Monday, April 21
I woke up on Monday morning and felt refreshed and ready to go. I began the morning with a stroll trough the city of Maastricht in search of some breakfast and the local VVV (tourist information). The city was simply buzzing with people on bikes everywhere I looked, going to and from the train station to the university, the town shops and businesses, and seemingly just passing through. Bikes had to outnumber cars about 20 - 1.
The city itself is quite old world, and many of the buildings were over 500 years old. The river Muese splits the city in half and makes for some pretty nice images.
After getting a map and figuring out a rough route I headed back to the hotel to set out on my ride from Maastricht to Valkenberg to tackle the Cauberg.
I was able to piece together a few bike routes, some side streets, some country roads, and a brief illegal 3km on the autobahn (A79), to get to Valkenberg. Once there I traced the final 15-20k of the Amstel Gold Race up to the climb of the Cauberg. The length of the climb is around 1450 m, with a grade of 12% and I was actually surprised that I was able to complete it with out an excessive amount of effort. I was tired and was going quite slow, but I made it up and over nonetheless.
Following the climb I did the descent down the back side and then gradually made my way back to Maastricht in search of a shower and food, with a few brief stops along the way to take some photos, of course.
Tuesday, April 22
Tuesday morning brought about the big challenge of the trip, a journey to Huy and an attempt at the Mur de Huy (Fleche Wallonne). I loaded my bike and myself on the train in Maastricht and headed towards Huy, via Liege. I arrived in Huy around 11am and began to ride along the Muese taking in the scenery ranging from huge Belgian castles to power plants.
I put in about 70-75k rolling around Huy and surrounding areas before making my way to the dreaded climb of the Mur de Huy. The climb is about 1,300 m with an average grade of 9.3% and some sections around 26%. The route was already marked for the Fleche Wallonne (the following day) so I was able to track my progress. I followed the final 2km of the route with the climb beginning with around 1300m to go. From the 1K point I was able to make it to about 400m to go, right before the climb made a sharp left dead into the face of the 26% section. I came pretty close to simply falling over and actually had extreme difficulty walking up that section.
I am not sure the photos do it justice, but here they are:
At lastly, photographic evidence of my attempt
After making my way to the top and briefly remounting, I was met by a reporter and camera man and was able to struggle my way through an interview in French about my thoughts on the climb, how difficult it was, what the measurements were and about tomorrow's race in general. It was pretty cool, even though I couldn't breathe and was seeing stars.
On my way back down I found a nice bench and chilled out and enjoyed a snack and the scenery. I also got to see the Credit Agricole and Caisse d'Epargne teams doing recon, after seeing a few of the women's teams (British national) earlier in the day.
I made my way back to Liege and did some riding around the city and tried unsuccessfully to get towards Ans for the climb of the Cote de St. Nicolas (Liege-Bastonge-Liege), but couldn't get through the city, which was not a cycling friendly as the ones in Holland.
I finally made my way back to Maastricht, showered, packed my bike and headed out for some food
After dinner I headed back to the hotel, packed all of my stuff and got ready for the next morning's trip to Charleroi and Huy for the Fleche Wallonne.