I’ve started blogging and podcasting about gravel on gravelgirls.nl – it’s in Dutch though. Have a look!
Harderwijk is one of our favorite locations to ride, a multitude of singletracks and gorgeous views are only 2 reasons and the best reasons to go if you ask me. Also, it’s hardly ever washed out because of heavy rain, so a safe bet in poor weather too.
We have a base-lap of about 32km of mostly singletrack (for real) and we’re hoping to expand to 90km(!), mostly singletrack and great trails, can you believe that? Harderwijk, we never knew!
We’ve got our work cut out for us this winter to find that perfect lap of 90+km trails. But since our 2015 program is taking shape, we now know we’ll need the training-hours anyway.
Stay tuned for 2015 news, it’s going to be awesome!
After Annemieke’s big vacation touring France and Italy, we met up again in juli and took our roadbikes for longer badass trips. During one of our trips in Brabant we ended up pulling to guys towards the endline and they talked about the Liege-Bastogne-Liege from Le Champion in August, it struck a note… can we? Yes… but of course.
We arranged our staring tickets and a hotel near the start. During the night before it rain cats and dogs, we had our doubts but the weather app was adamant: it would be dry after 8:00 (thankfully it was). The city was flooded with LBL cyclists and before we knew it we where ploughing our way up to the first climb the Côte d’Embourgh (4.8km 4% on average). Côte de Chambralles (1.6km 9% average) has a very steep start, 17% at some part.
Can you believe it?!
Just before the Col de La Roche à frène we caught up with 3 riders that had a wicked pace and we thought we’d see how far we’d get. We kept up with their average of 40-43km/h, shaking our heads with disbelieve and laughing out loud. We looked at each other “can you believe this?”.
At the start of the Col de La Roche à frène we had to let them go and we continued at our own pace, and preparing mentally for the La Redoute that was getting closer.
We took another short break at the start of the La Redoute, making fun of stretching and getting ready. Someone next to us asked us “triple or compact” and we replied “compact”, he grinned with a slight smuck and took of… We looked at each other… “wtf?”
Col La Redoute
La Redoute is no piece of cake, don’t know about a triple – a compact with some more strength training is sufficient I suppose- we made it. We struggled a bit, but we made it. The last 20 kilometer had a few steep climbs and a 5km end stretch with head wind. Finishing the LBL made us hungry for more, we pledged to ride more of this type of classics next years and went home tired but happy.
Le Champion organizes great events, good catering and many road marshals, not one crossing was left unattended. Well done guys!
Saturday featured: RAIN! Much like last year, and we made it home before lightning. Sunday was even worse. Annelies and I ventured out anyway and headed toward the Plény and a few runs near the Super Morzine and had run after run on the muddy slopes, laughing our heads of. Our bikes where covered in mud, so much the wheels froze and we couldn’t pick up our bikes because if the added weight.
In the afternoon Annelies had to fly home and Ernies joined me, after a few runs a guy jumped in front of me on the road in Morzine taking a picture. “What a funny guy I thought” and pedaled on but he started to talk to me and I finaly recognized my former team-mates husband in casual clothes. We chatted and I swapped worn out disc pads, so Ernie and I could ride some more to Les Gets and back home, in time for soccer: NED-MEX 😉
So, we went to the Passportes du Soleil… again! I’ve lost count, but the numberplates are realy piling up. We started with a sunny day of bikepark fun in Les Gets. In the lift going up I thought I saw a Juliana Roubion going down (turned out it was the Nomad) but an idea came in my head that I couldn’t shake… could we make it possible for me to test-ride this wicked looking bike…
YES WE CAN!
Within minutes I had a few inches available to me in the next Fiets edition and I needed to get to work. Don’t get distracted by the pretty face, find out what’s the big deal with this Juliana Roubion bike. Specced to the nines with the Cane Creek Double Barrel air shock, Rock Shox Pike, Enve wheels with DT Swiss hubs, XTR brakes and XX1 groupset. What more could you possibly want? I mean really…?
Alizée Baron was the girl I saw flying on her Nomad, she asked to come along with us. She’s a pro ski’er and rides bikes for training and we had a great time in Les Gets. The first run was all about the setting and the “ooh’s and aaah’s” and boy did we have a crowd piercing at us… enve uhm envy I meant to say 😉
The next runs where all about letting go, the Roubion’s top speed way exceeds my comfortzone and my skill-level too at times. It’s nice and tight and rails into corners so fast, I couldn’t keep up. But the Enve wheels allowed to get up to speed within a few pedal strokes so every corner was a new opportunity to get it right. With great sadness I returned the bike to Race-Co-mtb and dutifully wrote my piece for Fiets, basically:
- Awesome color coordination: yes, pretty colors matter.
