Monday, March 28, 2005

Spring really is here!

People looked at me oddly when at the end of February I declared that Spring was here, after all it wasn't much above zero degrees. My logic was that bicycle racing had begun in Belgium. It may not make much sense but it does to those, or at him, who count, i.e. me! Anyway Easter fell in the third week of March and by then the weather had really changed from the deep snow of the beginning. I'd had a depressing cold which took out the first nice weekend, during which I'd planned to ride a brevet near Antwerp, all training for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. So I was very determined to get a good Easter in. This year we got both the Friday and the Monday off. I wanted to use the whole period to good effect.

On Thursday after work I took a train to Maastricht from where I intended to continue by train to Liege, however the train was late and I decided to ride the 30km, which I figured would be fun. It was! It rained a little but the road was easy. I knew I wouldn't get lost as I knew where I was staying, I'd programmed it into my GPS. Or at least I thought I did. At a certain point I realised that the point that the address that I thought was of the Youth Hostel in Liege actually wasn't in Liege. Fortunately I'd been there before and my memory served me well enough.

The following morning was bright and I headed South West to wards Chimay, over hills and dales of the French Belgian Ardennes. This was my first long ride that wasn't almost completely flat, by mid-afternoon I was beat! I arrived at the B&B that I'd booked in the late afternoon. Unfortunately there wasn't a restaurant for several kilometers so I went to a local supermarket and bought some snacks for dinner, which I ate in my room, going to bed early. I paid for this the next day.

The next morning was chilly so I brought along something warm to wear. This was my second mistake as I had to carry it the whole day. The start of the brevet was a couple of kilometres near the centre of Chimay. I had been hoping that the route wouldn't be too hilly and that the pace would be measured. Neither was the case and I struggled. Shortly after the second checkpoint, about 120km into it, I got dropped by the peloton and hit the wall. I paid for not eating enough. This added to a bit of knee pain which got worse and worse. I decided to slow right down and enjoy the day. This was a good move as the surroundings were lovely and the day was gorgeous. At 4pm I rolled back into Chimay. At the last checkpoint they asked me whether I really wanted 4pm as my time of arrival, not something earlier. I was quite pleased with this under the circumstances.

The following day the weather wasn't as nice as the previous one. There was light rain but it was still warm. I took things easy, having decided to aim for Namur and then work things out. At Namur my knee really began to hurt, so from there I took the train home. This gave me a relaxing day at home for the last day of Easter, which I really appreciated as I'd done about 500km over 3 1/2 days!

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