Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Amstel Gold sportive 2017

Amstel Gold sportive 
15 April 2017 
150km and 1,600m of climbing 
15,000 particpants 

Back from the Amstel, I survived, Kevin thrived. He was something else.

 Saturday didn't dawn well as gloomy early morning light was dappled with sporadic raindrops on the windows. The so-called Amstel Gold breakfast was inadequate, I doubt if it would have fortified a doggy for sitting in a window, let alone a body facing 7 hours or more on the saddle. We collected rented bikes from a warehouse and pedaled down to register. With all of that done, we rolled out at 9:30 in chilly, misty conditions.

The severity of the challenge became apparent as heavier showers punctuated the mist. With many parts of the route trailing through open upland meadows there was no shelter from a sometimes gusting but always present wind. The first foodstop came after 49 km, it was in a field that wouldn't look out of place in the ploughing championships. It was a low point as we stood around shivering while Redmond Burke fixed his second puncture. We literally had to get going before the cold paralysed is but some 30 mins later Redmond was fixing his third puncture. He eventually resolved the puncture trilogy and after we had completed two really good, even climbs we all met up again at the point where the borders of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium meet. This social occasion included coffee, chips and Paul Quinlan warming his feet while trying to dry his socks at a very swanky open fire.

At that stage, with 82 km completed and a descent ahead I was feeling more optimistic. Little did I know that the sight of heaven and the finish was to require a further purgatory as short, jagged climbs with average gradient of 8% and ramps of double that signposted the closing 50 km. Kevin didn't put a foot down while I cracked and crumbled on three of them. In truth only one was a source of later reproach as I just can't do beyond 10%. Meanwhile Kevin crowned his day by passing multitudes in the Keutenberg, (the steepest hill in the Netherlands, average of 11% which begins with 22%.

We eventually came down into Valkenburg and swung left on to the iconic Cauberg hill, one last km at 7% with 12% shortly after it commenced. I was out on my feet but stayed in the saddle and ground it out. The last 1800m of flat was pure relief and a place that seemed so far away for so much of the day. After a quick beer we solved a transport issue by having some of us cycle back to Maastricht. I didn't care, it was a level road, one of the few I had been on that day.
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