April, April, April, what a month that has been.
The first main ride of April was meant to be the Dorset Coastlet Audax 100km. However, Ian put a very persuasive argument to me regarding the Dorset Coast 200km ride, it went something like this, “Do you fancy doing the 200km ride?”. I put up a big fight, saying “Yes, why not!”. So you see it was a tough decision.
It turned out to be about the hottest weekend of the year to date, a glorious ride along the Dorset coast and into Devon and the town of Axminster, with some challenging climbs thrown in. We ended the day on 128 miles and just over 9,000ft of ascent, what a truly cracking ride. It was certainly a jump in mileage and ascent, but it would set us up nicely for our Belgian trip. A few photos from the day, definitely one to remember.
The time trial season then kicked off, a little inconveniently as it was a few days before our Belgium adventure, but nonetheless I rocked up and gave a bit of a push, not to deep as I wanted to save the legs, but a time of 27.39 was posted and I was quite content with that at this stage of the season. Then on Friday 21st April, myself, Ian and Jim set off for Belgium.
We had a long drive to Dover, followed by a nice short crossing to Calais and then a 3 hour drive across Belgium to Liege. Probably the one thing you notice when driving through Belgium from Calais is just how flat it is. The only thing that breaks the landscape up is the trees and the village church spires. Other than that it is flat, pan flat! That is until you get to the Ardennes, then it is anything but flat! We arrived in Liege at the Halles Des Frois to sign on for Saturdays Liege-Bastogne-Liege challenge. It was slightly odd in that once you signed on you then moved along to pick up your free t-shirt and your medal, if you had pre-paid for it. It seemed odd having the medal and not having done the ride, but obviously things are done a little different in Belgium.
We then drove another 40 minutes to find our accommodation, a lovely apartment located in the countryside on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. I do mean on the border as well, our side of the road was Belgium, whilst the other side of the road was the Netherlands. We unpacked the car and shot off to grab some food and a few essentials. We had a nice home cooked meal and then an early night after all that travel.
We were up early again on Saturday morning getting breakfast and ready for the LBL challenge. The weather wasn’t the best, drizzle and cold. Fortunately we had all packed an assortment of clothes, it was a Belgian Classic after all! We had a nice casual drive to the start, parked up and made our way to the start area, This again was a little strange, it was about the most understated start to an event I have ever seen. You just get yourself to the start and go when you are ready. Nothing like the British sportives.
Off we went with the drizzle falling and the temperature down as low as 2.5 degrees, it felt more like February! Getting out of Liege took a while, twisting through the streets and then faced with the first of many climbs, many of which weren’t even categorised. We spent the day going either up or down, with almost no flat terrain. This was a tough ride, make no mistake, but it was absolutely brilliant. We arrived at the first feed station, frozen. We were all shaking, but quickly grabbed some food, obeyed the call of nature and then hopped straight back on the bikes to get moving again. We were faced with another climb as always seems to be the case after a feed stop. This was welcome as it meant we could warm up a bit. No sooner had we warmed up than we were descending again, this time it was hell, hands were numb, feet were numb, this was the true Belgian classic experience!
Three hours we endured the wet conditions and then it stopped, slowly warming up to about 9-10 degrees and the road surfaces drying out nicely. Climb after climb kept coming, followed by some nice descents. We passed through Spa and close to the F1 circuit Spa Francochamps, with views across the Ardennes Forest and surrounding valleys, stunning!
The famous Cote de la Redoute was indeed a challenge. It ramped up enough in the early stages to strip away any speed. Then you get the first kick, pushing 20%, followed by another drag then another ramp to the finish at 18%.
Finally we reached the finish, back at the Halles Des Frois, an amazing journey behind us with some cracking memories. We covered 96 miles, climbed just under 9,000ft in 6hrs 30mins. A ride that will live long in my memory, who knows I might even be back for more!
That evening we enjoyed a lovely meal in a Bistro about 800 yds from where we were staying, along with a few very nice Belgian beers.
Before we started the long trip home on Sunday, we stopped off to watch the Pro’s in action.
As I said at the start, what a cracking month. I ended up riding 666 miles this month, little devil! I climbed 9,781 metres, nearly 1,000 metres more than the height of Everest. I hit 2,000 miles for the year, well 2,004 to be exact, so all in all a very good month. I didn’t set out to do quite so much, but it worked out very well for me, giving me one of my best months on a bike.
Now I know I said I wasn’t doing much climbing this year, but I don’t seem to be able to stop myself! I would say that I won’t be doing as much in the coming months, but daren’t say it!
Thanks for reading, we’ll see what I get up to in May!