Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Amstel Gold...

Well It was Amstel Gold Weekend.  Another Friday night leaving from work straight to an event.  A quick stop at Math Salden on the way down for a look.  Always amazes me this shop.  Bike frames and wheels everywhere.  I doubt they know what they have but I'm aways sure I could find about 20 different frames to buy off the shelf.

First drama before we got there is that the wife booked the Hotel months ago.  I assured her it started in Masstricht and just to get us near the centre.  Of course the Pro's might start there but us mere rider's have to start in Valkenburg.  After the last race where the Family had to get up at 5:30am it was decided the best way was for me to get a Taxi to the start.

5:30am wake up start and meet the Taxi at 6am.  I meet another rider, Frank in the foyer who was catching the train to Valkenburg and convinced him to come with me.  Much easier.  We got to Valkenburg and set off at 6:36am.  Frank to do the 200Km and me the 250KM.  the first 10-15km were fairly relaxed before Frank realised he'd left his water bottles in the Taxi.  Not the best of starts for him.  I lost him on the first or 2nd "Burg" and didn't see him again.

Big chainringing it up over the top of a hill
It was a fairly lonely first "lap" on my own after this.  I tried to take it easy and felt very good on the hills.  I managed to get several photos all on my own at the top of hills with no one anywhere near me.  I was even in the big chain ring in that one.  It was fairly quiet and not to many people around.  Towards the end of the first lap and back in Valkenburg the signs diverted me into a car park full of cars.  How puzzling was this?  The feed station was tucked away in the corner and near impossible to see.  Grabbed a few gels exited the car park and was off again.

So passing Valkenburg I hit the stream of riders just starting their event.  It was to be the theme of the day.  Each "Burg" it seemed I passed a few hundred and then a few more on the way down.  The riders were fairly well behaved and did stay left on the Bergs which is nice for faster riders.  It seemed to be a random collection of riders and not really any groups working together anywhere.  I must have been with one group for max maybe 20-30 Km before that disintegrated.  A few close misses with cyclists coming the other way was not pleasant.  We passed both the Saxo bank Team and Nissan Trek teams somewhere here as well.

The fast lane
The food stops became increasingly worse.  The Dutch need to look at how the Belgians to this.  The Belgians seem used to use big commercial premises.  The Dutch basically set everything up in a paddock on the side of the road.  Each one was a big mud pit and it took at least 5-10 mins just to get water.  The food selection was not as good either.  The amount of people was insane and hard to just moved about.

I don't really recall much about the "Bergs".  I enjoyed both the "Camerig" and "Drielandenpunt" Climbs the most.  Not to steep and very flowing climbs that suit me.  I still don't understand your average rider that either steamrolls into the bottom in the biggest gear he has and starts sprinting before running out of puff selecting the smallest gear after 50-100 metres.  The other option is before the bottom find the smallest gear you have and hit it at a very low speed.  I prefer to get into the small chain ring keep the pace the same and change gears fractionally to suit. It works much better than putting in to much effort and not able to continue, or giving up before you have even started climbing.

The steep bit and about to hit the manhole cover
The only hill that troubled me was the Keutenberg.  I didn't know it was there.  Came around a corner, wondered why there was a load of people and bang straight into a nasty little steep section.  I managed to hit the only manhole cover in the road which was wet and slipped.  The crowd "ohhed" and "ahhed" and pointed but fortunately I had enough momentum to grind out the 100 or 200 metres of steep bit before it levels off for the rest of the climb.

We hit very wet roads about 40km from the finish but missed most of the rain.  It got very cold and I was told later it had hailed for about 20 mins in Valkenburg.  The run into Valkenburg was not very nice and the Cauberg was just a joke.  To many people to climb properly and once you hit the top they dropped us into a big tent complex.  Had to walk about 1km through this to get back onto the road before doing a loop to join riders who had yet to finish.  Not the best idea and it was so cold!!! Where can I send my invoice for new cleats?

So I finished the ride in 8 hours and 5 mins.  Averaged right on 30km/h and fairly happy with this.  Difficult with all the riders and hills I think to go much faster especially with no one to work with for a lot of the course.  I don't think I'll do this event again as there was just to many people.  The route is nice but I actually think the region is nice so It wouldn't really matter where you rode in Limberg.

Yes it's steep but still time for a smile.
I'm hopefully now in good shape for things to come.  Next week will be the biggie.  Liege-Bastogne-Liege with it's 270Km and near 3317 metres of climbing.

Late Update - Watched the pros do the last 70km and very pleasing to see some struggling just like the rest of us.  I guess I thought they are superhuman and use big gears everywhere but seeing them use there small chain ring and large sprockets on the back show they are just like the rest of us. Human after all.

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