France - Day 21 : Diekirch-Valkenswaard
Today would be the last day of cycling if we would make it home. We had planned to wake up really early and then cycle to arrive at midnight. The total distance would be around 250 km. Last night had been pretty cold and I had been awake since 5. We got up just before 7. I put on all the dry clothes I could find. My pants, two t-shirts, my jacket, and gloves. The sun wasn't even close to rising yet and it was foggy.
It was so cold I was happy we didn't start with a descent. I could already take off my jacket on the first climb out of Diekirch, which was very long. If this climb was also in the race, it wouldn't be too bad. Around nine, we had cycled only 30 km because it had been all uphill. To follow the race course as closely as possible we took a break in St. Vith, where participant receive their first stamp. After 57 km at 10 o'clock we were good on schedule. This was the farthest we had ever ridden before 10.
St. Vith was the first town we passed in Belgium. We were lucky with that because there was an Aldi supermarket. We bought raisin bread, sugar waffles, and a lot more. We ate the raisin bread with syrup, the meat we bought was horrible. From St. Vith, we cycled via Malmedy to Spa. Near Malmedy, we crossed the area we had hiked earlier this year. The road that took us an entire day to walk was now cycled within an hour. Near Spa was a descent, 5 km long and 8% downhill. When we entered Spa it was 13:30. We ate a second breakfast on a bench. There also was a Belgian couple. The man had cycled to Lourdes last week, he had also cycled 160 km per day. They told us they lived near Lommel and Retie, which is close to the Netherlands. There was another Belgian man who said 'bone appetit, or are you Flemish', we said 'no Dutch', then he tried to say enjoy your meal in English, I don't know why. He left very confused.
After Spa it got nearly flat. Finally, after 2500 km. For this last part of the route we had to use our old 1:300 000 scale maps from last year, instead of our newer 1:200 000. They were a lot worse. To go from Spa to somewhere between Luik and Maastricht we also left the map for a bit because we hadn't planned on cycling there. It took forever to reach Visé, but we finally made it. We took a short break and calculated how far we still needed to go. According to our measurements using a piece of string it was 80 km, while according to the map it was 90.
After Spa there was a bit of climbing, but it wasn't far anymore until we took a real break. We still maintained a good pace. Now that we were cycling over dedicated cycling paths everything went a lot faster compared to the broken roads in France. In Munsterbilzen we wanted to buy some fries and take an hour-long break, before continuing on the last part of our journey. The building said 'restaurant/cafeteria'. I only saw a restaurant, so wanted to cycle on. Bram said I must be wrong and it probably had a cafeteria on the other side. Eventually, Bram had to admit there really wasn't a cafeteria. We continued. Then just around the corner we found the cafeteria with fries. At least now Bram had been right about something as well. We ordered fries and rested a bit. There were two small boys playing with bouncing balls. Our fries were ready. When I grabbed them from the counter, I knew the balls would end up in our food. Indeed, before reaching our chairs one bounced in. I didn't get mad, because we had been putting all our food on the ground the entire trip.
Then it was time for the last and flat part. It went much better than we had anticipated. Last year I had been super tired near the end, but now I could still cycle. In Hamont, we took a short break before we started the long section through the forests of Achel. There was a type of vending machine. You could buy bread, candy, CDs, DVDs, drinks, etc. We each bought a water bottle just to see how it worked. Then I saw they also had presents. My mom's birthday was the next day and I had no time to buy anything. So I thought, maybe I could buy this. The only problem was that we had no clue what was inside the packages, and they were pretty pricey. Fortunately, I didn't buy anything. After 10 minutes we saw a note on the window saying that item number 20 was an erotics catalog, showing what was in the packages I had considered buying. Probably nothing I would want to give my mom for her birthday.
The headlights went on for the last section, from Hammond to Achel. It was really quiet on that road this late at night. We had passed the official time limit for next week's race, but we would make it before 22:00. In Valkenswaard was some kind of event. There was a detour, but the cycling vacation stops for no one, so we cycled straight through the party. I went home. Bram considered cycling to my parents' place first, but it was pretty late, so he went straight to Westerhoven, hoping he wouldn't get a flat tire in the last few kilometers.
Bram arrives home
Bram's beard, you can see the similarities with mapple joe
The final day. The scale of this map and the one used on our first day are different from the other ones.
Today we were in St. Vith by 10:00, around 13:30 in Spa, and in Munsterbilzen by 18:00. I got home around 22:00.
Daily distance 243 km
Average speed 21 km/h