Mike Simpson

La Fleche Wallonne and my favourite distraction

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2010s Ardennes week was one of the my toughest weeks training ever, over 800 miles in 7 days on some brutal routes (see original blog here). A return this year was planned to increase that intensity but things didn't quite go to plan. Somehow having Davina with me this time, put me on edge. I was worried about her riding alone all day, (she has never mended a puncture and is prone to getting lost). Plus the fires within me are not raging at the moment, last seasons cyclocross has left me so content and relaxed, I'm in no hurry to start grafting hard.

The penultimate race on the pro classics calendar is the mid week Flèche Wallone and we had the opportunity to ride the sportive the day before. And what a bargain, 5euros to enter complete with feed stops, lasagna to finish (albeit a rather small portion) and more importantly the chance to race up the Mur de Huy, a truly iconic stretch of Tarmac in cycling folklore. Even though it's a Tuesday plenty of people are out riding it and supporting. We start and Davina is due to ride the short course and within a mile the course splits, I don't get a chance to say goodbye as riders split. Immediately I am consumed with a nagging doubt that riding separately is the wrong decision. I would hate to think of her in trouble on her own on the roads. I do a U turn and head back to her. I floor it to catch her up but immediately there is confusion on where the shorter route goes, I struggle to find her. Then a round the corner she's stopped, already lost and asking a local for directions. We get back on course and now I find myself with the old crusties and plodding riders. I'm wearing gear for a fast one and I'm now going to be spending the day at snails pace. No matter although much shorter it still features some classic climbs starting with the col de la Flismes, as we pedal in and out of the gutter, right past people's doorways at over 20%.

The star of the show is of course the Mur de Huy. (See here for some details). Watching the pros race up it the next day, up close and personal was quite a spectacle. Seeing Laurens ten Dam's brave attack on the second ascent and Gilbert's mistimed glory bid was a real treat. I turn around at the top and head back to get her up. She had to stop a few times, (once for an interview), and I learnt some new swear words from her but Davina makes it up.

The sportive did not finish there and for the final sections Davina was in a world of trouble. By now I don't think she likes riding much and as I tried to pace her back to the finish out of the wind, I was told in no uncertain terms to get lost (although they were not the words she used). The event was sponsored by the local lasagna factory and the final 5km was run along the river alongside the rows and rows of factories. The wonderful smell of food and herbs emanating was making me so hungry.

I missed doing the Gran Fondo course but spent the day with Davina, time never wasted........I missed nothing.

Click images to enlarge.