This route covers the area to the north and east of Oudenaarde, through rural countryside. Whilst it doesn’t contain too many of the very big name climbs, it provides a serious test in terms of its flat cobbled roads – the famous Paddestraat being one good example – 2.4 kilometres of uneven bone-shaking hell!
But it’s not all flat, as this route also delivers a couple of steep cobbled climbs, such as the Molenberg (at 84 kilometres) and the Wolvenberg (at 95 kilometres) – a short, sharp climb with a gradient peaking well into double digits.
Interestingly, this loop also provides a taste of a downhill cobble section – the Volkgemberg – 1,007 meters at an average 5% gradient with a maximum of 12% on a pretty uneven road. We’d compare it to sitting on a cantering horse with no reins! Think runaway train and you get the idea. These descents demand full concentration, balance, bike-handling skills and a fair proportion of luck!
The route generally takes you along some narrow and twisting lanes and through agricultural land which is very exposed to the winds. Seemingly at every corner in Flanders there is another short lung-bursting test as you see the sign for the next climb that has been made famous by television’s annual coverage of the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen) or as the Belgian’s simply call it – the Ronde.
All metrics in this article are approximate.
Our highlight of the ride was trying to negotiate the famous Paddestraat and its 2.4 kilometres of cobbled hell. It was not necessarily enjoyable for all involved – but it’s something we’ll never forget!
We were told before we arrived in Belgium to look for and ride on the smooth sections, which are naturally easier to negotiate, but we didn’t see any on this road. Just cobblestones of all shapes and sizes that hadn’t been touched for decades, with yawning gaps in between. So bad were the undulations and the quality of the ride we started to ride on the verge, only for John’s front wheel to quickly get stuck in the sodden ground… bike and rider swiftly parted company at this point (much to the merriment of others), and John was left on the floor enjoying his very first cobbled sandwich!
1. Oudenaarde to Zingem: 0-35 km
This route heads out to the north on open and exposed roads as it winds its way towards Zingem. Looking at the landscape and environment you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in rural England; it reminded us a little of Staffordshire but without the constant rolling terrain. As such, it’s a gentle start to the day comprising cobbled roads together with a cobbled and an asphalt climb as the route meanders through the quiet villages of Petegem, Wortegem, Nokere, Wannegem, Lede and Mullem.
You’ll come across:
Nokereberg – 350m cobbled climb at 6% (max 7%)
Huisepontweg – 1500m cobbled road
Lededorp – 200m cobbled road
Doorn – 1650m cobbled road
Den Ast – 450m asphalt climb at 5% (max 11%)
It is worth stopping in Zingem, if only for a drink and a quick snack. Head to the market square on Dorpsstraat where there is a popular cyclists café called Paradijs. We sat outside and enjoyed a coffee whilst looking across the road at a spectacular church which dates back to 966 AD. There is also a general store and a small supermarket nearby should you need to stock up on food and drink for the remainder of the ride.
2. Zingem to Zottegem (via Paddestraat): 35-66km
As you leave Zingem suitably refreshed, you cross the River Schelde and head east.
The following 30 kilometres section is notable for two well-known sections of difficult cobbled roads namely the Paddestraat (see the highlights section above) and the Lippenhovestraat. These come almost back to back and represent around 4 kilometres of very challenging terrain – flat but with uneven road surface that is badly bowed in places. The Paddestraat, in particular, will test your bike handling skills to the very limits.
Paddestraat – 2400m cobbled road
The bone-shaking Paddestraat is known by the locals as the scourge of all cyclists. So much so that it became a national monument in 1995. You will also find here the Ronde van Vlaanderen Monument which lists all the winners of the great race since 1973 (which was the year this famous stretch of cobbles was added to the route).
Lippenhovestraat – 1300m cobbled road
Breathe a sigh of relief as you complete this really testing phase and get to the end of the Lippenhovestraat. Just as you enter the village of Elene you will see a No Entry sign straight ahead of you. Directly behind it is a small bakery with a sign over the door reading “Brood and Banket” (Bread and Pastry) should you wish to avail yourself of the local delicacies and take a well-earned breather.
