It’s nearly time for the Spring Classics, which kick off in Belgium on Saturday 2nd March with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and then Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne the following day. Later in the month (after a detour to Italy for Strade Bianchi and Milan-San Remo), we are back in Belgium for E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem. April races come thick and fast – Dwars Door Vlaanderen, Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen), Scheldeprijs, Brabantse Pijl, Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Mixed in are trips to France for Paris Roubaix and Tro-Bro Leon, and the Netherlands for Amstel Gold. The finale takes place in Italy with Il Lombardia.
Anyway, back to Belgium. I try to provide informative and useful articles on this blog based on my own experimentation and testing. Selflessly, I am doing that again with this post, which compares the merits of different Belgian Classics – the Belgian Bun! I see this as an important public service – it’s absolutely nothing to do with finding an excuse to eat as many buns as possible.
For those that don’t know, the Belgian Bun is the king of all buns. It is a sweet bun containing raisins, maybe some candied fruit chunks, and is covered in white icing, with half a glacé cherry on top. Note it is not a cake as it’s made from dough. They generally contain around 400kcalories, around 10% fat, 60% carb (40% sugar) and quite a lot of salt. Happily, there is some protein in there if you are desperate for a positive excuse!
I have tried samples from Greggs, Aldi, Tesco, Coop and M&S (like I said, I’m selfless). When you settle down to watch the racing here’s your guide to the best bun to accompany your coffee (or Belgian Beer, if you are that way inclined).
Marks & Spencers – 3.5 out of 5 stars
This is not just any Belgian Bun, this is an M&S Belgian Bun! It is very fruity, with raisins and chunks of candied orange. In fact, it tastes very much like a hot-cross bun – a bit too much really. The bread is firm but not hard and the bun is well-shaped. The icing is thick, sweet and really very good, with no real fondant aftertaste.
Coop – 4 out of 5 stars
Another bun with lots of raisins and a good, firm texture. Not so much of a citrus flavour but that’s no bad thing. The icing is not quite as thick but is sweet with no aftertaste. A great bun and comes in a pack of two – what’s not to love!
Greggs – 2 out of 5 stars
Misshapen and slightly hard bun. The icing is very sickly and leaves a fondant aftertaste. Not one for me I’m afraid.
Aldi – 4 out of 5 stars
Another pack of two, the Aldi buns seem to be slightly taller. They also seem to have slightly less raisins than the others and a very sweet icing, but the whole thing seems to work well.
Tesco – 5 out of 5 stars
My favourite. The bun seems to have a hint of lemon flavour to it, and a nice selection of raisins and sultanas. The icing is thick but not too sickly and the whole thing is well-shaped and comes in a pack of two. My go-to treat when settling down to watch the racing after a weekend ride.
Of course, if you are interested in the real Belgian/Spring/Cobbled Classics then head over to the blog at ProcyclingUK
One of the things that I really love about time-trialling is that the buck well and truly stops with you. Did you train well over the winter? Did you take care to eat properly? Did you allow for recovery and adaptation? Only you can answer that honestly, and if you don’t then the race of truth will find out. The new season is not far away. I can look at those three questions and answer honestly – yes, yes and yes! Alas though, I am another year older and I’m sure quite a few people will have moved the needle on a bit. I did a little bit of testing on my TT bike yesterday and it confirmed what I always know – the first few races will just be about learning to hold position and suffer in a race again. It all starts again next week – I’m looking forward to testing myself again. See you out there.