adventure cycling randonneuring

DuoDiagonaal #4

A DuoDiagonaal is an alternative on the longest diagonal of Belgium, from Virton to Ostend, 399 kms approximately depending on the route, so less than 400 kms, and some mandatory checkpoints.
Only open for teams of 2 riders, just to keep things exciting.
Solo riders are not welcome. I repeat : NOT!.

Last year I joined up with Ewoud to ride the DuoDiagonaal. We had great fun riding together, so for this year I waited for Gunther, the organiser, to publish the date and controls and contacted Ewoud again. Sadly Ewoud had other plans. I wondered and took another look at the controls … Damn … that’s going to be a lot of climbing. Who would be awesome enough to join me on this years crazy ride? For events like this it is key to find someone that can match your (slow) pace and has the same mindset when it comes to long distance cycling. With Paris – Brest – Paris in the back of my head I casually asked Olivier from Fietsen King to join me. Last year we rode the fl├Ęche Belge together and also tried riding another diagonal at night. I know he is a stronger rider than me, but he’s a lovely character to spend the night with. With Olivier confirming we were a go!

Acting stupid is what we do best. (Photo by Kiri)

First a little thank you note for Kiri for driving us all the way to Virton. This was a lot more relaxing than taking the train (and I heard that one train got really late due to an incident leaving some couples stranded).

When arriving in Virton the Place Nestor Outer was really buzzing. A lot of (cool) bikes and a lot of excited cyclists. We chatted with some familiar faces and were eager to start. Around 16:55 Gunther said a few words and at 17:00 of we went … It’s funny to see that although everybody has to go in the same direction we almost immediately got separated from the large bunch of riders. For this years route I opted for going randonneur style: keeping away from busy roads and going with the scenic approach. The route I drew was around 375km with a whopping 3500 vertical meters. Anyway … back to the ride. After just 2km we took a small back road that had a really bad surface. I rechecked the whole route the previous weekend but forget checking just near the start. Luckily we quickly joined the main road again and didn’t have any flats.

What an evening … Olivier looking sharp.

The road to the first control, La Roche-en-Ardenne, was nothing but amazing. We love cycling in La Wallonie and it’s roads like these that make us come back. We quickly took our pictures and messaged Gunther (who was also sitting there at the control) and went to find some food. We found a nice pizzeria but the service was really slow so we lost some time just sitting there.

Looking like a pro (Photo by bikepacking.be)

After pizza it was time to hit the road again. All though the temperature was dropping we didn’t over dress because we knew right out of La Roche we would face a lovely climb. Our route would now take us west with a gentle tailwind. Cycling at night was awesome, as always. In Dinant we crossed the river Maas and found a night shop that even served hot coffee. We were both sipping on our coffee when Pierre & Julien passed and took the time to stop and have a chat. Always great to see these guys. They were both looking strong and are fast riders.

Stunning scenery in Dinant (Photo by Olivier)

You really get to know your cycling partner when you’re spooning at 6 ‘o clock in the morning in a self-banking office.

You know you’re fucked when you are near the Maas river and have to leave the valley. A steep climb awaited us and soon we weren’t cold any more. Riding towards the next control, Binche, we sometimes spotted some tail lights from other teams but were mostly on our own. At the control in Binche there were some riders taking the time to eat something. Again we took a photo and sent an sms to Gunther. We quickly ate something and off we went. Around 5:30 in the morning we hit the mother load in Soignies: a 24/7 Panos that was serving hot coffee and fresh croissants. What a joy. Around 6 ‘o clock we were getting pretty tired. There still wasn’t any sunlight and the night was feeling really long. When finding not one but three self-banking offices within 500m it was jackpot. We entered the KBC one, put our bikes inside and took some shut-eye for 10 minutes. You really get to know your cycling partner when you’re spooning at 6 ‘o clock in the morning in a self-banking office. When we woke it was raining but the dawn was breaking. We put on our rain gear but when we stepped outside it stopped raining: bliss!

Checkpoint 3 in Ghent

When arriving in Ghent we planned on eating breakfast in Le Pain Quotidien. But boy service was slow … real slow. I think we lost more than an hour on a mediocre breakfast and coffee. We left and took our picture in front of the Gravensteen and off we went for the last gruelling stretch towards the finish: the canals. When we passed another duo on the canals they quickly joined our little train and everybody did some turns on the front (the wind was picking up). The other team decided to take a lunch break but we pushed on towards Bruges. Still hungry after the mediocre breakfast we stopped at a butcher shop and ate some warm roasted chicken. Man that was good. With only 15k left we steamed ahead along the canal. It was just 13:00 when we passed the finish line.

Back in black.

Gunther, thank you again for the organisation. We all know you are one sick puppy and you delivered again. I was a bit bummed out to see some teams having a support car but in the end our own adventure is what counts.

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