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L'arri

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All in all, a great day  :cool

Exciting stuff. I'm going to do my first ever "sportive" type of event in just over a week's time. It's "only" 154km but it's in the area of Liège-Bastogne-Liège with all those punchy climbs. Very nervous but I was thinking that, if I can find a group to sit on, it might not be so terrible!  :D
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    42x16ss

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    Exciting stuff. I'm going to do my first ever "sportive" type of event in just over a week's time. It's "only" 154km but it's in the area of Liège-Bastogne-Liège with all those punchy climbs. Very nervous but I was thinking that, if I can find a group to sit on, it might not be so terrible!  :D
    It's not so hard, know your limits, don't go out too hard and have a proper nutrition plan and you will have a blast :cool
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  • just some guy

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    Exciting stuff. I'm going to do my first ever "sportive" type of event in just over a week's time. It's "only" 154km but it's in the area of Liège-Bastogne-Liège with all those punchy climbs. Very nervous but I was thinking that, if I can find a group to sit on, it might not be so terrible!  :D

    cool
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  • Of course, if this turns out someday to be the industry standard integrated handlebar-computer-braking solution then I'll eat my kevlar-reinforced aerodynamic hat.

    Larri Nov 12, 2014

    L'arri

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    I rode my first sportive type of event, as mentioned above. I wrote about the experience at length on my own website but I'll reproduce it here for those of you who fancy a long and occasionally interesting read ...

    ----------------

    As with so many things in this country, you had to know about the AP Cycling Tour - a whole calendar's worth of sportives right here in Belgium - to ride it.

    Thanks to a fellow member of the club I started last year for roadies in the city, I found out about the Cycling Tour just in time to ride the last event of the season: Les Géants des Ardennes.

    The event

    Les Géants is a specially designed and totally epic jaunt through the northern part the region with plenty of the familiar narrow roads, steep climbs and sweeping descents.

    The parcours was clearly marked with orange arrows, although I discovered that the GPS trail did not always match reality on the ground. There were three feed zones along the way, offering pooped pedallers energy drinks, fruit, pain d'épices and tardis toilets, all included in the price of entry.

    Three versions are available in increasing distances and, given my own experience in the Ardennes and how poor I am at climbing, I opted for the middle one at 113km.



    Before the start

    The start-finish zone at the Country Hall near Liège was rather chaotic when I arrived at 08:45. Over 2,800 riders had brought with them a great many cars and the parking area looked to have been overwhelmed long ago already. Happily, the sign-on process was much faster than finding a verge on which to dump the car and pull on my kit in full view of a crestfallen public.

    I had prepared my Look bike with a good wash and lube the evening before. I swapped my usual sundries bottle for a saddlebag in order to reclaim the second cage for another water bottle: we were expecting thirty degrees Celsius and blazing sunshine and that's exactly what we got. And what I got was a desperately heavy bike with 1.25l of fluids and all the usual junk to carry.

    I pinned my race number a bit higher on the back of my Velorooms.com jersey in order to honour our fallen forum comrades Craig and Keith and, ready to ride at last, I wheeled out of the secure bike park.

    Rolling out

    I started the day with club member Susana, the one who had tipped me off about the AP Cycling Tour, and her triathlete friend Céline. We did the first four climbs and about 35km together before they peeled off on the shorter 82km route.

    Our pace was very steady for the first hour or so and I found these early climbs pretty easy as a result. Having zoomed down past the University of Liège campus, I recognised the first climb, the two-part Côte de Dolembreux-Hautgné, from my visit with K to Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April. We had followed it in the car on our way to the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons on the opposite side of the valley. I was very grateful not to be riding that one today.

    The shallow lower section rose out of the trees to a steeper crescendo which still only hit about 7%. At the top, a car driver seemed confused by all the cyclists and confused us in turn. Céline didn't escape her pedal at the junction and fell over. She probably bent her derailleur hanger and thus inhibited access to her lowest gear, which would give her problems throughout the day.

    In a less messy analogy of Brussels' Car-Free Sunday, riding with a lot of cyclists of varying abilities can be an awkward and occasionally stressful exercise, as I discovered on the first big descent, picking lines through busy corners while trying not to drop my companions.

