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29-04-2024 | Herman Nekkers

Tour de Namur, a high-level Ardennes ride

The Namur area often goes unnoticed as a cycling destination in the Ardennes compared to popular spots like Spa or La Roche-en-Ardenne. However, I can attest from personal experience that this oversight is completely unjustified. That's why I embarked on another exploration last Saturday during the Tour de Namur.

Tour de Namur Image

The route

The Tour de Namur offers four routes, and I opted for the longest: 161 km/2400 m+. This route boasts 16 hills, a mix of picturesque gradual climbs and challenging ascents that test your endurance. There's hardly a flat stretch; the roads vary from smooth to rough, winding through forests, agricultural plains, and quaint villages where time seems to slow down. It's a quintessential Ardennes cycling experience. In addition to the long route, there are three shorter distances catering to various skill levels, ensuring there's something for everyone. Each route is equally scenic and demanding.

Challenges and scenery

The chilly morning air doesn't deter me as I set out. With a promising forecast of a dry, partly cloudy day, I dress appropriately and swiftly register using the convenient scan & ride system, obtaining my bib without having to leave my bike unattended. Though, even if I had to, there's a secure bike park available. Within moments, I'm on my way, greeted by a steep ascent that quickly warms me up.

Photo: Triple Mur de Monty

After 18 kilometers, I confront the infamous Triple Mur de Monty, renowned as one of the most formidable climbs in the Ardennes. Today, due to route alterations, it's the "Single Mur de Monty," taking a less challenging path. Nevertheless, the remaining 200 meters with gradients over 20% prove arduous, witnessing numerous dismounts as riders struggle to conquer it.

Without much respite, another daunting climb awaits 10 kilometers ahead: La Gayolle. Formerly notorious for its rough surface, it now boasts smooth asphalt, but the 500 meters through the forest remain brutally difficult, especially with the occasional slippery road surface. In such moments, I'm grateful for the agility of my super-light S-Works Aethos.

Photo: On the way to La Gayolle

Following the climbs, the route stretches across a plateau for dozens of kilometers, where not a single meter is flat. Though lacking significant inclines, it's a relentless grind. Thankfully, there are three well-placed feed stations along the way, providing a welcome opportunity to rest and refuel.

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Next level

Photo: Abundant feed station

That the feed stations of Golazo are from another planet has long been known. Today I decide to take a closer look and see, among other things:

  • A plentiful supply of food such as: sports bars, gels, cookies, waffles, and fruit.
  • Sports drinks, multiple taps.
  • Separated waste bins.
  • Sufficient sanitation facilities including multiple dixies for the women.
  • A repair station.
  • First aid station.
  • Bicycle racks.
  • Last but not least, helpful staff.

This is really next level. Even at big foreign gran fondos you hardly see this.

The second part

Around noon the sun finally breaks through and it gets nice and warm, I put my arm warmers down. In the second part of the hike, the climbs become a little less difficult, but longer. Scenically, one of the highlights is the Vallée de Leffe, a seven-kilometer drop toward Dinant. Unfortunately, the quality of the road surface is so abominable that I don't get much of the scenery. Something should really be done about it. The town of Dinant, however, is a jewel. Active signalists guide the riders through the crowds without problems. I enjoy the beautiful view along the Meuse River. Unfortunately, it is short-lived, as we turn right onto the Ronchène, another tough climb.

Photo: Dinant, along the Meuse

The last fifty kilometers are up and down hills I'm not familiar with. Sometimes we ride on small farm roads, sometimes on through roads. What is remarkable is that nowhere is it crowded. The sun coming through does the rest to make it a successful day. Wonderful! By now the legs are all feeling it and I'm glad that the last eight kilometers are just fast downhill.

The finish location is a cozy affair. As it should be, the long tables are well occupied with riders having a pint and telling great stories about their achievement. There were plenty of participants to hook up with today without the crowds. All in all, it was another perfect day.

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