- Cane Creek Double Barrel Air is the new benchmark, the Pike even struggled to keep up. You’ll need a university degree though to set it up.
- So light feeted, you’ll plunge into corners at full speed, you’ll need to work on your skill set.
- Girly touches: specialty grips are nice, seat to be honest this is so personal you may as well sell bikes without saddles, much like pedals.
- Bars, pretty much wide enough, but you know when it’s just wide enough… you may want to go wider.
- Goes anywhere, up and down, just point and pedal pretty much. Nothing complicated here, carry when it gets too steep. But it’s so light you’ll hardly notice it 😉
In our prep for the Trans Provence we had to arrange our way to and from Nice and it coincided with Annemieke’s vacation. So we arranged it so that her camper was driven to Bédoin, where we’d arrive saturday after the Trans Provence… you may guess why…
When you are in the vicinity of the infamous Mount Ventoux… you just have to attempt to ride this 21 kilometer climb to reach the peak at 1912m. Our road-bikes where in the camper van, we took sunday off to relax. Sleep in, sit by the pool, sleep so more and catch up with loved ones. In the afternoon we took the car up to the peak, just to see what was waiting for us the next day. Now neither of us likes to get up early voluntarily, unless there’s a just cause for it… getting to the top before the heat was a good enough reason to set the alarm to “too early” once again. We coasted on our way to take the obligatory selfie at “Kilomètre 0” and than we where on our way.
I had never done any cols before this, not even smaller ones, so the Mount Ventoux is a giant to get started with. Annemieke kept warning me not to go to fast an pace myself. We had planned to climb the Ventoux from all 3 main departures that day, so we had to preserve our energy.
We started just before 8 in the morning, in the woods it was already very warm, we did well though and we reached the Chalet Reynard without much pain actually. After a short break we continued up, the exposed part of the climb, but we had a sunny day without much wind and big smiles on our faces while we continued on up.
The famous yellow kilometer-signs where telling us we where almost there and we arrived at the top together with a great sense of accomplishment, what a rush is this. Yes flowy downhill trails in Trans Provence-land are fantastic, this is also epic.
The temperature was also epic, at nearly 40-42 degrees we attempted to ride down to Sault, after a short while we gave up. If going down was this hot… coming back up was going to be nearly impossible… We’d had to settle for the one climb from Bédoin and attempt more another time.
We made it!
We’ve said it before, but day 5 was the über best day ever, ever! We started out climbing… nothing new here. But we’ve started to get the hang of it, actually we are starting to like and enjoy it. Perhaps it was because the end of the week was getting awefully close, to deny that fact we choose to thoroughly enjoy the torture of walking up with a bike poking on your neck. I miss it now…
Today we had a gast joining our group, a small Tibetan Terrier deserted his master to go trailriding with us. On our first break he measured everyone in the group to see if any of us was willing to donate food to him. By this time we where living on sour sweets, not dog food so he was well out of luck. We waited but no sign of his master and we had to carry on, and he followed loyally.
We tried to discourage him to continue, but he was adament and we eventually called his master (who left his phonenumber on the dogs collar). The person we spoke was the owners wife, anad we agreed that we’d take Elou (I think that was his name, eventhough we all called him Benji, because he looked like a Benji) along to our lunch break. We needn’t worry about the dog, he’d be fine and we carried on.
A great ride, well exposed and ungulated and ended in a wicked descent into town. Elou was having the time of his life and Ash started to like having him around, telling Elou where to run behind him. The little bugger was a very obedient dog actually. Our descent ended in a little square where his mistress was waiting for him, knowing he was in trouble, he hid under our field-kitchen-table but was carried off anyway. Bye Bye!
The lunch never tasted as good and in the afternoon it was Julia’s turn again. More ungulated riding and plenty of exposed bit too. Too exposed for some, but we had the time of our lives. This was epic riding and yeah the best day ever.
After carrying our massive bags down many stairs we go to start day 4; yes it was the new best day ever. We started our day with Julia and she was explaining to us the trails ahead ‘a bit ungulated guys’. Apparently I made the face of oblivion and Sean explained it to me in a single hand gesture… oh right… that…
But we couldn’t stop smiling, ungulated meant something we were actually good at. It felt like we grew into the riding and we were in great shape to ride too.