The route swings further northeast before looping around towards Zottegem on quiet country roads.
3. Zottegem to Oudenaarde: 66-104 km
The final section of this ride is full-on. If the following list of climbs makes you think you’ll need an energy boost at the start, the town of Zottegem can assist should you need them: as you arrive into the town look out for the big railway bridge that you cross and, as the road swings sharply right, you eventually see the local bus depot on the right and a huge cobbled circle set into the road at the junction with Stationsstraat. Here you will see a number of restaurants/cafés with outside seating.
- We chose the Meileken Cafe and enjoyed a steak sandwich and salad followed by some pastries and coffee. As with most places in Belgium, the staff were able to converse well in English.
- We also took a brief detour and at the other end of Stationsstraat found the market place next to an old gothic church where there were plenty of other restaurants, cafés, pubs and shops.
Once revitalised, you’ll be ready for what lies ahead:
Vlamme – 700m tarmac descent at 5% (max 10%)
Kortendries – 2200m asphalt climb at 3% (max 10%)
Hostellerie – 1275m tarmac descent at 5% (max 8%)
Molenberg – 462m cobbled climb at 7% (max 14%)
There is a sharp 90 degree turn off the Smaare road onto this short cobbled climb which certainly packs a punch as you slowly rise towards the top of the valley. As you turn into the Molenberg you can’t help thinking about the 100 or so professionals that race to the bottom of this climb for position each year in the Tour of Flanders. It is so narrow that if you are not in the top ten or so at the entrance, you could have lost some serious time to the leaders by the time you make it to the top.
Towards the end of the ride, having progressed along peaceful lanes, you arrive at Kerkgate after 91 kilometres.
Jagerij – 1000m cobbled road
Kerkgate – 2500m cobbled road
Kerkgate is a 2.5 kilometres stretch of cobbled road with a very slight incline. If you didn’t particularly enjoy the experience of the Paddestraat and the Lippenhovestraat then this is extra punishment! This is a real bone shaking test as you pray for sight of an asphalt surface.
Volkegemberg – 1007m descent at 5% (max 12%)
Asphalt eventually arrives via a descent of the Volkegemberg before the last climb of the day at the Wolvenberg.
Wolvenberg – 800m tarmac climb at 4% (max 17%)
Ruiterstraat – 800m cobbled road
Kattenberg – 600m cobbled descent at 6% (max 8%)
This is a tricky cobbled descent – take care. In better news, after this, it’s a flat run back into Oudenaarde.
Note: the climb stats in this section are taken from the local tourist board’s guide to the area.
Paradijs Cafe at 35 kilometres at Zingem – details above.
Meileken Restaurant at 65 kilometres at Zottegem – details above.
We stayed at the Leopold Hotel in Oudenaarde and enjoyed our stay very much. It’s got tonnes of cyclist-friendly facilities and is also very comfortable and well located in the centre of town. Check out our full review in our ultimate guide to cycling Flanders.
Read our tips for cycling in Belgium before you set out (the article includes our top tips for riding the cobbles!). Also don’t miss the information in our ultimate guide to cycling Flanders and article on when to visit.
Make use of the cafés, shops and restaurants in Zottegem as most of the route is on rural roads.
Enjoyed our guide?
We’d love to hear from you – please comment below!
Got a question for John?
Fill out this form and we will send it to John. We aim to get you an answer within 24 hours wherever possible!
The contents of this website are provided for general information purposes only. It is not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on it. You should carry out your own due diligence and take professional advice. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content on our website is accurate, complete or up to date. If you use any information or content on this website, download from, or otherwise obtain content or services through our website, it is entirely at your own discretion and risk. Epic Road Rides Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the information and content on this website. Find out more here.
Like the kit we're wearing?