La Chouffe in the Valleys
I entered la Chouffe Classic sportive yesterday. It was the 1st of June, and I was wearing a fleece-backed long sleeve jersey, fleece-backed 3/4 bib shorts and oversocks. I had to question whether we are still in the northern hemisphere…
We had a fair bit of fog, sometimes thick enough that the visibility was only about 15 m… not that it mattered as I was going so slowly that I may as well have been drafting behind a tortoise. After not doing much riding for close to 3 weeks, with just the occasional 1/2 hour sessions on the turbo trainer, I am woefully out of shape. I kept having cramps in the quads, hams and calves, so my legs were telling me something I did not want to hear. I entered the 164 km route but ended up switching to the 106 km route halfway, and I skipped the last 940 m climb (with maximum gradient of 20%). Basically, the difference between what I envisaged before the ride and the reality was like this:
As Kevin mentioned in his blog, Wallonia has a series of valleys instead of hills. During a long descent, you start to worry about the subsequent climb. On one such descent, I started to think, ‘This is not good.’ Then, going around the bend, I saw that the descent continued, at a greater gradient, ‘This is bad.’ Another bend and another long stretch of descent, ‘This is reeeally not good.’ Once we hit the bottom, then immediately we had to start dealing with Col de Haussire. An ascent usually follows a descent, not the other way round.
With the legs not co-operating, after getting up at 4 am and driving 2 hours to the start line at Houffalize, I was thinking, ‘Why would I do this on my day off?’ But, of course, I was not-so-secretly enjoying it. It is a shame that I had to take the shorter distance because it is the prettiest route that I have ridden in Belgium so far. If it weren’t for the architecture and people driving on the wrong side of the road, you would be forgiven for thinking that you are somewhere in Kent.
I will have to return at the next opportunity.