By this time our little group was a well oiled machine, we had our own order of putting the bikes on the bike-rack. Inside jokes and smirkes. But this one comment from Michael made me lauch so hard… I didn’t know someone could be classified as “Mad as a box of frogs”… still funny.
We finished our morning session in the iconical village of Roubion. A tiny village (about 125 people) and quite ancient, but spectacularly build within the mountains. Roubion was also the inspiration of the Juliana Bicycles new bike Roubion (the womens ‘Bronson’), the bike that our guide Julia also rides. We now have intense fascination for this bike… a deep feeling of need. We NEED one.
Are we there yet?
After lunch Julia said Ash would take us up to the longest stage of the Trans Provence, I can’t remember is she said it was also the hardest stage. OMG doesn’t begin to describe how hard this stage is.
Is was an insane puzzle on the bike trying to keep the wheels roling was often the biggest issue. I was riding on trails that seemed so deserted, I was afraid I had taken the wrong trail and was lost all by myself. But ofcourse we survived the stage and got our mandatory beed as a reward afterwards.
We woke up on day 3 feeling pretty great, we had a very tasty meal the other night, a great room and proper sleep quality, and we had some clean riding gear.
What are we having today Julia?
‘Today’, Jullia announced ‘there is NO uphill, I promise not more then 40 pedal stroked necessary guys… it’s a rest-day’.
Yes, 7 smiling bikers at breakfast ready for another awesome day, bring it on!
Ash drove us up to Col des Champs at 2080m altitude through walls of snow where we started our 40 pedal strokes through the meadow (all while humming ‘the sound of music’). And there it was… the one and only walk-up of the day. Easy peasy, right?
So long Cube… or not
We were only minutes away on the first stage down and I heard a “Help!” behind me, I quickly warned Sam who was just about to turn the corner and I walked back up. What happened?
Georg already grew tired of his Cube (that he later this summer would replace with ‘Mary’ the Liteville) and tossed it over the edge… a good 40-50 meters down. Sorry Georg but you’ll need it to get to the finish, so you better go and get it back.
After all that we kept a close eye out for the Cube, making sure George wouldn’t toss it again. The rear-wheel was in bad shape, it was eventually kicked back into-somewhat-shape for him to complete the Trans Provence, but it was clear. The end of life of the Cube was getting closer.
Best day ever!
Day 3 was the new best day ever (later we’d found out we would say that about almost every day). We where also one of the lucky few to have ridden the Grey Earth (got the pictures), it would sadly be distroyed a few weeks later.
Near the end of the day I lost my balance and ended in a ditch without being able to get myself out of it. After Annemieke and Sean where done lauching at me (thanks guys) they pulled me out and we finished the epic day of shredding.
We even got a compliment from Ash that made us smile from ear to ear for the whole week “you girls shredded today” …yay!
😀 finishing the day with a Grimbergen for all, another best day ever.
So, here we are in Colmars day 2, after barely -or actually not really fully- surviving day 1. Day 1 was announced as the hardest day of the week, about 10 hours of riding and many many hours going up they said. For a moment I thought they might be pulling our legs…
Fully loaded backpacks with food and drinks, we set off on a fireroad uphill and we where just thinking… this we can manage… It was about to turn ugly.
Too much… too much… error…
Ash pointed out some tree near a signpost I couldn’t even see so far away it was. And high too. Just putting one foot after another and keep on walking, for a looooooong time. Sang some songs in my head and refrained from worrying too much. Because to be honest… I didn’t know how I was going to survive this day. Annemieke neither.
At one point we needed to carry the bike up, but there was no obvious path… so we’d just aim for the tree that was getting somewhat more visible… That was just to get to the first descent…
9ish we started off and around 14:30 we rolled in for lunch. And yeah… this was about all I could take at this time. We both couldn’t go on for another session like that. We cave in and we hopped on the bus and slept the rest of the afternoon trying to recover for the next day.
Day 2: another great day in the office
Monday we woke up pretty relaxt and ready to go. We had seen the profile of today and it promised a huge climb from the start. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a climb like this one. It was about meter per meter ascent at one point. We’d take a mini break every minute or so and did 500 meters uphill in the first hour. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, apart from dying on Sunday ofcourse.
But we didn’t die today. We made it at 1750 meters, had a good feed and an awesome trail down. This was so rewarding, so much hard work and a good downhill as a treat. Wanted more… and got more 🙂 did 1600 up and a total of about 30km. We made it through today with the biggest smiles on our faces, great riding and good vibes all around. Tomorrow more, less climbing… Yeah actually NONE!
ps. Sang 23 potjes met vet…