The last climb of Stoepid. La Redoute. It’s the one that strikes fear in the heart of the Belgians. All day, as we crawled our way around the Ardennes, we shared stories, like the one of VDB climbing in it in the 53 during his rather impressive win in 1997.
My ascent however was a rather unimpressive effort in the 39×27. It was a long, long day, at the end of a long week. Pretty early in, we knew we might not make the full loop. And as soon as this realization set in – it was time to sit down and drink a Jupiler.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege – the oldest continual professional road race, a huge loop through the mountainous Ardennes region of southern Belgium. Our day started with a 45 minute climb. But to quote Bill, the LBL “has both steep and long”.
If you grow up in Belgium, you know these climbs. You see them each year on TV and you go and ride them. But climbing the seemingly endless row of ascents brings realization to what the LBL is all about. The Wanne, the Stockeu, the Haute Levee, the Rosier, the Masquiard… These are old climbs, with the history of cycling engrained in them. And each one was a different battle. For me, it was the long, 14% grade in Houffalize that brought me to my knees. Not long after that, the first beer was cracked opened. Stoepid.