On Sunday, Team Sky’s Dutch rider Wout Poels delivered the team its long awaited first win in one of cycling’s Monuments, La Doyenne - Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Normally a relatively anonymous member of the mountain train that shepherds Froome through the Alps and Pyrenees at the Tour, but on a freezing cold day in the Ardennes it was to be his moment of glory. He won from a 4 man sprint to cross the line in 6:24:29. He’d covered the 248km at an average speed of 38.7km/h. Tellingly, this is almost always the slowest of the Monuments. This fact alone speaks volumes about the course.
The previous day it was the turn of the amateurs to see how they would fair over the same course. I was one of them, along with 9 others in our group who’d made the trip from Shropshire. We’d all prepared as best we could given the day to day distractions which we all routinely face, and it was now the moment of truth.
The rain and freezing temperatures forecast duly arrived, and we were soaked by the time we’d got to the start. Fortunately the weather dried up, but what followed was without a doubt the toughest things I’ve ever done on a bike. The course is just brutal; the 10 categorised ‘Cotes’ are really no reflection on how tough it is. In isolation any one of them would be fine, but it’s the cumulative effect which takes its toll. Add in the almost permanently undulating sections in between the Cotes, and you’ve got one hell of a parcours.
The next 12 hours or so are now all a bit of a blur, but I remember having to dig deeper than I think I’ve ever done before. At times it was all I could do to keep the wheels turning. Messages of encouragement from @SJ1202 and @Gazdburns, as well as the promise of a cold beer keep me going, and despite getting lost, going completely the wrong way, and suffering from frozen feet (I’m still limping slightly 3 days afterwards) I rolled up to the Bar we agreed to meet in just after dark. Darren arrived shortly after me (having finished in time to have a shower and get changed) and as we enjoyed a beer( or two) which had never been harder earned, we struggled for words to describe what we’d just done.
I won’t torture myself anymore by posting up my numbers, but will instead leave you with one statistic which serves to illustrate just how super human professional cyclists are. Taking into account our ride to and from the start and finish, Wout Poels road the course almost 5 hours quicker than I did. Just incredible.
Vive la Velo@936ADL