I felt tired from yesterdays' offroad debauchery so I decided to do some onroad riding instead. The Ronde van Leuven is an event I like to ride although it seems to be getting smaller in K's every year. This year their was a big lap of 58K on offer, with control points in Blanden - where I started - Bierbeek, Lovenjoel, Linden, Kortrijk-Dutsel and Winksele. Even though I was biking very relaxed I passed a lot of people while nobody passed me. Some tried to follow my pace but had to let go. Still, this is a family event and I can only applaud people getting on their bike for a change. That way they can also appreciate what it is like to be a biker instead of an automobilist. I just read an article today with a plausible explanation why automobilists don't seem to notice bikers. They form no threat to them. Car drivers are focussed on all things that can cause them harm, like other cars, trees and the like. But bikers can not harm cars, so they go unnoticed because of that. Hmm, there might be some truth in that. I met two female bikers I recognized from the mountainbike races. They were both wearing 2 Mega Saeco jerseys and I recognized Ilke de Jongh immediately. I think the other girl was Kim Saenen but I'm not sure. I chatted a bit with them about why they weren't racing today and stuff. Seems that they had a race yesterday at Sint Katelijne Wavre and another one tomorrow. So today was their day off. And it was a nice day for an easy ride, sun was out and there was just enough wind to keep things from getting too hot. When I arrived at the Blanden starting place, I got a reflective band for my efforts and an apple for my thirst. Had a good ride and really enjoyed the flowing landscapes around Leuven.
Ride Stats : 61.5K and 370/389 heightmeters (Polar/Garmin) in 2h30mins
Recon track 2008 Belgian and Dutch MTB Marathon Championships
Last wednesday I got the preliminary map of the 2008 Belgian and Dutch Mountainbike Marathon Championships that is organised by my club, the Velo Club Blancs Gilets, from Laurent Saublens with the demand to go and ride it and check out all the passages and produce a height profile if possible. So I prepared a GPS track with Garmin Mapsource and downloaded that on my Edge 705. Following the track proved to be very easy. Unfortunately I must have made a mistake because it didn't get any records of todays ride so I can't check the amount of heightmeters on the Garmin or produce a GPS track Luckily I always take my trusty Polar S710 along so I did get the rides' profile. With nearly a 100K - I did make a few extra loops when the GPS wasn't sure of the direction or when I had to go around closed tracks or private sections - and 1200 heightmeters this will be a tough cookie to chew on. Race distance will be closer to 95K but the amount of heightmeters is correct.
My friend Roger had agreed to accompany me until noon, when he needed to be somewhere else. We met at the races' start near the little train station in Pécrot. This was the first time I was going to follow a pre-made track on my GPS so I was kinda curious. I am pretty disappointed with the manual Garmin provides. There is only the mention that you can navigate pre-recorded tracks but no mention of the different screens, etc.. Its all very instinctive as I was going to find out but still. I also believe that when navigating along a pre-recorded route, the Edge 705 is at the edge of its capabilities. During the navigation the unit powered itself off 4 times. I had to restart it and could continue where I left off but when I got home I found out that only the part getting to the start, and the part from the end of the track towards home, was logged correctly. The part where the unit had to navigate AND record at the same time showed some lapses and I couldn't upload it to my PC to check it on the map. Only the amount of kilometres was correct, I 'lost' almost 2 hours of recording. Strange. But anyways..what is this trail like?
When I looked at the map I saw a track that was criss-crossing all over the Grez-Doiceau community. Starting in Pécrot and making its way towards Nethen, and then towards Bossut and Gottechain.Then it passes near de Bois de Linsmeau and into Pietrebais. The wet grass made our bikes glisten and acted as a magnet for dirt and debris. Some of the downhills proved to be very tricky and technical, with big holes, lots of stones and other debris. Of course the famous jungle hollow road is also in the track. We had to walk because the washed out gullies were too deep to ride.
