VeloVeritas and chums were over at the Belgian season opening Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne Brussels Kuurne semi-classics. Unfortunately the latter was cancelled but we still snapped away – here’s a selection of our favourite images from the weekend.

Het Nieuwsblad
The paper backs the race.
Het Nieuwsblad
Today’s parcours in glorious colour.

Vik always gives us stick for attending Het Nieuwsblad; ‘the race has sold out, it’s all glossy marketing!’ and to an extent he’s right.

But when you’re out there in the Flemish Ardennes and the wind is trying to take the skin off your face and there’s ice on the puddles beside the ‘kassein,’ there’s no doubting that this is the real deal.

Het Nieuwsblad
Professional Fans’ banners.

We drove part of the parcours on Friday on our way up from Charleroi – it’s always good to be back in Flanders and especially good after you’ve been aboard a Ryanair plane.

Despite the sub-zero temperatures and the fact that the race was a day away, the camper vans were out; and the banners aren’t half baked, professionally produced in the 2013 team colours.

That’s real enthusiasm.

Het Nieuwsblad
A typical windmill.

At the top of the Molenberg it’s real Heartland, bleak, agricultural with little to break the landscape, except this hard working old windmill.

Het Nieuwsblad
Johan is the face of the race.

Vik does have a point though; it’s all very slick now, Johan is selling the race, not riding it and there are VIP tents everywhere – and worse, you cant’s get near a lot of the bikes…

Het Nieuwsblad
Russ checks his bikes for the correct setup.

Russell Downing was a little tense before the start, checking and double double checking his position – that’s why he’s a good pro.

He’d end the day in the main group.

Het Nieuwsblad
Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team.
Het Nieuwsblad
Bert looks after his Shimano-equipped riders, and his Scottish journo buddies.

Some pros can’t adjust to ‘civilian’ life, one of the top Six Day men of the recent past ended up cleaning offices for a living.

But Big Bert Roesems has taken to his new marketing job with Shimano like a duck to water – a day like this would have suited him down to the ground, he was one hard man on a bike.

Who do you expect to win, Bert?

I’m not concerned, as long as he is riding Shimano!

Het Niuewsblad
Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team.
Het Nieuwsblad
The fans line the road throughout the length of the course.

It’s freezing and windy and maybe the head count is down a little but they’re out to see the great show – and it’s free.

Het Nieuwsblad
Geraint Thomas and Chavanel zoom past.

Rider identification was a bit of a problem on Saturday with racing capes to the fore and body numbers not on show.

Geraint looked good early, particularly here on Berendries. He would just miss out on a podium spot, and Chava was as aggressive as ever.

Het Nieuwsblad
We usually feature Iljo in shorts and short sleeves, sweating on an indoor track.

You can almost hear Iljo Keisse wishing he was on a nice warm indoor track somewhere, but as his dad told us; ‘he goes where he’s told!

Het Nieuwsblad
Stijn Divolder.

Vandenbergh was well back on Berendries but would be at the front when it mattered. Despite his size and demeanour, he’s a really nice guy and always happy to chat.

Boonen regards him very highly – he’s a respected member of the QuickStep and Belgian national squads and it’s nice to see him get some limelight.

Het Nieuwsblad
The Rodania car precedes most of the Belgian races, announcing the arrival of the leaders.

The Rodania watches lead car is a feature of most Belgian races, it used to blast out the word ‘Rodania’ endlessly over the PA – the driver must have had ear plugs.

But now it’s the fans who chant, ‘Rodania’ as the car drives past.

Het Nieuwsblad
It’s who’s bike we’re checking out.
Het Nieuwsblad
And here he is in action on Berendries.
Het Nieuwsblad
Luca Paolini is a good bike rider; his palmares are excellent, including a Vuelta stage and podiums in Milan-Sanremo (twice) and the Ronde.

Paolini was an unexpected but not unworthy winner.

Het Nieuwsblad
The African MTN Pro-Conti team is doing well so far this season.

The African team has hit the ground running with strong rides by Ciolek (he was 11th here) meaning that the invites should keep coming in.

That’s the problem if you’re Pro Continental, there’s no guarantee of a ride in the big races – you have to catch the organisers’ eye.

The African guys don’t enjoy the cold – but it’ll get warmer, eventually.

Het Nieuwsblad
Sven Vandousselaere (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise.
Het Niewsblad
Stijn Vandenbergh doesn’t hide the fact it’s cold, and hard.
Het Nieuwsblad
Beer, this way!

I wanted to stop the car and go in search of this lady, but Dave wouldn’t have it.

Het Nieuwsblad
Callum waits for the riders.

Callum suffered for his art, climbing up the banking at the top of the Eikenberg to get his shots – I haven’t seen them, yet…

Het Nieuwsblad
GVA.

Greg Van Avermaet was one of my favourites for the race but put in a monstrous turn on the Molenberg, going into the red and was unable to follow Vandenbergh when the big QuickStep man went on the cobbles of the Paddestraat, soon after – that’s bike racing.

Thor Hushovd has won this race in the past but last year was a disaster for the Norwegian. He won a stage in Haut Var just a week or two ago but was fighting for survival on the Eikenberg, too far down to have any chance of being in the finale.

Het Nieuwsblad
Amazing architecture in this part of the world.

There are good bars, great frites, the Flanders bike shop, the Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen and beautiful architecture – we love it.

Het Nieuwsblad
Bobby Traksel’s bare legs were the only ones we saw all weekend.

Snow put an end to Kuurne Brussels Kuurne, to the disappointment of Bobby Traksel who won here on a vile day back in 2010.

Het Nieuwsblad
Our pal Craig Geater, spannerman on the Orica-GreenEDGE team.

VeloVeritas amigo, Craig Geater couldn’t hide in the bus like the riders do – and with riders headed all over Europe after KBK, he was a busy boy.

Het Nieuwsblad
Beer and Flemish bike race watching just go together.

With KBK cancelled, we took a run down to Roubaix, where Dave raced for VC Roubaix, back in the 80’s – unfortunately the café was shut.

It was that kind of day.

Het Nieuwsblad
The race would have been turning right onto that….

It was actually very pretty on the Oude Kwaremont but horribly cold and very slippery – the organisers were right to decide as they did.

Het Nieuwsblad
Beer was still the right thing to do, bike race or no.

Orvelo triple, a speciality of Iljo Keisse’s dad’s bar, De Karper – always a nice way to end a weekend in the Flatlands.