Returning from the trip to the Hochsauerland, I enjoyed the wide-open flat polder for a couple of rides this past week.
The weather was enjoyable too, for the temperatures were around 20 degrees Celsius and the wind was steadily blowing from the (South-)East.
I was just aiming to ‘maintain form’ for the trip ‘down south’ on Saturday.
Late last year, I subscribed to the Volta Limburg Classic, a Gran Fondo in both the Dutch and the Belgian provinces of Limburg.
Until 2011, it used to be named ‘de Hel van het Mergelland’, which is irresistible in Italian: Inferno del Mergelland.
It’s a UCI Europe Tour (1.1) race on Saturday and the mortals get to ride their version on Sunday.
Sadly and as a reminder to not subscribe to anything in advance, something came up and I would not be able to ride in Limburg on Sunday.
Of course, not subscribing early means that some Gran Fondo’s will be ‘off limits’ as they are fully booked months in advance, but I’ve done most of them at least once anyway…
Also the Volta Limburg Classic – in 2011 I participated in the ‘Hell’ of that year – I enjoyed the, relatively new, route at the time, but the weather was really horrible.
Nevertheless, I planned to come back there in 2011 (crashed just 3 weeks before that) and 2012 (DNS due to the weather – snow and freezing cold, even worse than in 2011).
So I was looking forward to a new attempt this year, but alas. However, I could ride on Saturday.
As the pros would be using large parts of the track that day, I chose to ride another course I’d done only once before: Klimmen-Banneux-Klimmen.
That ride was done in 2011, but at the time they already had problems with the permits and the track was altered to just circle around Blegny.
After that, it has not been organized anymore, but they’re still hoping to be able to in the future.
Anyway, I found a GPS track and put it on the tablet so Paula could drive the pace car to lead the way.
However, I decided to ride it in the opposite direction, because I wanted to pass Eijsden (start / finish of the Volta) later in the afternoon, instead of early in the morning.
As it is a 2+ hour drive to Klimmen, I didn’t get to start before 10:30, but that was okay.
It was looking grim when I started, but luckily, it remained dry all day.
That is especially helpful when descending on the rotten Belgian roads – I almost forgot how bad they really are.
Compared to the Hochsauerland (or the Eifel, BGL, i.e. Germany), Belgium is no fun as far as the condition of the roads is concerned.
Other than that, the hills and the scenery are just fine.
The parts of the Belgian province of Limburg I passed (Fourons, Wallonie) is not reaching much higher than 320 meters, but the percentages are just as challenging at times anyway.
I did fine until about 70, 75 kilometers, when I started to feel really worn-out.
Perhaps it was just a little bit too chilly, or maybe it’s just time to take a break…
We also got lost because of a road block / construction and twice we were not able to continue (together) as the track was closed to motorized traffic.
The latter was not really a problem, as we could plot our way around that.
Around 15:30 I arrived at Eijsden, having ridden just over 120 kilometers and I picked up my BIB-tag – after all, I did pay 20 Euros to enter, so I wanted it as a trophy anyway.
I remembered the Gran Fondo challenge on Strava which required 130, but it was already later than I anticipated.
So instead of going East (back to Klimmen), I continued North, remaining close to the highway which we would ride back home.
As soon as I reached 130 kilometers, I looked for a quiet place to put the bike back in the car and change my clothing.
We had a coffee and headed back home around 17:00 – two more hours in the car, but Paula was driving 🙂
Garmin recording – I think I’ll go easy on myself the next week.