Preparing ourselves for the Grand Raid Verbier on the 20th of August this is the first in a series of posts.
We got ourselves a nice cottage next to Grand-Halleux, collected 5 bikers and filled our fridge with after-ride rewards local style: Chimay trappist beers. Mind you we didn’t get the rewards that easily, a hundred kms a day on the bike was the minimum distance required to earn one!
Day one we started off with a trip towards the Hautes Fagnes nature reserve via Malmedy. City Navigator doesn’t show the topo maps meaning all looks nice and straight forward on (digital) paper so we did the warming up by climbing the Côte de Wanne from the La Vaulx direction. Yes, the Côte de Wanne from the Liège-Bastogne-Lìege classic that is (2,2k at an average of 7%). Arriving in Malmedy we climbed the Barraque Michel and took the turn towards Spa combining beautiful forest roads with fast descents. After a quick lunch in Spa we returned via Franchorchamps and it literally feels like a race track with Ferraris, Porsches old and new and motorbikes passing you at 150k/h on a public road. Mind you the climb from Spa is around 4k and it doesn’t go well without digesting your pasta carbonara. We retuned via Trois-Ponts and Lieurneux, some pretty nice and quiet roads round there, to Grand Halleux totalling 105k and 1600hms. First Chimay earned.
Day two had the roundtrip to La Roche en Ardenne scheduled. Starting towards Vielsalm and Lierneux we selected mainly paved forest roads looking for some shadow as temperatures went up to 28C again. Taking the main road from Houffalize towards La Roche took us to a nice pizza but we can’t recommend the descent. One day later a serious accident happened with a motorbike missing a turn. It didn’t surprise us looking back at the insane maneuvers we saw on our descent.
What comes down must go up – if you are staying over on the other side of the valley. A nice scenic climb took us out of La Roche and was followed by a steep descent towards the Ourthe river valley. Meaning we had to climb more or less the same height again towards Nandrin – two for the price of one right? After Nandrin we started climbing towards Baraque de Fraiture (680m) via the quiet Bois de Saint-Jean, still one of my favorite roads in the Ardennes. After crossing the E25 we continued direction Lierneux and Grand-Halleux. Day two: 109kms and 1770 hms.
On day three the mountain-biker inside me got a bit nostalgic and I still remembered a few nice roads from my Christmas training in the area round Houffalize. Fresh from breakfast we started out with a 300hm climb to the Mont le Soie and after a quick descent we continued through the Grand Bois (yes, it is a pretty big forest) towards Gouvy and Limerlé. The roads are low on traffic and the views are great but the surface is a bit of a mosaic of trial and error repairs. A fast descent from Tavigny took us into Houffalize for our lunch stop. We seem to have an issue with strategically, read stomach friendly, picking our lunch spots as our dessert was the 300hm climb out of Houffalize direction Sommerain and Halonru. Again nice and pretty fast forest roads towards Vielsalm and continuing all the way to Trois-Ponts. For “topping off” our third day we decided to climb the Côte de Wanne from the Trois-Points direction. The 250 hms are divided over almost 5 km before reaching Wanne and it’s actually a bit of a boring climb in my opinion – taking it from the Norths side over 2.2km would have been much nicer. A very fast descent back to our basecamp in Ennal and we could start the re-fueling. Day three: 103 kms and 1610hms
All in all a good training camp (320kms and 5000hms in 3 days) in what I still consider to be the best biking region in Belgium. Great to see the Teamskelle boys back on the bike, drink some local liquids, see the physical progress confirmed and have a good daily recovery. Definitely “on trial” to Verbier.