Sunday, April 22, 2012

Liege Bastion Liege


Where to start.  The biggie of all the courses so far this year.  I was a bit apprehensive of this one.  I'd read on the offical website that it was 4788 metres of climbing.  Elsewhere they said it was 3317 metres (Strava).  My GPS recorded 3379 metres of climbing (7888 metres with Elevation Corrections turned on !!!). The weather was expected to not be good and it turned out just as predicted.

When the weather was OK.
I went with a friend this time and we aimed to be on the start line for 6:30am.  A hurried breakfast and checking in for our numbers and we didn't roll out till 7:20am.  I had high hopes of a very good day but the weather and head wind out put paid to that.  The route through Liege was tricky and at the official start line we hit the first hill.  For a change they are real.  Whats interesting is I don't think theres a flat piece of road on the whole course.

There's one labeled climb on the way out to Bastogne called Cote de La Roche.  Well it was much the same as 20 other hills from Liege to Bastogne.  The one exception is it was longer.  We had already climbed and descended 1000metres before the first named climb.  The ride to Bastogne was cold and very wet with light rain/heavy rain and even the old bit of hail.  Myself and Patrick made fairly good time and stopped at a refreshment stop for a few minutes to replenish.  After this it got even colder and wetter.  Both of us were struggling to warm up and hit the big chain ring with a tail wind for the route back.  It took as least 30 mins to warm up and after this the temperature even climbed from 6 degrees to maybe 12 and finally the sun came out for a bit.

Someone has to lead the way
The first tester was Cote Saint Roch at 20% steepness over and 1150 metres long.  We both made it fairly easily and Cote De Wanne followed.  A small break before all the hills kept coming.  Cote de Stockeu was long at 21% steepness max and 10% average over it's 2300metre length.  Strait back down to the bottom of the hill (how demoralising) before hitting Cote De Haute Levee.  This is my sort of hill.  Max 10% average 6% and 3500 metres.  I can climb this type fairly well.  I lost Patrick here for a bit and was wondering if I should wait or go.  I was on the back of a few guys moving quickly so kept going.  He came back to me 15 mins later or so with a good bunch in tow. 

Patrick leads the way
For whatever reason I struggled for a bit after this.  The temperature had dropped from 12 back to 6 and I just didn't have much left in the tank. The first 150Km where we had averaged a quite quick 29.something was taking it's toll.   My guts ached a bit and I knew I had to keep eating and try and get my energy back.  For a change Patrick started leading on the hills.  He'd been through an earlier flat spot as well and after gulping down a gel he had recovered.  I tried the same but it didn't seem to help much.

The next few climbs Cote du Rosier, Cote du Maquisard and Mont de Thous passed without to much troubles.  The temperature even climbed back to a pleasent 16 degrees for a bit.  The biggie was next.  Cote de la Redoute.  At 1700 metres and max 20% with an average gradient of 10% this is the hardest.  It's open and exposed and you can see the top.  At 233km into a 270km route it's tough.  both of us made it, Patrick in his 39x25 whilst me in my 30x23.  I swear God invented triples for hills like this.
Proof that you can suffer up Cote de La Redoute and still have time for a smile

The next two hills were much easier but there's not much time between the hills after this.  Cote de la Roche aux Falcons at 249km and Cote de Saint Nicolas at 263km.  Of ourse the torrential rain started 30 minutes before the end.  Once you have climbed the last hill you kind of think wow that's it. I've done it. Then of course theres a ten kilometres drag to the finish in pouring rain over undulating terrian.

This event is not one to under estimate.  Each of the Classics I've done this year was different.  I struggled more with this one than the others.  It's just very sapping and and there really is not much rest anywhere.  After doing this I'd stay the Tour of Flanders was almost easy.  We completed the course in just under 10 hours and averaged only 27.5  This was a lot longer than I'd anticipated.  After seeing my times for the hills I must say not to bad.  Top 10-15% except for Cote da le Redoute.  Have to be happy as the whole course was just so hard.

Well a week or so of light riding and I'll be in Portugal hopefully in nicer weather.  I think I've done all I can to be ready for Portugal.  Especially since I live in the flatest country on earth.  The hills and off road riding will make a nice change and hopefully I'll do OK.

Victory is ours

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