great weather conditions today, a perfect day to do a first ride in the
Ardennes. I had made an appointment with a good friend to meet at the
Franchimont Castle and do a combination of the Green and the Blue
Theux routes. It was her first 'big' ride of the year, so we would have to
see how she felt and add or subtract loops accordingly.
were not alone at the parking lot, quite a few mountainbikers were
preparing to enjoy the fine weather and possibly have a great ride.
a map soon proved to be of gold value around these trails, because -
although most of the markings are up - at some crucial points markings
were missing , even at the Green and Blue loops which I noted as
'perfectly marked' last year . I noticed that at some points new
markers were added but at other points markers were sadly missing;
some lying on the ground, run over by traffic or simply disappeared
into thin air.
Bottom Line : bring a map!
The first loop, the Green
one, basically is one big climb into the majestic "Bois de Staneu" ,
followed by a nice and fast descent before looping back to Theux. I
love these long uphills and at this point the downhill was certainly up
to par with the uphill, meandering down , with some gullies here and
there, generally forcing the rider to be very attentive, be easy but
decisive on the brakes , choose the right trajectory and basically
enjoy the ride.
At the bottom of the big descent we picked up on the Blue route and immediately started on our second big uphill of the day. We
were taking it easy , since we had a long way to go. Finding a good
pace from the beginning of the climb and sticking to it was the order
of the day. Again
this climb was followed by a long downhill over a gravelly road with
some lazy switchbacks near the end dropping towards the 'Route de
Spa'. I noticed some arrow markings, left over from the Olne-Spa-Olne
ride a few weeks ago. We would see them again throughout the ride.
crossing the Route de Spa we came to a more technical uphill which was
thoroughly enjoyed , the landscapes were more open at the end of this
tricky uphill and we would be riding next to fields now. This as
opposed to the first 20K or so which were mainly in the forest, not
considering the first 5K which went through the fields as well.
The road was gradually working its way up towards the 400 meter mark as we decided to take the Red
loop towards the Ninglinspo area. Here we stayed on the plateau for a
while with broader roads but also a nice passage through the fagnes,
which felt a bit like riding over cobbles.
Onto the Blue
loop once again we came , with an interesting passage after another steep
uphill and mighty yummie rocky bouldery downhill which would have been
even more of a handful had it been wet. I have never seen the Theux
trails so dry as they were today , they were perfect and inviting .
At one point we came to a passage were a storm had keeled over a lot of large pine trees, and we had to go around or climb over at least
10 big trees. One biker who joined us at this stage managed to make us
burst out in laughter when he first swiftly climbed/jumped over two
trees, and then just pushed himself and his bike under
a third one. Smooth operator, he certainly was !! It occured to me how
interesting it would be to see a flock of time-pressed chrono riders
take these natural obstacles..
Some more interesting bits were to follow, but now they were few and further apart. This is were the Blue differs from the Red
for sure. The Red route doesn't "mellow out" near the end , it just
keeps on getting tougher and tougher. I don't think this is altogether
a good thing, since mistakes are more easily made near the end of the
ride, and when this 'end of the ride' is as tough as the Red routes'...
well, you take it from there.
it was, we still had an interesting loop going round the Chateau de
l'Ourlaine, with a mean downhill with rocks which was very ride-able
today in these dry conditions, followed by a steep uphill section which
brought us back upon tarmac.
last 12K I would like to call 'boring', mainly on tarmac roads gently
meandering though the valleys. But the views were at times
breathtaking. With the sun hiding from time to time behind the clouds,
the hills were alternatively brightly lit or in the shade. There were
lots of flowers along the route which along with the fresh green leaves
were not thick enough to hide the underlying outline of the forest floor. I think this time of the
year - and certainly in conditions like today - is, together with the
fall, perhaps the best season to ride these trails.
The last uphill towards the castle was at least another offroad bit which put a nice icing on the cake for me.
Ride Stats : 50K and 1075 heightmeters in 3h44mins
Ride Profile (CLICK)