|Left home at 7am to ride the short distance to the start of the Meerdael Classic, 17th edition. This traditionally takes place at the Football terrain of the 'Zwarte Duivels' in Oud-Heverlee. The weather forecast for today called for initial sunshine but during the day clouds would gather with possible heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon. So there was no time to waste. 100K is never an easy task, and after forking over 9 Euros (10 Euros minus 1 Euro because I am licenced) I rode into the Meerdael Forest , eager to see how my legs would feel and if they would go the distance.
The first couple of kilometers went easy, ondulating through Heverleebos, crossing over into Meerdael Forest and then crossing the Naamsesteenweg via the Ecoduct at the Weertsedreef crossing. No long after that I left the forest and was thrown into the fields near Tourinnes for a loop that took us towards Beauvechain. My legs didn't feel very strong and I found myself shifting on the small ring at each uphill, wanting to save the little strength I had. Hmm, was I really going for 100K when I already felt like stopping after 15K? The sun was slowly rising but temps were still in the lower 20ies. In the forest it was damp and during the day the atmosphere would become heavy with thunderstorm warmth.
The loop curved back towards Nodebais and was quite pleasant this year. Care had been taken to avoid tarmac as much as possible and the dry field roads were dust-ridden and allowed for easy pedalling. In Hamme Mille we crossed the Naamsesteenweg again for a loop towards Nethen. Here the 100K was going for an extra loop with a couple of steep hills and downhills. We also got our first rest stop around 20K into the ride. As usual, a lot of stuff to eat and drink and some lovely ladies manning the stop. There was also an Aquarius stand but I couldn't help wondering that this might be more useful a little later in the ride. From the rest stop we were lead back down towards Nethen and were joining the other distances for the famous 'lianenklim'. This was perfectly ride-able. Last week there was still one spot with a deep puddle, but the puddle was nearly gone today, which allowed me to ride the entire uphill. Great ! Some cobbles now as we made our way towards Bossut and then crossed the N252 for a long loop in the fields between Grez-Doiceau and Nodebais. A nice passage along the Beaumont forest and a tricky downhill, and then looping towards Gottechain and having to do a difficult and steep climb along a field. Bit of a classic this one, and obviously the Meerdael Classic couldn't leave it out. It struck me that the trackbuilders were very keen this year to incorporate all known difficulties into their track. Which is great but my legs were still not up to par. I was longing for the second rest stop but I would have to wait until 50K into the ride, after we first dropped into Archennes and looped towards Gastuche. From here, a great section with another tough climb brought us into Ottenburg. A fast descent in the Bois de Laurensart, following the red Overijse BLOSO route, and we were at the second rest stop. Again I took care to drink well and eat a lot of banana. Also some Mars because I needed an energy shot.
Ottenburg, we rode the steps downhill upwards - or rather walked because the thing is steep and today it was also sandy, making it near to impossible to ride. Some nice loops in this region, with a few other climbs. I noticed my legs were feeling stronger and took confidence with every climb. In the Sint Agatha Rode Bos we tackled the 20% climb there and I had no problems to make it. Okay, things were looking up but I was still only 58K into the ride. Next the track converged with the BLOSO trails of Overijse again , making its way towards Huldenberg. We followed the river Yse for a while until we came at the third rest stop - 100K only - which was manned by 3 pretty women who gave me a lot to eat and drink. Pity I forgot to take their picture, but I'm sure someone else will. We were in the neighborhood of the Margijsbos and had to climb the ridge a couple of times. First on tarmac, later on forest tracks with between each ascent a fast and furious descent. Great section here. After this the track looped towards Sint Agatha Rode again for a bit of a breather along flatter roads. After having crossed the river Lasne, we rode towards the river Dyle - which forms the language border here - to arrive in Pecrot but not before having crossed the Petite Marbaise, another little river feeding the river Dyle.
Arriving at Florival, some 85k into the ride, we got our fourth and final rest stop. Only 15K to go. And all of them in forest areas. First we were treated to the famous Pecrot Singletrack, with one section too sandy to ride , and then we had to crawl our way up to the ridge. A lot of bikers were looking very tired by now. But I was feeling stronger than in the beginning and middle part of the ride, and instead of bikers passing me I began actually to pass a lot of bikers myself. Marathon man seemed awake. Into Beaumont forest by way of a steep climb on tarmac and then dropping into Nethen. We then made our entry into Meerdael forest again for a final stretch that incorporated a couple of nasty climbs in the Kluis area. When we arrived near Meerdaelhof, a very sandy trail forced me to walk again for a couple of meters. I then crossed from the Kouterbos into Heverleebos again before finishing - fist in the air in a gesture of joy and relief - a the Zwarte Duivels locale where I left a little more than 6 hours ago. Great ride, thanks to the Downhillbikers !
What I liked:
+ Great trails, with attention to lesser visited tracks
+ the region and the use they made of what is offered
+ emergency numbers provided and pickup points well marked
+ dangerous downhills and road crossings well marked
+ distance splits well marked, before and after the split
+ arrowing impeccable
+ 4 well-stocked rest zones - lots of choices
+ very friendly people at the rest stops
+ all this for only 9 (10 if you don't have a licence)
What I did not like:
- the weather was too hot. But that is not the organisers fault.
- spreading of rest stops wasn't optimal. Big gap between 1st and 2dn rest stop
As usual the Downhill Bikers didn't let us down. Very well thought out ride, with attention to detail and taking in some lesser-known tracks to enjoy the best this region has to offer during an organised ride. The rest stops were filled to the brim with food and drink - and the friendly staff put a smile on my face. Even though the first half of the ride was tougher for me than it should have been - due to my antibiotics cure from last week and also the warmth no doubt - I never forced the issue, kept eating and drinking and managed to find my better form by the end of the ride. The arrowing was impeccable - and I'm sure that at some points the arrowing teams had to frequently replace stolen arrows. This makes me extend a special thanks to them. Good job guys ! At the busiest crossings there were warning signs, the split panels were placed where they should be - before and after the split - and the rest stops were announced 1km beforehand, not a bad idea in this kind of weather. And all this for the humble price of 10 Euro for 100K of intense joy.
The Bare Facts:
GPS track on Motionbased : CLICK
Ride Stats:Meerdael Classic:
100K and 1440 heightmeters
total distance today :
109K and 1440 heightmeters (Garmin) in 5h50mins
Hill Factor of the Meerdael Classic:
05-07-2009, 00:00 geschreven door Big Bad Wolf