    Finding a rhythm

    There was never much time for recovery between the climbs and there were very many "non-categorised" (or rather simply unlisted) hills and I wondered, especially in my difficult moments, whether this was more a product of the Ardennais topology or the caprice of the course designers.

    The Côte de Chaply, quickly followed by the Rue du Fays, was a stiffer test but most riders tried their best to look presentable for the photographer at the latter's summit. I felt really fresh but I lacked the concentration that my later solo performance would require. Fortunately it was still too early in the ride to matter if I forgot to eat and drink enough.

    The descent which followed, after the village of Presseux, was probably the most exciting of the day. It was steep, narrow, sometimes rough and characterised by hairpins. I didn't feel jumpy however, even when some kamikaze kids wanted to show off. I recall that I was a very nervous descender as a kid.

    My last climb with the ladies followed immediately afterwards and it had to be tackled almost from a standing start, thanks to the busy but marshalled junction at the bottom.

    The Côte de Chambralles, which rises up to and beyond the village of that name, was pretty savage. A seemingly endless procession of bends lasting 1.5km averaged at 9.5% with the lower sections topping out at 20%. At our rhythm, I didn't suffer much.

    Going solo

    I said goodbye to the ladies at the split just before Awan. I didn't expect to see them again.

    Now alone, I needed to increase the pace. Riding the longer distances demanded an earlier start but my own had been later and I found myself chasing the clock a bit. Two out of the three feedzones that followed later were already winding down by the time I passed them.

    The climb that I had feared most was up next, the Côte de Niaster, which features regularly in Belgian races in this region. Similar to - but longer than - the Chambralles, it boasts a particularly nasty middle section. My cadence was now much higher and I felt like I was attacking this one. Toward the top, I started to catch the first of the late riders.

    The upswing hurt me but with the proper concentration I was riding more sensibly now and I knew that I had to go steady and not blow up or else I would be finished later when the distance started to bite.

    If my fear of the Niaster was somewhat misplaced, it would have been justified for the Côte de Priestet-Warmonfosse which followed soon after. At 2.1km long with an average of 7.2% and a max of 16%, I struggled in the latter part where the gradients were steepest.

    I hadn't had enough time to review the rest of the day's bumps in StreetView and the consequences of that are always double-edged: it's hard to pace yourself on climbs you don't know but often that same ignorance saves you from your own mental fragility.

    I stumbled across the first of the feedzones soon after Priestet and stopped for perhaps a minute to refill a bottle and grab some cereal bars, two of which I ate almost immediately afterwards on a rare flat section.

    Had I reflected that I was still not yet at the halfway point, I might have felt overawed, but the course designers now threw in a very lengthy rolling section without any particularly tough uphills. I also understand myself as a rider well enough to know that I would have good and bad patches and I had just left a bad one behind.

    Eating up the kilometres

    This rolling section, which played more to my strengths, was a pleasure and I picked up and dropped a few more riders as I pushed on, always careful to keep my heart rate in check.

    After a very long and lovely descent through Ferrières, before which my parcours split with that of the longest distance, I tried to fill a bottle at the feedzone in the unpronounceable village of Xhoris but the tank was empty and I couldn't pee either. After less than a fruitless minute there, I continued on my way.

    Ahead of the event, I had counted on slipstreaming a few stronger wheels to help me along but until now there had been almost no riders at all, let alone riders putting down an acceptable pace. Beyond Xhoris that began to change, where the trails of the 82km and 113km riders converged. Indeed from Comblain-au-Pont, not much further on, all three distances were once again united and following the same route to the finish.

    I yo-yo'd a bit when I did at last find companions - a couple of gents with a superfit lady - since their pace was slightly erratic. They rode a little too slowly for me on the flatter sections but they were hard to match when the road went up again and I was still trying to shake the earlier, uncategorised Côte de La Rouge Minière out of my legs.

    They dropped me by a handful of seconds on the relatively easy Côte d'Anthisnes, just before the final feedzone of the day. There I resolved to eat something other than cereal bars, fill another bottle and, since there were many more riders present than I had seen since long ago at the start, try to catch a proper bunch out of there.

    The plan worked spectacularly well, albeit with the frequent interruptions of vehicle traffic trying in vain to pass the groups on the long and sometimes hair-raisingly rough descent to Poulseur in the valley bottom.

