For those that read our article on the Dirty Boar last year, you know it was one tough event, especially with the weather. So after receiving an email about their bikepacking weekend, I jumped at the chance to be back in Belgium and ride in the Ardenne once again.
Arriving on Friday afternoon they had set up camp in a small town 6km from the start. It was great to test out the bivvy bag I had just purchased on eBay due to my previous one going missing and catch up over a beer with various folks old and new. Some of those that had turned up had never tried bikepacking before, but due to the guys at Dirty Boar being able to supply tents and other equipment allowed them to give it a go. It is great when an event like that helps out so you don’t have to buy equipment before you try. Who knows you might not like it.
Saturday morning started early, mostly due to being in a bivvy bag and the forest was alive and kicking. I could have done with more than one coffee at this point, but it could have been worse.
We cycled to the start and I can honestly say I have never started a ride from a more idyllic spot. The huge Lion looking over the dam, the sun shining and knowing the next two days were going to be exploring two fantastic routes from Belgium into Germany and back.
Within a couple of KM’s, we were into the forest and climbing. I was soon to learn that most of the two days would be like this. But seeing that the views were spectacular, and even though I was aiming to chill-out more than the race, you couldn’t help but get caught up in all the fun.
Knowing that with around 140km to go, depending on if you managed to get lost, it was going to be a long day in the saddle. Some of the climbs were over 16% and day two was going to be harder, or so I was told at the time. For those that felt they needed to take a more direct route there happened to be a shortcut at around 90km. This couldn’t have been missed as it was after one of those climbs which oddly meandered to where the Third Reich used to party. A huge building with tank tracks, an old abandoned airstrip and a sense of…….(It is hard to say what it has a sense of knowing its history. It is an impressive building and has a stunning view, but like I say knowing the history it doesn’t feel right to give the building kudos).
So far the route had taken us through and around the Rur Dam, the forests of Reinaltzhof and the stunning Nationalpark Eifel. Even though there were some mechanicals and punctures, when I rolled into the campsite everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and talking about how great the ride had been so far.
Luckily I had been given a tent to use the night before and seeing that it rained I had been more than happy in the morning knowing I was dry. After a brief breakfast, it seemed that many folks were keen to get underway and make the most of the things to come.
From the off, I knew there was a huge gravel climb, one I was told would be the hardest of the weekend. Other than having to stop to remove my shirt by then we all seemed to be in the grove and finding our own paces. The day was spent overtaking, being overtaken, catching up, splitting up and re-grouping.
Trying to find somewhere to eat and especially a good coffee became harder as we went into the forest. Diverting through various towns, eagle eyes were on the lookout, but nothing seemed to appear. After a short stop at a supermarket, Guido and I were clearly chilling-out far too much, but it wasn’t a race and we were in no real hurry.
We let the others go as we joined the route once again and then the climbing really started. The heat was bouncing off the gravel roads and three days with no real sleep started to catch up with me.
Towards the end, I just didn’t have it in me and having lost my mojo, due to the large rocky/cobbled section, it came as a great relief to be able to stop at the highest point in Belgium called Signal de Botrange in the High Fens. To my surprise, we were only a few minutes behind a couple of other guys, all of whom see to be enjoying a beer and eating pasta. Personally, I can’t remember what I had to eat other than a rather nice tart tatin as I was F**Ked.
The ride back luckily was downhill and Guido and I decided that we would take the shortcut after a rather large lunch. This was still epic and once off the main road, the route around the reservoir was breathtaking. Soon we were at the Lion where we had started, drinking a beer and talking over the weekend’s events.
Next year I really hope that the folks from Dirty Boar put on this event again. If they do I’ll be there ready and waiting.