion for cycling.”
The day after their ride, the team will stay to watch the pro riders take on the same course. To sponsor the team, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/emma-cooper73