UoNCC take on Liege-Bastogne-Liege
T’was a rainy UK morning when two heavily loaded cars snuck away from Nottingham in the early hours of the morning, headed for somewhere even rainier! Many hours, a ferry and several uses of European free movement later, and UoNCC arrived in Liege ahead of Liege-Bastogne-Liege!
Over the weekend, the plan was for riders to ride the LBL Sportive, with some opting for the leg-breaking 154km option, and some even less sane members opting to ride the full 274km course! The route included climbs such as the Col du Rosier, La Redoute and La Roche-aux-Faucons and was not for the faint of hearted as some of those give even Bradmore Lane a run for its money! The Sunday was then to be spent recovering while trying to find an ideal place to enjoy the day and watch the race, possibly with some Belgium beverages in hand.
After a late arrival and several last-minute bike bodges and tweaks, dinner couldn’t come fast enough and Liege Youth Hostel had laid on a lovely late night pasta party! The dining room was filled with teams and clubs of all ages gathered, chatting a multitude of languages, discussing tactics and bantering competitively as we entered and joined the queue for dinner. During dinner, several UoNCC Alumni arrived to reinforce the group, and once pasta’ed out, we all headed upstairs to the dorms.
Morning came quickly for our riders, and Belgium greeted them with a grey morning to start what would be a day full of punishment! Sadly for some of the group, on their way to the start line, they joined a group already signed on, and merrily rode 10km out of Liege before realising that something was probably not quite right and turning round! By this point those on the longer route were already well out and on their way, having set off earlier. The route was indeed tough, but to make things even more in the Classics Spirit, the weather decided to join in too! Over the course of the day there was rain, sun, hail and everything in between! El Presidente, in his ultimate wisdom had chosen the car as his bike of choice and spent the day pretending to act as a support car whilst enjoying a drive around the Belgium countryside, scouting locations for the next day.
As evening and cut off times started to draw closer, riders started to trickle back in, looking broken, but rightfully proud of a hell of a day in the saddle! Chapeaux to all!!
The next day was another early start as we all headed out to watch sign-on and the start, crowding a Liege square to peer at team buses, grab merch and ogle the weapons the pros had chosen to assault the course with. With casquettess bought, selfies snapped and caravan goodies grabbed, we settled in to watch a fairly anticlimactic start as the riders formed up and rode out to the course. Once the start had cleared, the group wandered back to the hostel to prepare to drive out to the small town of Esneux, where La Roche-aux-Faucons started. The discussions of the night before had led to the conclusion that this was where we would likely get the best spot. Along the way, a few keen-eyed members peeled off to visit a morning market to hunt for waffles and chips, with their efforts rewarded! When all finally made it back, and were ready to lead, two cars set out to hunt down the perfect space at La Roche.
A quick drive up and down La Roche confirmed the perfect space to park, and once both cars had arrived, thoughts turned to lunch. In the rush of the morning, it had been decided to grab food from local shops once set up. Sadly, there were surprisingly few shops in Esneux so a new race was set up. Could a crack team of snack finders make it to the shops and back before the road was closed for the Women’s race coming through?! With no time to loose, a local supermarche was located and thus began the race! A rapid drive and race around the shops later and we were heading back. As we approached the bottom of the climb, It turned out we were too late and they had already shut the bottom of the road. Undeterred the group made use of back lanes to race up the climb and beat the road closure to the top, arriving just in time!
Baguettes, beverages and bangers all at hand, the group settled in to enjoy the day. Two fantastic races went by, both of which were heavily split, giving some great viewing, cheering, photographing and pro-spotting opportunities. So good was our position that Trek-Sega decided we were the perfect place to station their team car! They said something about wheel changes but we put it down to our great tunes! As the final riders crawled over the finish line, thoughts turned to dinner, and we journeyed back to Liege for dinner.
With a great weekend finished, the group returned to the hostel, repacked the cars, and went to bed. The next day another great race took place as El Presidente and Trip Sec raced home. Despite suffering a ferry-based delay, El Presidente was able to edge the win. Some say this is his greatest cycling based achievement….
A huge thank you to Megan, our wonderful trip sec for organising such a great unoffical trip, and thank you to all who came and made the weekend truly classic!
Here’s to another wonderful trip next year!