    Hanging on

    The climb of the Ry d'Oneux, which brought us back out of the valley, now shaped the supreme irony of my day. With an average gradient of 6.4% and a very brief max of 13%, it looked like the easiest climb on paper. At 2.8km however, it was already a pretty long one, but it continued to drag for another couple of kilometres after the official summit.

    And this was the irony: although by no means super hard, I suffered more on the Ry d'Oneux than almost any other climb on the parcours.

    There was an excitingly significant number of riders here and I sat in the wheels as many dropped away, much as one sees in the big televised races. The gradient of the lower section was regular enough to hold a mesmerisingly metronomic tempo. This was arguably much more painful because it was so metronomic.

    I reached the top and felt almost exhausted but pretty pleased with myself. I felt that I could live with the final 25 kilometres so long as I found and kept the wheels and that's what I set out to do.

    To my relief the course designers, whom I had started to believe were monstrous sado-megalomaniacs, now gave us another long faux plat descendant and I latched on to the back of a trio riding at what seemed like a furious average of around 35km/h but I handled it, as long as they didn't expect me to come through and do a turn!

    Just when I thought I would have to renounce the big ring, my fluctuating heart rate settled down to a very manageable 160bpm and this tripartite juggernaut towed me all the way to the Côte de Strivay which, at just 11km from the finish, convinced me that the course designers were monstrous sado-megalomaniacs after all.

    According to the blurb the Strivay is 2.8km at a mere 4.8% average and a doable 15% max. Grinding my way up this narrow corridor of agony, perilously close to so many others suffering footdowns, I found that description hard to believe. I was gasping for air, my legs were screaming and I no longer had the strength to get out of the saddle.

    At the official summit, a couple of guys were handing out more energy drink in little cups. All I wanted was plain water but I reminded myself over the din of my legs that I had been blessed not to have any stomach cramps despite drinking litres of this stuff from wasp-infested tanks all day long.

    The official summit then gave way to another endless continuation, this time made difficult to negotiate by the struggling bodies everywhere.

    To the finish

    Just as I was on the point of something like death, with blinkers forever focused on the horizon that may or may not be the actual summit, I saw some way ahead a familiar triathlete's one-piece. Could it be Céline? If so, where was Susana?

    A few metres further up the road, as it turned out. I gave the former a light tap and the latter a wave as I rode by, too worn out to think much about it. At the finish I learned that Céline had experienced more bike problems, such that they had been somewhat delayed. In the meantime, I kept up my slog.

    I cursed my Garmin as it now seemed to be stuck on 108km of the 113km total! I was thankful for a short descent before the last climb of the day, the Côte de l'Hôpital, which we had descended at the beginning of what now seemed like years ago.

    At this point, it wasn't a matter of catching a breather on downhills but rather "wasting" some of the remaining distance. The marshal at the bottom called out "Courage!" but, although by now severely diminished by the effort, I found this swansong neither long nor difficult.

    Three kilometres later, I crossed the line. My legs hurt, my head hurt, my back hurt, my arse hurt. Everything hurt. And I was happy.

    ----------------

    Postscript: felt like Quintana but rode like Frank Schleck. :P
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  • « Last Edit: August 24, 2015, 08:19 by L'arri »

    L'arri

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    Re: Faces, places, races, messess of your rides
    « Reply #1324 on: September 21, 2015, 08:57 »
    Another repost from my own website on Saturday's Primus Classic:

    --------------------

    The Grote Prijs Raymond Impanis is a mid-September pro road race. It has grown in recent years thanks to sponsorship from the Brouwerij Haacht, outside which the peloton now finishes after two hundred kilometres through Flemish Brabant.

    Now rebranded as the Primus Classic after the brewery's most popular product, the race also memorialises Flemish cycling legend Peter Van Petegem and is preceded by a sportive event on the day.

    Attracting well over a thousand participants, this latter event (also called the Primus Classic) offers three distance options. I chose to ride the middle one at just over 100km with twelve categorised climbs.

