We were descending for a while before I saw Roche’s name painted on the road. It was one of those little bridges over a river that you only seem to find in the Benelux; just a little too ancient and just a little too arched, and just a little too perfectly flawed to be anywhere else.
The trouble was that the sportive was run in the summer after the race had already taken place; Roche had retired the year before, so it seemed really strange that his name would be painted on the road. What we didn’t appreciate was that the previous year’s sportive had used blue arrows to mark the route, and this year’s sportive was using white arrows. After a year in Belgium, blue paint tends to start looking an awful lot like white paint; it was only a matter of time before we took a wrong turn.
Another concerning clue was the fact that we hadn’t seen another rider in much longer than one sees another rider during a sportive event as popular as this one. Neither my dad nor I are dumb people but you didn’t need to be smart to realize there was something horribly amuck with how abandoned the roads were.
We turned around and climbed back up the serpentine route we had gleefully descended into the valley. If memory serves, which I am fairly confident it doesn’t, we added something like 100km to the prescribed route.
The route from Liege to Bastogne is relatively easy, if you consider lots of climbing of short, steep côtes “easy”. On the way back, they pack the climbs in fast and furious, the steeper the better. The Prophet, Eddy Merckx, has his statue at the top of the Stockeu; this is a gratuitous climb if ever there was such a thing. The road wings off the main road to the right and flies up a 21% gradient for just over a kilometer before taking a hard left and swinging right back down to the same point in the road; a loop of suffering added purely for the sake of suffering. When we rode it with Johan Museeuw, he tried to convince us not to ride it, “You don’t need to ride it for me…” When I rode it with my dad, all I remember is woods and suffering.
Liege will be held on Sunday, and I’m done trying to predict the weather in a country where I don’t live except to say I predict there will be weather; either sunny or rainy or stormy, or snowy. As far as winners go, the smart money is on the Valve Cap, which is very disappointing to me and why I’m going with the “dumb” money. Hopefully something exciting will happen instead. So check the start list, and stock up on points for the Don Walker custom frame, Café Roubaix wheelset, or V-Kit.