Bikepacking, Europe adventure

La routine

My daily routine involves a continental breakfast at the hotel. Every morning I have my croissant, yogourt and granola. I may take an apple and pastry for the road πŸ™‚

I should also include stretching the muscles and verifying the bike, but I keep forgetting .

I read that it was surprisingly hard to find food in France when in rural areas and it’s true, there’s nothing and it’s the same in Belgium. I now load my front panier with extra food (that I buy at a grocery store) to get me through the day. I then like finding the perfect park bench and enjoy my piece of cheese, salami and crackers.

A town I slept in only had one food option, a regional and exotic restaurant. Once you passed the creepy exterior it actually was not too bad. If the lovely B&B host didn’t recommend it, I would have lived on my leftover peanuts.

There are plenty of lodging options, from camping, B&B to High end hotels everywhere. No camping for me this time. I shipped all my camping gear home last week, it’s been below freezing every night. It’s off season now, so it’s cold, but hotels are also cheaper πŸ™‚

Where does my bike live? The higher end hotels are usually very nice and don’t mind me bringing my bike in my room, but I look for more budget friendly places. My bike had to live in garages and bike rooms, but one hotel in Strasbourg wanted me to lock it outside. I have a lock, but we all know how long a good bike lasts overnight in a city.

I just got to Switzerland and it will be my home for a few days and I already fell in love with it. It has everything for the perfect adventure; great coffee, chocolate, bakeries and mountains to climb.

The bike routes are super easy to follow here and very well marked. I barely looked at my phone for navigation. A steep climb started my day and a long gravel ride ended it, perfect!

My german is inexistant, so I keep trying to figure out what the signs say. Was it a street name or an instruction I should follow? Is that road blocked or is it the name of the next town? Keeps things interesting πŸ™‚

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Je suis en vacance

I am taking a day off! If I keep telling my self that it’s a vacation and not a race, maybe I will take it easy πŸ™‚

It’s great to aim for lots of kilometres, but what about enjoying a coffee along the canal? How about having time to explore the gravel road instead of the paved bike path?

The path along the canal was a good change. Peaceful and flat with less then 12 humans sightings when I was riding along the Saar but a bit livelier while riding on the Marne to Rhin canal.

I now reduced my daily distance to 100km, allowing me to take breaks, smell the roses and get lost. I do get lost a lot! but as a friend told me “Europe is tiny” so getting lost is just bonus miles πŸ™‚ Google, Galileo, Garmin, Eurovelo5 apps, I still manage to take wrong turns.

My little bike is fixed, I got rid of the brake rub and all my gears seem to work. All nuts and bolts have been tightened . The cobble stones, gravel and dirt roads may be shaking my loaded bike a bit too much!

Time to enjoy a coffee and a book before exploring Strasbourg. There may be a lot more coffees happening today.

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Bikepacking, Europe adventure

Summer is definitely over

Not sure there will be any camping happening on this trip. I have been starting my days with a chilly 5C, crisp temperatures that stay low until late afternoon. It’s all fine, my planned routes seem to always start with a climb πŸ™‚

Isn’t Belgium supposed to be flat? When it’s not hilly, it’s still not flat and SO windy. Luxembourg wasn’t that much different, with more fun climbs.

Glorious mornings, either starting in the fog along a canal or clear blue skies into vineyards.

I expected the Alps to be really cold at the top so I have all the warm clothing, I wasn’t expecting to wear so many layers at once everyday. I have yet to ride without sleeves, vest or leg warmers. But I am getting better at peeling layers off while riding.

Yesterday was a really tough day, I ran out of water and never found an open bakery or grocery store. My hilly 170km ride made me suffer. The cheese and apple I stole from the morning’s buffet may not have been sufficient fuel for the ride.

Today my 75km ride starting in Luxembourg ended up being 99.5km long, but was fun. I decided to let go of the technology and trust a map and signage. Eurovelo 5 is almost finalized here. I scrambled at first trying to find my way following the bike route, but when I entered Germany the route was marked at every corner and intersection.

The route took me through farm fields, forests, across little towns and along rivers. I ended my day in a more industrial city in Germany. I finally got to enjoy a very good pretzel and a wonderful coffee πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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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 hΓ΄tel 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 πŸ‘πŸ».

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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