La Doyenne

I had the pleasure of heading to Liege in Belgium last week with my awesome pal Ruth. Like a modern day Thelma & Louise of the cycling sorority, we packed our bikes into the rental Merc (a nice gratis upgrade, it pays to flutter ones eyes when picking it up!) and hot-footed it in the champagne-gold beast down to the 'chunnel at Folkestone, both giddy with excitement at heading to the Ardennes for the first time!
Saturday saw us tackle the LBL Challenge sportive, we plumped for the medium route, around 100 miles or so, eschewing the daddio of the full 276km route (although plans are firmly hatched to return and try the big one in 2014... now we have some idea of the bumps in the Ardennes!) Our route still featured most of the meaty climbs to sink our teeth into (and pray my knackered achilles didn't give out). We took in the Col du Rosier, the Maquisard - a 6km winding bugger falling during the warmest part of the day, Mont Theux, a cruelly placed Côte de La Redoute coming 110km into the ride, pushing onto the Colonster, before a final kick in the teeth at 152km that is the côte de Saint-Nicolas, which despite its pretty gnarly gradients, proved to be a real kick, climbing through the industrial streets glancing across to houses standing a curious angles to the tarmac we rode up. Big shout outs and respect to all those who smashed out the full distance one, especially Mr Liebo, cruising back into town ahead of us haha! 
A fair few brits were present on the ride, and was most lovely to bump into people we knew out on the course. We even spied plenty of ozzies over for the ride, most noticeable the dude in the full Greenedge garb... lets hope they werent pro's seeking a little extra training ;)
Anyway, enough of the ride, all I can say is its an event id highly recommend heading to, theres a distinctly chilled vibe to it, forget your super-subscribed euro sportive-type fare here... entries possible on the line with a queue of about 2 people. Picking up numbers and setting off from the start village easily completed in 15 minutes max! 
Sunday we headed back to the place of suffering the day before, La Redoute, making a cosy pitch armed with flags, beers, whiskey and plenty of race excitement! Dan Martin took the honors on the day, with a canny move on Purito in the finale. He rode strong and smart, and although the throngs of thousands around us, ardent if not die-hard Gilbert fans, were disappointed, the vibe was pretty awesome. I hope to be back next year, who knows, Schleck might get his scrawny arse in gear to return to the Ardennes with vigor although the season is a long one ;)

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