    On paper the Primus Classic promised a more comfortable ride than the recent Géants des Ardennes with lower temperatures, less severe climbs and a slightly shorter distance. Still more advantageous was local knowledge, with the parcours following many of the same roads I ride regularly. I already knew all but a handful of kilometres and a couple of climbs.

    This would be no easy ride however. Conditions on the day were unseasonably cold and wet. Starting at 8:30am, T and I rode out in drizzly rain at twelve degrees Celsius.

    A stuttering start

    Suffering a few health problems, T wasn't in great form and, in a pattern that has become worryingly familiar of late, he struggled with his power output. And if that wasn't enough of a downer, he punctured right after the first climb of the day, the Sigarenberg in Winksele with its dodgy, dirt-strewn descent.

    Having replaced the tube and provided much amusement to local children, we continued on our way and it was the coldest I've felt on the bike since descending off Ski Basin Road in Santa Fe last year.

    Poor T seemed to slide backwards every time the road went uphill, which was plenty and often, and that also put paid to my preferred strategy of joining bigger groups: he simply couldn't hang onto them.

    We rolled into Bertem and, following the bright pink arrows, we left the village by a route that I had never noticed before. This was the first of several moments in which I enjoyed unusual new perspectives on my own well-worn training routes, although I also rode off course at one point by sheer force of habit!

    The unfortunate split

    At the top of the Côte de Pecrot, the easy side of which we had to tackle under heavy rain, I waited on T, relieved myself beside the road and reluctantly donned my rain jacket.

    Moments after the descent there was much confusion as riders stopped at a feedzone only to find it unconnected to the Primus Classic. I never did learn for what or for whom it had been erected but T sorely regretted the chance of a hot drink.

    The first of the Primus Classic's own feedzones was stationed in a car park at the top of the Florival-Ottenburg climb, which we approached from the Veeweidestraat. This latter is a shortcut across the floor of the Dijle valley that I only recently rediscovered, having sworn off it for years because of the parlous state of the road. At some point during my lengthy boycott it had been almost completely resurfaced with beautifully smooth asphalt.

    Alas, T found no hot liquids at the feedzone but there were the usual excellent half bananas, cereal bars and stroopwaffels as well as the same, distinctly less excellent energy drink that went down so badly at Les Géants. Perhaps it was the rough weather or a better powder to water ratio, but it tasted much better this time.

    I wanted to pee again but found I couldn't in the cold, so we started out again through Ottenburg and into Walloon Brabant, following a dreary section of dual carriageway between the GSK labs, Wavre and the E411.

    Waiting for T even on the flat now, I felt uncomfortably cold and, having descended to Rosières and the foot of the Côte du Bois du Bosquet, we agreed each to ride our own pace and meet again at the next feedzone.



    I had much the same feeling now as when I left the ladies at Les Géants: a sudden increase in my effort was like trying to chew a huge mouthful of food but eventually I felt my body respond and it did so generously.

    Around the lake at Genval and pushing hard, I turned onto an unfamiliar but not especially difficult climb and I began to catch riders who had passed us earlier. One guy had dismounted and was stretching his leg, using a tree for balance.

    Brain over bike

    Descending the Rameistraat towards Tombeek, I felt strong but also pretty nervous because I was entering the tough middle section of the ride in which I would face the formidable trio of the Moskestraat, Holstheide and Smeysberg in rapid succession. I am not normally one to mimic gestures of the pros, but out of concern for those climbs I poured the contents of my second, larger water bottle onto the Abstraat, hoping to save a bit of weight.

    I didn't give much thought to the two latter climbs but the short, steep Moskestraat made me nervous. Turning into it with little or no momentum, one embarks on a shallow gradient of 6-7% which transforms quite suddenly into sharp cobbles at 8%, 11% and finally 17% in rapid succession. I last rode the Moskestraat on a dry Spring day and even then I struggled to maintain traction on the back wheel towards the top. How would I go on these wet, greasy surfaces?

    On the initial asphalt section, I saw the road immediately ahead was mostly empty, which was a blessing. Then just as I hit the cobbles, I was overtaken by an official photographer's motorbike and that unnerved me.

    As I climbed in near darkness under the trees, I discovered that the best lines through the slippery steep bends were occupied by stricken riders walking their bikes to the top.

