Day 6, 23rd May 2011, Spa to Huy

Riding hills is something of a learned art.  As a general rule of thumb, anything over 6% is a serious hill, and I cannot maintain 14% slope.  Roz has lower gearing and better balance so she can ride something a bit steeper. There is also a pacing technique that has to be learned through experience.

Today was all about hills.  To make sense of this, click on the link at the bottom of the Google map.  Then click on the link to view in Google Earth.  Then when this has loaded,  expand the folder in the left pane, and then right click on the track and “Show Elevation”.  The Day 5 map is also relevant.

Most of the climbs were less than 300 metres vertical, but steep.  We again used Iphone TomTom to work out a route, and it was good at avoiding traffic, but hills apparently did not figure in its calculations of what constituted a bike route.  We routinely saw slopes of more than 13% on our VDO bike computers.

Eventually we arrived at the village of Werbomont, where we held a meeting and unanimously decided that we were over the Ardenne, emotionally that is, and decided to turn north east towards the Meusse valley.  We also decided to use the N66 road, shown on our map as a scenic drive.  This road was little trafficked at this stage and had much more even slope than the goat tracks picked out by TomTom.

One of the attractions of the Ardenne is its war history. Hitler invaded France by unexpectedly sending an army under the gifted general Hans Guderian, through this region.  Even though we only skirted the northern edge of the region, it is obvious that its seemingly benign terrain would be horrendously difficult country to bring an army through, particularly in 1940, when the roads were not sealed.  The country is a very attractive mix of forest and farmland, with a timeless quality.

From the ridge tops the Ardenne appears as a series of pretty rounded shallow rolling hills.  This is deceptive, as the descent into the valleys between the ridges is steep.  We live in hope of receiving a speeding fine for entering a village above the speed limit, as we often did today, but so far no luck.

We arrived in the town of Huy on the Meusse, a typically slightly shabby Belgian town with considerable history, around 4.30pm, visited the information centre and quickly checked into a hotel.

This was a hard day.  When we crested the top of a lot of these ridges, we were hit by a head wind.  We only rode around 83km, but it was our hardest day.

Both Roz and I have the arrogance and the sheer good luck to have got by without really considering the physical challenge of what we do.  We still get off on the proven fact that we can do what we chose to do when we choose to do it, and don’t have to take into account our advancing years or, frankly, common sense.  We knew we were in a hilly region, but did not bother to find out what it might cost us physically to ride through it.  We have done something similar on many occasions. We just rode, and it was all OK.  Perhaps one of these days we might find a limit, but thankfully it hasn’t happened yet, and long may it stay distant.

View 23 5 2011 Spa to Huy in a larger map

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