Fortunately, almost 1.5 years of delay did not end the 5th edition of the Schleck Gran Fondo! It was a huge success. Not only because of the flawless organization but also because it was a more than pleasant reunion with old loves. On the one hand with Luxembourg as a holiday destination from early childhood, cycling vacations at the end of the 90s, but on the other hand especially after more than 20 years the love for racing. CycloWorld was there with no less than 5 riders: Peter Koens, Andries Bosma (guest rider), Marcel Klapwijk, Ralph Ornelis and myself.
Despite the young character of the Schleck Gran Fondo, this gran fondo, certainly partly caused by its famous organizers, has become a fixture in the GF circuit. With 1,500 participants, a challenging route, beautiful roads and perfect organization, Fränk and Andy are living up to the high expectations again this year.
Ideal racing weather was predicted on Saturday, September 25. But it took a while for the apocalyptic fog in the Moselle Valley to give way to a beautiful indian summer day in the Grand Duchy. But the participants in the gran fondo paid little attention to that. Because from the falling of the starting flag it the race took off right away.
The route is characterized by a short, spicy opening phase and on the Côte de Wintrange, the first of the 12 categorized climbs, I catch my breath for a moment. I pick up my own pace, but am then tapped by CW-colleague CycloWorld Peter Koens to hang on: "Then we are in a good group in a moment." So I have to speed up. This is followed by a furious descent, and a rush through the Moselle valley of over 15 km. After the first hour, all systems are up and running and we're up the second climb of the day (Côte de Ahn) with an average of 40. After about 3 km the real climbing is over. But Luxembourg is characterized by sneaky offshoots where the riders keep on riding hard.
This is also a condition for opening the door at the rear of the peloton, so we have stay focussed. The pace is kept steady and only occasionally tempered by the slopes and short climbs that follow. The next 30 kilometers are sliding under the wheels. The many volunteers, signalmen and necessary police forces guarantee a free passage on almost closed roads. A real pleasure. After the Côte de Berbourg we enter the Müllerthal. Between steep sandstone formations, along streams and overhanging rocky outcrops we cut through Luxembourg's "Little Switzerland". The climb to the castle village of Beaufort concludes this part of the route.
CycloWorld family members took some great victories at the Schleck Gran Fondo:
With 80 km behind me, it is time for a refill at the second feed station. A beginner's mistake so it seems, because after the refreshment point follows almost 5 km more than false flat and I have to do everything in my power to connect with the group that is racing on. Peter Koens hooks up in the descent to the Côte de Eppeldorf we dive back into the back of the group at a speed of over 85 km/h.
On the Côte de Nommerlayen I have to pay for the efforts of the earlier chase. I'm 25 seconds from the group at the top, but due to a lack of support and cooperation, we see the group slowly disappear from sight. So I decided to slow down, it's still 60 km and almost 700 hm. Dropped riders hook up and from the rear the group grows again. The pace remains tight, but there is hardly any real cooperation. It's every man for himself.
After the cobbled climb in Bourglinster with two hairpins (with a nice view of the local castle), the short climbs follow each other at a fast pace. But because of the variety of the course, the kilometers fly by and after a last dive into the Moselle valley and 7 kilometers of false flat, we get ready for the final kilometers where the speed goes up. After a last uphill dive we head for Mondorf. There's some positioning going on for the final sprint. Steering stability and fidgeting in the group are not forgotten and I squeeze out a nice sprint under the arch of the UCI Gran Fondo Series. Result: 4 hours 33 minutes, 35,1 km/h average. Satisfied I receive my finish medal and meet Marcel, Peter and Andries in the "parc fermé".
Unfortunately Ralph did not have a top day and made a lovely relaxed gran fondo and finished a while after the rest. Satisfied and satisfied in any case, I look back and especially forward to new challenges. Old love does not rust!
|Name||Category||Time||Result in category||Overall|
|Marcel van Herten||M45-49||4:33:07||50||330|