    I remember now how I had to fight the gradient in my head as much as with my bike. Gasping for breath and at my limit, I tried to resist thoughts of falling (a no-speed crash often hurts the most), pulling out of a pedal or colliding with someone.

    My back wheel skidded all over the shiny cobbles, my front wheel threatened to pull a wheelie and I thought I was about to rip my handlebars clean off!

    More than anything - and probably sillier than anything too - it was a point of pride to make it to the top. Failure was nothing to be ashamed about but knew that I would be disappointed if I didn't and somehow my day had come to revolve around it. So when I made that last turn onto the Bollestraat, my legs protesting and my face doubtless contorted in pain, I could be thoroughly satisfied. I made it!

    Hairy moments

    Nowadays, no bike ride is complete without at least one hairy moment and while descending on the Bollestraat, it seemed that I'd just missed someone else's.

    A police officer gestured for me to slow down and as I rounded the bend, it became apparent that one or more other cyclists had suffered an accident, probably involving a vehicle.

    Nobody looked to be hurt but there were neverthless the ingredients of a scene: panda car, witnesses, hazard warning lights and a few faces blank with shock.

    The Holstheide and Smeysberg followed almost immediately and I made reasonably light work of them despite not having enjoyed more than a moment's recovery before each. I passed increasing numbers of riders, one of whom was a hipster manfully attempting to ride these climbs on a low-ratio fixie.

    Atop the Smeysberg, I was able to join my first significant group of the day and sit on while being filmed from a van. It was on the klinkers just before the second feedzone in Sint-Agatha-Rode that the second hairy moment occurred.

    I'm still not sure which was worse: the guy in front's smartphone bouncing out of his pocket and into the wheels or the guy himself losing all sense of situational awareness and slamming on the brakes as a first response to the need to retrieve it.

    I waited for T at the second feedzone and meditated on what I had already achieved. I felt great and that was probably why my subconscious then decided, without consultation with my conscious, to race what remained of the parcours.

    There was, my subconscious must have reasoned, nothing so hard as I had already endured and moreover, I was very familiar with what roads were left to ride.

    When T finally arrived, he reported that he was surviving rather than thriving but if he couldn't handle the speed, he would certainly complete the distance. We agreed to meet again at the finish.

    Race pace

    If I was going to race to the finish, I needed to join a group to reach the requisite speeds. At Les Géants I had quickly found a small bunch and then a fast trio doing turns. Right now though, I was to be frustrated by a lack of opportunity.

    Just a few kilometres before Neerijse my luck changed. I was joined by a duo fairly flying along, so without a word I sat on and, having latched onto this locomotive, I grimaced my way up the Langestraat. Amazingly, the sun put in a brief appearance and even though it barely lasted twenty or thirty minutes, it was pleasantly warming.

    Prior to the descent into Leefdaal we caught sight of a large, homogenous bunch up ahead. It appeared to consist almost entirely of members of a single club, yet it remained out of reach because there was a large van stuck between us. I did not realise immediately that the van, with warning lights constantly flashing, actually carried the same company logo as the riders' jerseys: it was evidently shadowing them as a support vehicle.

    In Leefdaal proper contact was made but on the climb towards Everberg, the bunch completely disintegrated. The source of much foment was a youth on a moped who had decided to motorpace us just for fun. At the front, those who could wanted to follow. I was still at the back when someone up ahead let a gap open.

    I would spend much of the day's remaining kilometres in a solo chase, trying to regain that spirited vanguard. I started my chase on the descent into Everberg, amazed to find my heart rate so high and yet feeling fine. I shoved a gel into my mouth and hoped it would see me through to the finish.

    Once again I was forced to master my mind as well as my body. I needed to commit to the chase even when I lost sight of the peloton in Erps-Kwerps or when I seemed not to be gaining any ground. At the same time, my knowledge of these roads is probably better than in any other corner of Belgium and, taking familiar corners at unusually high speeds, I slowly clawed my way back. I kept on pressing my effort when, on a normal day, I would have obeyed my heart rate thresholds and backed off.

    Eventually I made contact while racing through an interesting new area of Kampenhout. As I caught my breath in the wheels, I reflected that I would have to return in my own time and see more of it. The rain, which had held off for a while, now returned for the last flying 10km but I was warm enough and I barely noticed.

