Over the past 10 years, I’ve participated 6 or 7 times in the Amstel Gold Race. While that is a very well organized Gran Fondo, it became a bit boring.
Besides, you can now ride this all year long and have a nice arrangement to go with it at the Amstel Gold Race Xperience centre – you’ll get more value for your money.
After my visit to Flanders and the Flemish Ardennes early in March, I decided to get back there “somewhere in April”.
When I saw the announcement for the Peter van Petegem Classic, I subscribed to that, because I know that the Bpost Bank Cycling Tour is a series of well organized Gran Fondos…
I also booked a room at the Ibis in Aalst, which is located within 2 kilometers of the start.
Sadly, I did not take into account that it would be Easter weekend, so the traffic to Aalst on Friday was horrible and it took us over 4 hours to get there (normal travel time is 2:15).
Luckily, there was a nice Italian restaurant near the hotel, so we enjoyed a good meal there: Penne all’arrabbiata and a pizza ‘Quattro Formaggi’ – I even had a beer 🙂
Much to my relief, I learned Saturday morning that the weather was better than the forecast and there was (most likely) not going to be any rain.
Given my previous experience on the cobblestones under wet conditions, I considered that a blessing.
Just after 9, I left the hotel to cycle towards the start – I had to pick up my BIB-tag first, but despite the huge crowd that went smoothly, also because I had a pre-registration.
The first official (feeding) stop was scheduled after some 44 kilometers and that was also the split for the longest distance.
I hadn’t been sure about (being able to ride) the 165 kilometer course, but since it went well so far, I decided to add the 24 kilometer loop – I could still revert to a shortcut later on.
Of course, that meant I would have to cross the Mariaborrestraat and some more cobblestone stretches, but it was dry and I went over them as fast as I could (dared) this time.
Sadly, during the climb of the Taaienberg at around 60 kilometers, I crashed on the cobblestones.
I had to get around slower riders several times, hopping in and out of the gutter (which is the smoother path).
That went well for 9 or 10 times, but when I was almost at the top, my left foot un-clipped while I hopped and there was no escape.
I wanted to get up a.s.a.p, but my left calf locked up in a whiplash-like cramp. I managed to flex it out and got back on the bike, but I could feel I’d damaged my elbow and hip too.
However, I didn’t want to look at that, because that usually makes it (feel) worse.
Unfortunately, the constant threat of my calf cramping up, didn’t help much either. When I got off the bike at my next rendezvous with Paula (after some 70 kilometers), I could not stand on my leg.
She tried to massage some of the tension out of it, which helped a bit. I also looked at the elbow, but it was just a gall.
I decided to cycle on in chunks of around 20 kilometers at a time, wanting to reach at least the famous ‘Muur van Geraardsbergen’, although I was not sure I would even make it up there if I did.
Plus, that would be at around 120 kilometers, so still a long way to go…
Despite the increasing pain in my hip, I was otherwise able to cycle – a bit slower and since this part was up- and downhill a lot, it was not easy.
I met Paula again at the second official stop after 88 kilometers and I told her to drive on to the ‘Muur’.
The first part of that climb is not too bad, as it is an asphalt road – only the final 400 meters or so is a cobblestone road, but that has the steeper stretches of >15%.
Anyway, I got up there – Paula managed to park the car just after the chapel (breaking a couple of traffic rules getting there) and I had another short massage.
By now I was toast, but rule number 5 states ‘Harden the Fuck Up’ and (also) my own motto is an inspiration in cases like this, so I decided to cycle on – after all, it was ‘only’ some 45 kilometers more.
Close to 16:30 I arrived at the finish and picked up ‘my’ bottle of Ename double – that was the least I could give Paula for supporting me during yet another ride.
Like I said: a well organized Gran Fondo – also the traffic support during the whole course is amazing and it’s near impossible to get lost, for the signaling is phenomenal.
With around 5,500 participants, it’s crowded, but still manageable and all in all it’s definitely another ride I might participate in again.
Garmin recording on Garmin – notice that the total is one hundred and 66.6 kilometers…
I had a difficult ride home – my hip developed a small, multi-colored egg and I didn’t sleep very well for also the elbow was quite painful. However, this morning the egg was all but gone (still multi-colored) and the calf was much better, so I guess there’s no real damage 🙂