22-01-2021 | Herman Nekkers

Who dares to ride La Conquête des Ardennes?

Sometimes something catches your eye that makes you think: is this serious? This happened again recently when I saw the ad about La Conquête des Ardennes. I immediately went to investigate.


Everesting has gained a lot of popularity last year. Due to the many cancelled events, cyclists started looking for other kinds of challenges. Overcoming 8848 meters of climbing in one day and on one slope was an interesting challenge for many cyclists.

In addition, events with Mount Everest as the centerpiece also emerged. The Swiss Tour des Stations is launching an ultrafondo of 242 kilometers and 8848 meters of elevation this year. And in Belgium, so La Conquête des Ardennes, a ride of 455 kilometers and 9000 meters, is now appearing.

What is it?

I may say that I am a connoisseur of the Walloon Ardennes. There are not many hills that I have not ridden and otherwise I know the reputation. My mouth therefore dropped open when I saw this route. La Conquête des Ardennes (Conquest of the Ardennes) is not an event but a permanent route. But one for which you can get a registration of achievement. The route consists of four stages. The proposed start is in Huy (Hoei), with the goal of concluding the loop at the top of the Mur de Huy. However, each participant can choose his or her starting point on the route. The route must be completed in the prescribed direction (clockwise).

Registration

For €15 you can register as an official finisher. 

Those who complete the route within 24 hours earn the rank of Chasseur Ardennais (Ardennes Hunter).

Who completes the route within 48 hours earns the rank of Sanglier des Ardennes (Wild Boar of the Ardennes).

Who completes the route in one season, for example in four stages, earns the rank of Marcassin (Wild Boar).

You do have to meet a number of conditions, including taking a selfie at some of the landmark spots on the route. Read the complete regulations here  (in French only).

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The route

455 kilometers and 9000 meters of climbing, divided over 4 stages, all named after the region.

La Mise-en-Jambes

Huy-Spa 89 km/1600 hm

When you start in Huy, you immediately run into the Thier de Huy. Not as well known as The Wall, but heavier! One kilometer at 13.7%. Who is already broken here better turn around. Through the beautiful rolling countryside of the Ardennes with various slopes, you arrive at the always tough Redoute. Then it's a tough climb and a nice downhill to Spa. However, you're not there yet, because in the city itself awaits a very tough climb: the Côte d'Annette e Lubin.

L'Enfer du Doyen

Spa-Les Vilettes 113 km/2400 hm

This is the famous area of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. It has to be said, the course designer has been creative in order to put in as many tricky climbs as possible. The famous Rosier is climbed from two sides. The super steep Côte d'Amermont is decended as well as ascended. Furthermore, the Haute Levée, Thier de Coo and the Stockeu are present. The latter two include a long, difficult spur. All of them serious hard nuts to crack. And these are just the most eye-catching names, the rest you can discover for yourself.

La Grande Traversée

Les Vilettes-Houyet 119 km/1950 hm

An intermediate stage. It could have been worse. Anyone who has ever ridden the Velomediane Criquielion knows it, the La Roche-en-Ardenne area contains a lot of calf-biting violence. The slopes of this stage are generally less hard. However, there is a warning for wind. Because the start is higher than the finish, you also have to descend a lot. Save your legs, because there is still a big hit. In Houyet you have 320 km and more than 6000 meters of elevation behind you.

La Bataille des Murs

Houyet-Huy 136 km/2650 hm

Let me be clear: the course designer belongs behind bars, because that last stage is just criminal. The Dinant-Namur area has a lot of extreme climbs and the worst ones are all in there! The Montagne de la Croix in Dinant has 600 meters with an average of 16% plus a spur. The forest road of La Gayolle has such a bad road surface and is so steep that many people have to walk here. The Mur des 7 Meuses ends at a restaurant with a magnificent view over the Meuse. To get there by bike is not possible without a hard fight against gravity. The beast of the area is the Triple Mur de Monty. Literally three walls in a row that get steeper every time. The cobblestone climb to the Citadel of Namur is an absolute winner, but you will feel it. Just like the final climb: the Wall of Huy. Whoever gets to the top can make a very deep bow to himself.

Conclusion

La Conquête des Ardennes is a fun variation on Everesting. The course is just brutal. You can start anywhere. Stage 2 and 4 are clearly the toughest. That's why Houyet or Dinant might be better starting places. If you do it in stages you do need a follow car or you take stuff to stay overnight.

Are you up for it?

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