After Holland we travelled to Belgium where we’d spend the next ten days recovering and training before Fleche Wallone, another `classic’ race on the calendar. We arrived at our new accommodation in the pitch dark and were horrified to find it atop a big berg along a 1.5 km long, rough dirt road. Yes, we were not to be done with the rough roads just yet and once again my butt wasn’t going to appreciate this one!
So while most of my body (!) was given a much needed rest it seems my mind would not. I was looking at the ten day race break with a little apprehension. Ten days off competition meant recovery rides after the Dutch races, some solid training days in between some more easy days prior to Fleche. It meant a fair bit of recovery and since it looked like we were in the middle of nowhere, it appeared there would be nothing much to do. Time to get home sick!!!
Fortunately, though, the next ten days proved to be pretty awesome. We spent some quality time exploring Huy, which is the town where Fleche Wallone finishes. We somehow stumbled upon every single chocolate shop in the place (who would have thought)! Even though we were thoroughly impressed by the chocolate shops, Huy also housed many other attractions to explore. We went through the scary fort overlooking Huy, checked out the town’s gothic cathedral and spent some quality time at the cafés in the main square. One of the great things about Belgium, apart from the chocolate, is definitely the beer and I have to admit that I did try a few of their fruit beers including raspberry and cherry beer. Cherry (Kreik) beer came out as the winner and if you ever find yourself in Belgium the Kriek beer is definitely worth sampling!
During our time in Belgium we also took a day trip to Brugg, a really old and beautiful city on the west side of Belgium. On the way home, we also briefly dropped in to Brussels for a quick bit of power shopping. Awesome shopping!!! Amongst all of this I also spent spare time during our ten days off by reading, messing around on the computer, and watching DVD’s. It all sounds very nice and it certainly was as we were barracked up in a large family holiday house in the hills. We cooked some great meals with the supervision of our soignney (Soignneur) and temporary mother Berthy (Berty) while our coach Dave Short and mechanic Stew made sure we had a toasty fires to keep the house warm and roast our marshmallows on each night!
Race day came around quickly and all of a sudden we found ourselves going through the normal pre race routine. Sign on, line up at the start for a half hour and then the gun goes off. The race started in a rather relaxed fashion and I found it was a lot easier to move around the packs compared to the Dutch races. Fleche Wallone is an awesome race as the course is happening from the start. Riders are constantly climbing, descending, cornering and weaving in and out of towns throughout the Wallone region of Belgium. There is always something going down on the course so the 105km is especially quick. Fleche is a strange race as it’s shorter than most and while the terrain appears relatively ok I think it is actually a lot harder than initially expected. It drains your legs and for most riders it jumps up to bite you at some stage. It certainly seemed to bite me and take a big chunk, as after 75k I found myself blowing to pieces on the third last climb.
After exploding to pieces somewhere in Wallone I found myself in the second pack and pedalled the remaining 30 k before coming upon the talked up Mur de Huy, the famous climb Fleche Wallone finishes on each year (not as bad as Mt O’Reilly Brisbanites!!!).
The Huy is around 1km long and its most vicious part is around halfway up when you go through a step left and then right hand turn. It’s easiest to stick to the longest line through the corners and once this section is completed the Huy keeps climbing for a much longer draggier section. A lot of riders start this climb a little quick but generally blow up just past the turns. It’s best to restrain yourself and conserve energy, as there’s more time to be gained or lost in the second section of the climb. The Huy is great to ride up. Not only is it a legendary climb but on race there was a huge crowd lining the entire climb. Everyone is drinking beer and cheering you on as you struggle up the climb and no doubt pull all sorts of faces! Luckily they’ve got their beer goggles on!