So once again we are back in Belgium for yet another great event that probably doesn’t get that much coverage……Gravel Ride 13.
One thing I have come to learn is that there are so many amazing events that want to keep numbers down, so since receiving an invitation last year I have been super keen to get out and ride one of the Gravel Ride 13 events.
This time around I was able to attend the 13 Châteaux. Yes you guessed it, the ride takes in 13 Châteaux’s!
One of the nice things about attending different rides is the fact that it allows me to catch up with friends old and new, and Gravel Ride 13 couldn’t have made me more welcome. The hospitality in Belgium is second to none and when ever I have turned up at an event I have been greeted with open arms.
Starting in Esneux at Venom Cycle Works (More to follow on them) the 100km route (There is a shorter 65km route) has over 2200 meters of climbing according to my Garmin (1660 officially), none of which I was really prepared for having been off the bike most of the winter. Also, and this is down to me, I kind of missed the start as I was up ahead photographing and didn’t get back on to the ride until well after most riders had left me for dust. That being said I still had a great time thanks to Bart and Gabrie.
The morning of the ride was extremely foggy and damp, not what I was hoping for. But, thanks to the cycling God’s, who clearly listen to me, the sky cleared, the sun shined and adventure awaited.
As with many gravel rides in Belgium there are rather a lot of cobbled sections most of which were on down hill wooded section and partly scared the crap out of me not knowing what was up ahead. Add that to the fact that they are wet, covered in slippery mud, roots and horse shit you have to find your line and stick to it. Once before I have tried to photograph on one of these sections……never again!
Once we had Gabrie’s puncher fixed we soon set off on what was turning into a hot and humid spring day. The KM’s passed, hills were climbed and the fantastic views that rides like these were taken in.
I think for me attending different rides, especially as I’m always photographing and not that quick in my old age, allows me to take in far more than someone who just want to set a good time. You get to discover so much when in a different country and this is what cycling is all about…..for me anyway.
Although there were two unofficial stops, due to Fred forgetting to take to me one of the local breweries the previous day, he lined up a little extra stop which happened to be at an award winning gin distillery called Nom Di Gin which is run by Alain Joiret. After trying undistilled gin at 78% the feeling in my legs soon came back and any pain that I did have soon vanished. Several shots of gin later (You have to test these things honest) Bart and I had a quick beer while we talked to the owner and soon we were back off feeling the effects.
The 100km route takes you through farm tracks, woodland and even a huge gravel pit after yet another fast and furious decent. I couldn’t have been happier and Fred (One of the organisers) made sure that everyone had a great time.
Now that being said I have to admit that the last 2km were hell for me. I honestly wanted to just throw down the bike and give up. It has been years since I have had a ‘BONK’ like that and I have no idea what might have brought it on. If it wasn’t for Bart I probably would have given up then but that last climb was hell and seemed to go on forever.
Once I was at the top and rolling back to where I had been promised sausages and beer all was right with the world once again. Crossing the finish came a a huge relief and the pain of the last ten minutes was soon forgotten.
I’m thoroughly looking forward to heading back to Belgium again soon for another fantastic gravel ride. I have to thank all those at Gravel Ride 13, Venom Cycle Works and Leap Consulting for such an amazing event and if you are in Belgium drop them a line via Facebook as I’m sure they will show you the area.