The famous climbs beckon all riders. The cobbled climbs of Flanders, the peaks of the Pyrenees, the sublime allure of Stelviopas. When the offer to climb La Redoute and the Mur de Huy arrived, I agreed immediately.
We planned a 100km route through the Wallonie region of Belgium that incorporated La Redoute and the Mur de Huy. Since we were finishing on the Mur, we decided it would be best to park the van at the top and ride from there.
As the van chugged up the narrow local road in first gear my eyes began to widen–it was steep. And when the clutch started to slip around the renowned 26% corner, my eyes began to resemble a 58 blade. Thankfully, I had a few hours in the saddle through the country side to prepare myself for the “Great Wall”.
We left Huy and headed towards La Redoute for about 60km along beautiful rolling roads through forests and small Belgian towns. We arrived at the base of La Redoute, it seemed unassuming: it was just a small local road on the side of the highway. 500m later, however, and the climb, made famous by the one-day classic Liège–Bastogne–Liège, was making its mark on my legs. The 1.7km climb has an average of 8.8% and maxes out around 17%.
As I rolled (and I’m using that term loosely, “crawled” might be more accurate) up to the top, the famous painted names on the road, like “Phil” and “Andy,” seemed to quell the burden of the effort. Then the 17% section hit and no amount of history or paint could compensate for the sting in my legs.
After an easy 40km back to Huy in the sun, I began to get a little nervous for the Mur. Like the end of a race nerves when the adrenaline starts to build as the line seems to get exponentially closer. It was 1.3km. Average gradient of 9.6%. Max gradient of 26%. It wasn’t call “The Wall” for nothing.
When I turned onto to the main part of the climb, my eyes were overcome by the immense gradient. Trying to channel my inner Evelyn Stevens, 2012′s fastest woman up the climb with an average speed of 16.7km.hr during Fleche Wallonne, I attacked.
As if you didn’t know the climb had started, the pavement is stamped all the way from the bottom to top with “Huy” like the dashed lines on a highway, except these go by slower…much slower. As I approached the ominous 26%-er, staying on the outside line, I gripped my hoods tightly and leaned forward to find a few extra watts. 300m and 3 gradient kicks later, I pounded over the summit that has seen 76 years of cycling victory and defeat. I was out of breath, out of watts, but over the Great Wall.
By Sarah Bonner