It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish…

I use to think I am insane, and this is probably true. After completing a 203 km ride on Saturday (and it was not a “flat” one), I thought “no more cycling during the long weekend, I should just take the following days calm and easy, laying around in the botanic garden, write my diary, read a book, or work on pictures I had taken in the recent weeks (months)“. But this thought vanished quickly – like rain from the asphalt after a short shower on a hot summer day – and I decided to go on a recovery ride (keeping the heart rate low, but pedaling relatively fast, not caring about the speed) to Mechelen, on my usual 52 km route on Sunday afternoon (after sleeping till midday, I have to confess it here). I thought it would be good to just go and have a slow ride, to move the legs and get rid off the stiffness. And it worked even better than I had expected. After the ride I felt completely recharged, with no pain or tiredness left from the previous day. That was the moment when I decided to go for another long ride on Monday. All the conditions were excellent: the weather forecast was almost perfect, I felt strong, and I had nothing else to do on that day – I knew I would only waste my time at home, probably sitting in front of the screen, watching TV or surfing the internet in endless cycles, because I would be to lazy to go out and do something else.

So I got up at 8 on the next morning, and left around 9 after a good breakfast of scrambled eggs with bacon. I had written down the list of knot-points I had to follow into my mobile phone, so no risk of loosing an important piece of paper like in April… I had a terrible headwind till Mechelen (and even a bit further, so I did use some “not that nice” words to describe how I disliked the situation – I was swearing like hell in Hungarian :D), then as I turned to the NE, it changed to an almost perfect tailwind, and stayed like that for a long time. I was flying through Flanders with 35 km/h on the wings of the wind, turning my legs around without any difficulty. I really enjoyed it. Then from Duffel to Lier I rode with another guy, and with the help of each other’s slipstream we easily reached and hold a speed of 40 km/h for quite a long time (I had a maximum heart rate of 174 bpm, which is lover than the usual average heart rate during my normal workouts). Later on from Viersel to Herentals, I had a perfect tailwind (really, it was one of those rare moments when you don’t even hear the wind blowing, because it has the same speed as you have), so here I could ride with 37 km/h with my heart rate still in HR Zone 2 (around 155 bpm) – where I tried to keep it all day long. This part of Belgium is really flat, so no climbs at all (except some bridges). There were many restaurants along the channels, so I decided that I would stop somewhere for a lunch after a while (somewhen after halfway point). At Witgoor I turned to the South, hence the wind became sidewind, and it got only worse later… And then – around 120 km – came the first problem of the day: I started to run out of water (I mean Isostar), and being fed up with eating the sweet (and already melted, but useful) energy bars, but of course there were no restaurants around anymore… So typical. Finally, just after I had passed the 143 km mark, I arrived to Fietsstop 303 – which is situated right at knot-point nr. 303 :) I rode the last 10 km really thinking just about cold water and normal food (that’s something you should always avoid, because it will never make the situation better). But here I could eat a good spaghetti and have a Coke, which saved my life (ok, I start to be a bit too poetic, but anyway, I really enjoyed the food and the rest here). I was a bit surprised, that they had no special sports drinks (like Isostar, Powerade or Gatorade), but at least I could refill my bottles with cold tap-water. From Halen to Tienen, I rode on a cycle path which was built on the trajectory of an old railway. Then the last part of the ride (from Tienen) was the same as 48 hours earlier, but the hills were much more painful with the headwind and with another 250 km in my legs since then… But cycling is all about pain-handling (at least when you go far or fast – or both…), so I stood out of the saddle, and pushed the pedals till the peak (thinking that I am Lance on the Ventoux), then tried to recover on the other side. Then from Lovenjoel I switched on my last power sources and rode with 30-35 km/h till I arrived to Leuven. At the end (after 212 km), I looked really extremely dirty professional, with all the sweat mixed with the sunscreen, the dirt and dust of the road (plus the dead insects :D), anyone could tell I am coming from far far away. And I felt completely satisfied with the rides of the weekend, so I arrived home with a big smile on my face. A really BIG one! So the sum of the long weekend is 467.53 km (203.46 + 51.93 + 212.13), which is awesome. I spent almost 18 hours in the saddle… Being a cyclist (I mean a PhD student who likes cycling) in Belgium is great (though we could use some imported Alps over here, but hey, I am not going to complain).

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