Bikepacking

Tout un départ

I was expecting to ride away from Brussels straight in the country side, see old castles and hear only my thoughts, but it took 70km to get there.img_0847I hugged my daughter goodbye, dropped the rental and road away…. just to ride back 5km later. I forgot my GPS in the car 😦

If I first scrambled to find my way the first time, I was way more efficient the second time around! But then a hill happened and my derailleur went into my spokes. No harm done, but A quick repair has to be done ASAP.

img_0827The ride wasn’t peaceful, but that made me forget the constant noise of the disc rubbing, the bad shifting and an unknown click in the crank.

To add the the fun I wasn’t having the Eurovelo app I was using wasn’t working, the signage was also inexistant. I did a few bonus Kilometres before I decided to switch my navigation tool. That’s when I switched to Google. The fun began, great roads, paves, citadels, castles, Abbayes, rivers and not real roads 🙂

img_0833img_0839img_0835My last 30km were spent riding along rivers (la Sambre et La muse) on a bike path. Beautiful, peaceful ride to make the day better.

img_0842At the end it was a great day, I had another great morning with coffee and pastry with by daughter, I rode my bike in Belgium and ate chocolates 🙂

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Europe, here I come

An unplanned but amazing change in my summer plans forced me to go on a transatlantic cruise to Europe. No more running race, goodbye cyclocross race season, hello Europe adventure! Eurovelo5 seems like a good route to follow, crossing 6 countries in 3 weeks sounds fun 🙂

My mom is turning …ty this year, we live 4511km apart, so the idea of spending a week together anywhere away from both our homes seemed like the best way to celebrate. We embarked on a Cunard transatlantic cruise, drank too much wine, ate too much food and enjoyed each other’s company (As well as my dad and daughter’s)

Since my daughter crossed the ocean with me and we also do not see each other a lot (She also lives on the other side of the country from me) We decided to visit Belgium together. Train ride, overnight ferry, rental car, lots of walking a bit of running and lots of fun, food, wine, coffee and good times.

After all that fun time, Why go home? Why not ride my bike around Europe?

My bike followed silently (except for the front brake squealing due to a bent rotor). Can you imagine how hard it is carrying it for 2 weeks without being able to ride it? I am now a pro at transporting a bicycle.It was packed for the plane, assembled so I could get to the cruise, ridden to a hotel, parked close to me on the train just so it could be taken on a ferry squeezed between a wall and a bike with mean pedals. It’s now disassembled again and waiting anxiously the start of our new adventure in the trunk of the rental car.

Anyone know a good bike shop in Bruges or Brussels? The bike with mean pedals may have bent my front rotor 😦

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Anne-Marie and Sandra’s excellent adventure comes to an end

What a way to end that trip!

I am new to the racing culture, growing up I would sell bikes and sports equipment to some great athletes but I never got to assist to events of that level and meet or ride with humans of that caliber. I knew Sandra was fast, but seeing her race along these other world class athletes was impressive.

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Cycling is such a big deal in Europe, so many fans were assisting with either a cow bell or a beer in hand. The course wasn’t easy, super slippery due to rain the previous days and made more challenging with some tough rock features. There were lots of tumbles and crashes, but these ladies were so tough and so so fast.

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With her best world cup result, Sandra got the star treatment, being asked for autographs and getting interviewed. So proud of her and so happy I got to witness such a race. What a great way to start her race season!

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Sandra than headed to the next race in Czech republic and I to Munich. Time to try a schnitzel and drink my first German beer. My Munich visit also included a run along the river, long walk to soak in the culture, coffee shop hunting and bakery sampling 🙂

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Anne-Marie and Sandra’s excellent adventure continues.

We arrived a couple of days before race day in Albstadt. Quite a contrast from Obertraun, we left the Austrian mountains behind and are now in a rolling, wild flower covered hill area. It’s hard to imagine that a World Cup actually happens here and it is actually a challenging one with some good climbs.

As I typically do, I chose the hôtel up the hill, a nice family own and operated hotel up one of the only climbs in the area. Trailheads a few meters away, views of a castle and tones of kilometres of fun cross country riding to do.

It’s impressive to see a small quiet European town get invaded by all these pro athletes, all the team’s and company’s tents and caravans. Mountain biking is such a big deal, it is pretty much taking over the town. Riders are everywhere and roads are closed, but residents do not seem the least bit annoyed.

I get to race my bike here 😁. Not with the pros, just a masters marathon race, but still, I get to race my bike in Germany. My brand new Liv Obsess advanced that we (Brad and Alessandro) built a day before I flew over.

