The Best Route in Belgium, La Philippe Gilbert 2014

by Chikashi Miyamoto

The organisers of La Philippe Gilbert changed the route this year, and they did a fantastic job. The 150 km route is by far the prettiest route I’ve cycled in Belgium. It is the sort of route that makes one smile. It enables one to reaffirm why one enjoys road cycling. Of course, the glorious weather did help to bring out the charms of the route in full, but that was just the cherry on top. And, if you are a Phil fan, then the event is also a great way to meet the man himself and ride along with him… as long as you can keep up!

Red cow in Wallonia?

Vacche Rosse in Belgium?

Last year’s route poked into the Netherlands, but this year’s edition was entirely within Belgium. As beautiful as it is, it certainly wasn’t the easiest… Instead of Cauberg, Mur de Huy was included. It was my first time in Huy. When I was waiting for the green light at the foot of the Mur, I looked up at the climb and thought, ‘Oh dear.’ As I approached the first bend, I thought, ‘Are we there yet?’

When I went round the first bend and saw the Mur continue to soar into the sky, I thought, ‘Feck…’ When I went round the next bend, I thought, ‘Hucking Fell!’ My Garmin kept beeping to tell me that it went into Auto Pause, thinking I had come to a halt even though I was still grinding up the Mur. (I don’t remember the minimum speed at which the Auto Pause kicks in, but I obviously need to lower the setting…) My ride stats for whole route made me laugh: maximum speed of 80 kph and average speed of… 23 kph! Of the 14 climbs, 6 have maximum gradients of 15% or more.

There were quite a few Dutch participants. A pair of Dutch guys stopped to lend me a pair of tyre levers: I had a puncture only to realise that I had left my tyre levers at home. It seems that whenever I need roadside assistance, I get helped by a Dutch guy.

On La Redoute, the last climb of the day, a petite blonde stormed all the way up, overtaking everyone in sight. I had to go up to her after the ride to tell her how impressive she was, and I think she is Dutch as well.

If you think that you might possibly head to the Liège area with your bike, then grab the route details here. If you have a bike computer, then download the gpx file. The route is HIGHLY recommended.