The trails were dry and Roger and I had taken our full suspension bikes because the added comfort proved to be very welcome. Anyone who ever rode the Accro Bike race knows what racing in this part of Brabant Walloon means. Short climbs, fast descents , twisting and turning singletrails and some passages through the fields where the weaker riders can relax a bit and the stronger riders can make the difference. Don't be fooled by the relatively low amount of heightmeters. The continuous succesion of short climbs at high speed will take their toll. The averages will be around 25, perhaps even more when it stays dry on the days before the race - September the 28th. After the passage around Cocrou Roger decided to return to the start and I had to continue on my own. The trail then departs towards the eastern edges of Grez Doiceau, namely Roux-Miroir and Longueville. Long field passages but also some nasty passages through singletrack . At the Longueville chapel, exactly 45K into the ride, I had a little snack. The sun was getting hot and I was glad I applied sunscreen before riding out this morning. The track now meanders towards the Bois de Glabais with a tricky downhill in loose sand and with deep gullies. Again people riding the Accro Bike and some of the organised rides around this area will know these trails and have a certain advantage. The trail then goes towards lower Heze and finally arrives in Grez-Doiceau before heading to the southwest again for a loop towards Bonlez and Dion Valmont. Here I had to improvise because the trail that was marked on the map seemed to be gone. At one point I stood before a private section and at another point I was riding straight through a cornfield (well, walking actually - corn is though). The map shows a trail here, but the map seems to be wrong - or outdated. Surely the trail will have to be rerouted here. I was starting to feel a bit tired here and again I was thankful to be on the Merlin full suspension bike. Back in Grez-Doiceau I stopped to buy something cool to drink before tackling the last 20K.
The track now goes back towards Gottechain and ultimately over Bossut and La Malaise where a succesion of tough uphills will wring the last ounces of force out of the riders' legs. The last downhill is another killer - dangerous when you are tired. I think spreading ones' forces over the entire ride will prove to be the secret to success here. Riders who do well on short powerful climbs and also have the ability to go fast on tricky downhill will excel here. In short, the type of rider that can go fast, has lightning reactions and has sufficient power to do so for 95K . Some nice singletrack brings me back into Pécrot where I cross the finish line. The Edge has guided me well . I hit the lap button again and return home passing at the well near La Hetraie to have an extra refreshing sip of its water.
With the approach of autumn the Meerdaal 2000 organised ride is coming closer. Another organisation I like to help out. Today with the KBC MTB club we were guided by one of their ranks around the base loop. Some 25K in length. Near the end of the ride I was asked to include some twisting singletrack until it got too dark in the forest to safely bike. I think I supplied some nice trails. Yesterday I had a meeting with my club, the Velo Club Blancs Gilets , about the fusion which is about to take place with the Royal Velo Club d'Ottignies. Two big clubs - one more focused on mountainbiking, and one who has a 'royal' status and has a lot of road racers in their ranks. Budgets will be higher and also facilities will be enlarged. More can be read here. On another note, the Belgian and Dutch MTB Marathon Championships will be organised by our club on September the 28th. I received the - unofficial - parcours map so I can go and check it out and make a GPS profile. The map will appear on the Clubs' website shortly . It can change but as it stands the race spans between 92 and 93K. More info when I will have had a chance to actually ride it. All info about the upcoming race can be found HERE.
Ride Stats : 40K and 360/415 heightmeters (Polar/Garmin) in 2h10mins
Had a good night of sleep and felt rested enough to try another long slow distance ride today. The plan was to ride to the Sonian Forest and then follow the Zonienwoudlaan towards Dworp to connect with the Hallerbos. I started out very relaxed but felt my energy levels were higher than expected. The sun was out, there was a little bit of wind but above all it was dry and relatively warm. And I had a couple of hours to waste. So everything went according to plan and after about 1h45 and 40K I was at the edge of the Hallerbos. Since I didn't know my way around very well and I wasn't really looking forward to get my tires wet, I rode from Information Sign to Information Sign and more or less did a big loop into the forest. It was quite wet even on the tarmac roads but I had quite a bit of fun in this hilly region. I noticed the trails looked very muddy and there were forestry trucks harvesting trees, so some of the trails were pretty messed up -again. The sun peeping through the thick leaf coverage made for some very pretty views.
On the return loop I entered the Sonian Forest near the Middle Hut and then followed the Dubois Lane towards Groenendaal Station before looping over Hoeilaart and Maleizen towards Rosieres and the edge of Wavre. By now I knew this would turn out into another century ride but I still felt quite good when I rode into Ottenburg and decided to included a few extra climbs in Pecrot into my itinerary. I stopped at the little spring near the Hetraie camping and therefore I can say I connected the three big forests in Brabant today - the Meerdaelwoud, the Sonian Forest and the Hallerbos.
Ride Stats : 106K and 970/1068 heightmeters (Polar/Garmin) in 4h56mins