Of Gourmand and Staircases

 Again, it’s been a while since I’ve updated, but I safely made it into Belgium on Monday the 15th.  Since then I’ve logged a couple of rides on, and I’ve got to say; Belgium is awesome. 

In fact, I think Awesome is the operative word for Belgium, at least in my point of view.  The people, the food, the riding, the beer, the sights, everything is in so few words, awesome. 

Yesterday, my roommate Stuart and I headed out to lunch after visiting a “pretty big” bike shop out in Aalst. A little later we grabbed lunch; I really can’t remember the name of the place, but I know where it is, and I know that it was really good. It was basically a cafeteria-type place; good, basic food, large portions and large, cafeteria-style tables.  I decided on something off of the ‘k’ and ‘j’-heavy menu called Americain Prepare with Frites e Mayo.   

   

    

Surprise! A burger and fries! The frites were the best I’ve ever had, and with the special mayo I don’t think anything in the US could top the pairing. The burger…. was a burger but it was good and the special ketchup was tasty, too. Next time I’ll get one of their sausages, which looked awesome, and slightly more exotic than a so-so burger.

——–   

A few hours later, we’re on the road again, this time on two wheels. We’re on a narrow road with bits of mud and snow on it. A Volkswagen Jetta comes down the road at about 50 mph and it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to share the same strip. Somehow, this VW  shrinks in width and passes us with two feet to spare.   

Then Stu says something that frightens me,

“First we have to go down it.”

I nearly wet my shorts.   

“Down what,” you ask?   The Koppenberg.   

The Koppenberg

It was possibly the most fear-filled moment of my time on the bike. Ever. The cobbles were trying their best to rip the wheels off of my bike, the gradient so steep that my brakes couldn’t bring me to a “safe” enough speed, and the wet conditions were killing my traction. It came to a point where I felt that I would surely hit the deck and break something, so I got off and walked it.

Yes. I walked down this hill. You really don’t realize how steep a 22% is until you’re staring it down.  

It really looks like this

The hill is astounding. It just comes out of nowhere and you’re hit with this monstrosity. A 22% grade is hard enough to climb on a well-paved road, but adding in cobbles and rain? Good luck making it, unless your name is Tom Boonen or Eddy Merckx.  

Sure enough, I got to the bottom. How fast isn’t really important (it was a long time). I finally get to the bottom and I look up at the Koppenberg and I’m already feeling humiliated. Why not? I click into my smallest gear, which I already know is too big to make it all the way up.  I get 200 meters in and I’m feeling good. My arms are getting shaken like a martini and my bike is doing the same. Another 50 meters and I’m dying. I can taste the delicious frites I had a few hours prior. I hit a particularly large cobble and come to a halt. I put my left foot down, but the cobbles are so slippery and the road so steep I lose it and fall on my side.  Again, I have to walk the rest of the way, except instead of going down, I’ve got to go up.

As I described it yesterday, the Koppenberg is basically like climbing a flight of stairs; both in steepness and in roughness, but I’ll be back soon enough, and when I do, I’m sure I’ll make it all the way up.

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~ by Mitcholo on February 18, 2010.

8 Responses to “Of Gourmand and Staircases”

  1. Amen….Hope when I visit you won’t make me walk that! If anyone can do it you can Mitch…Love ya

  2. Living the dream, good luck on your endeavours.

  3. Mitch you have just meet your first true challenge!! The good thing is now you know, now you prepare, and finally you conquer!!
    You go get it BIG GUY its mind over matter. Your strong legs need
    your powerful brain cells to guide them to the bottom of this hill.
    your body is able,Strategy Mitch strategy you can do this!!

  4. Glad to hear that you are having a good time and Belgium is AWESOME!!! I am sure the next time you will make it up and down that hill..Remember you are Mitcholo! Love ya

  5. that looks nasty. i just put in om my “to do” list 🙂 .

  6. next time friet met stoof vlees But not before de Koppenberg Smakelijk ! there are few more of these nasty little hills, De muur is waiting for you.

  7. Looking forward to more updates!

  8. Very cool, sounds like you’re off to an exciting start!

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