Sandra pre road the course with me and as usual, we get the ugliest, rainiest day to ride our bikes for over 2 hours together. As always we have a lot of fun!

What did I get into? I zip tie my race plate, get on my bike (that I polished with Armour-all the night before) and line up with 350 people to ride 46km of road-gravel-grass-mud.

AWESOME! It wasn’t easy, but lots of fun. A mass start with so many people of all levels and spectators cheering everywhere on the course, I loved it! I was so exhausted when I finished, I grabbed some juice and pastries at the finish, road to the car, grabbed a large 6€ pizza, drove to my hotel room and poured my self a glass of wine.

Once I cooled down, I looked at the results and found out I finished 3rd 😁 I missed my podium photo, but got the ugly t-shirt. I want to do this again!

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Anne-Marie and Sandra’s excellent adventure not without coffee

Or wine!

Sandra is a professional mountain biker , she has travelled the world and races to the highest level. I was worried we would have to follow a strict diet of only healthy everything accompanied by water. Sandra’s diet is healthy, but it has to include coffee and wine is 👍🏻.

It’s awesome since we are in countries where even the truck stops house great coffee roasters and good wine is 4Euros a bottle!

Before we left Austria, Sandra got to try Ebiking with her uncle and I got to walk old Salzburg. While she was spending her post race rest day under a huge thunderstorm riding an ebike, I was getting fireworks from my Garmin for climbing all these stairs to the fortress and walking in all these covered alleys and cobbled stone streets.

I may have had a very good coffee or two 😁

The best coffee and friendliest coffee shop is Salzburg’s only roaster 200grad. It was an essentiel stop before starting our 5 hour drive to Albstadt, Germany. It may not take that long to drive to our next destination, since Sandra seems to have race car driver genes in her.

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Anne-Marie and Sandra’s excellent adventure begins

Sandra isn’t just a pro mountain biker, she is also an experienced traveller. We get along great! We ride bikes, are addicted to good coffee and don’t mind the weird Google map routes. She also speaks German and has welcoming family in many different countries 🙂

First stop Austria

No better way to discover a country then by bike. Sandra’s uncle took us and his ebike on a couple of rides around Salzburg. Amazing network of trails, we rode around Salzburg, to Germany, along rivers, through forests,…I can still smell the subtle smell from all the wild garlic growing in the woods.

We left Salzburg for Obertraun, Sandra is here to race, I am there to relax and help when needed. No stress! But I am probably more anxious then her, being tech support for her race is a first for me. My job will be to hand her water and be ready for any mechanical. The night before we went over the required tools and I got my instructions. Now all I can do is cross my fingers and hope that I do not drop a bottle or that she gets a mechanical.

She killed it! amazing 5th place result, no mechanical, no dropped bottle. PERFECT! I got to watch the pro mechanics fix Pauline’s flat, Eva yell (or talk loudly the italian way) at her feed person for handing the wrong bottle, U23 athlete pass all the elite women and just enjoy how fast these ladies are!

As I said earlier, I am training for a 50km run, did I also tell you that Sandra talked me into doing a mountain bike marathon race? And that it takes place in a few days in Germany? I’d better get back to the training and find places to run or ride. Not a tough job at all! So many trails in Obertraun, I ran up in the alpine, until the snow line stopped me, then on lower trails crossing rivers and beautiful forest. Rode my bike along rivers, railways, on trails and paved roads. So well marked, that even if I don’t understand german, and with my orientational challenges I didn’t get lost once (Maybe a bonus climb or 2).

I still can’t believe I am in Austria, riding my bike, and running.

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Europe adventure

Anne Marie and Sandra’s excellent adventure (premiere partie)

She knew it, I couldn’t say no.

My summer was planned, I was to concentrate on running. I am training for a 50km trail run at the end of the summer, following a program, with a coach and a few running adventures to keep the training fun.

I couldn’t say no.

Pretty simple, I run my marathon, pack my bike (That wasn’t even assembled) and get on a plane a couple of days later. Destination Munich 🙂

Just another cycling adventure, but this time it involves mountain biking. The plan is to ride my bike in Salzburg, ride it again in Obertraun, be tech support for her race, ride my bike in Albstadt race a xc marathon, then fly home.

After all that I go for a 3 day run on the West coast trail. EASY! But so happy to be here and to have accepted the invite.

Thanks Sandra, I don’t think I stopped smiling since I stepped off the plane.

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