    As I crossed the line, the rain was falling in buckets and I had a Primus beer under a wholly insufficient marquee. T rolled in a little later and we chatted, struggling to be heard above an awful pub rock band, which was banging out pop rock standards with an accent.

    On reflection, I think I would have managed the longest distance on the day, especially if I had ridden with groups. It's late September and the sportive season is all but over, so there won't be other opportunities in 2015, but I will certainly do more of these next year.

    --------------------
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  • stereojet

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    Re: Faces, places, races, messess of your rides
    « Reply #1325 on: September 21, 2015, 10:56 »
    Good effort! Puts me to shame. I did two hours around the coast and barely managed a 25kph average....
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  • L'arri

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    Re: Faces, places, races, messess of your rides
    « Reply #1326 on: September 21, 2015, 17:50 »
    Good effort! Puts me to shame. I did two hours around the coast and barely managed a 25kph average....

    Windy there though, surely?
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  • stereojet

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    Re: Faces, places, races, messess of your rides
    « Reply #1327 on: September 22, 2015, 08:32 »
    Windy there though, surely?

    Aye, headwind there and back. (Well, at least that's my story).
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  • Michielveedeebee

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    I went to Val Thorens yesterday! :D And all the way down to Moutiers to climb back to Les Menuires the day before :D https://www.strava.com/activities/459851131

    Post Merge: January 07, 2016, 21:39
    https://www.strava.com/activities/460659041  This was a heavy one. Descended all the way down to Moutiers from Les Menuires and climbed all the way back up to Val Thorens. Then it was descending time again, which is very depressing to see how quickly you descend compared to the climbing part :p
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  • « Last Edit: January 07, 2016, 21:39 by Michielveedeebee, Reason: Merged DoublePost »
    RIP Craig1985

    Michielveedeebee

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    Pic from Gent-Staden. Pretty hard race. 154 kms in crosswinds.
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  • L'arri

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    My start to the sportive season here in Belgium has been much delayed.

    I didn't want to ride the cobbled events because, as I have said before, if you live here and you have to ride them a lot, the cobbles get old pretty quickly. And the weather has been consistently appalling.

    In late April, I missed my first two targets - the official LBL and Tilff-Bastogne-Tilff - because I felt under-prepared for any sort of distance but this weekend, better late than never, I plan to ride an organised event.

    It's called the Flèche de Wallonie and the "de" is an important distinction because, unlike the Flèche Wallonne race which runs through the Condroz, this event takes place in the Ardennes proper.

    The loop begins and ends in Spa, offers three distance options and includes such local giants as the Haute Levée, the Côte de Lorcé and two sides of the Col du Rosier. They're mostly +/- 3km long and nicely surfaced with relatively steady gradients, the sort of climb I prefer over the leg snapping, potholed pimplebergs I have to deal with here in Brabant.

    It's an early start and a longish drive, so I'll let y'all know how it goes.
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  • L'arri

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    Per above, I rode my first sportive of the year last weekend, the Flèche de Wallonie.

    I can only confirm that Liège-Bastogne-Liège must be so damned hard for a pro because I did just a few of the climbs from La Doyenne and I hadn't realised how close together they come. There is simply nowhere to hide in the Ardennes.

    Gorgeous weather (28 deg C), lovely scenery and even the tepid sponsored energy drink tasted better this time around.





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  • just some guy

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    Went for a ride that I hoped would be 100 km but ended up at 84 km the wind was crazy strong, and died an ugly death at about 70 km into a headwind, it was quiet sunny and the rolling hills where I live we truel beautiful . Didn´t think so much of the sun while out, watched to tour stage on the sofa and as I hoped up saw my legs, the worlds greatest 1st day in the sun and a long ride tanline has formed  :D
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  • just some guy

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    Had nice ride today clocked 100 km but had a crash as well  :(

    a bit of road rash on my right shoulder and leg and banged up knee and wrist on the left, pretty lucky tbh, road 75 km after so all good the wrist is a bit painful so will keep an eye on that
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  • Michielveedeebee

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    I just finished my first ever TT (26ks) and got 7th overall on 100+ competitors. Only 8 seconds short of the podium, so massively disappointed ...

    Got a good picture though  :D
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