Top 10 of 2011

This time – instead of my traditional summary (read them here: 2008, 2009, 2010) – I will pick out the 10 most memorable things from all the things I have done last year. A bit of extra information behind every entry will help to make it into a nice story.

  1. Riding up to the Roque de los Muchachos from both sides on the same day. Call me crazy, but this was the most amazing day of this year. A day of struggling, cycling 147.4 km with an elevation gain of 5069 meters might make other people question your sanity, but the rewarding feeling of great achievement afterwards worth every drop of sweat. All this on the amazing island of La Palma, volcanic rock formations, pine tree forests and vast mountain landscapes, there are not many places like this on the planet. This was part of my epic cycling holidays (17-22 May), with a total of 4 rides, 451.70 km, and an elevation gain of 12,062.0 metres. I also rode around the island on another epic day.
  2. Riding up to the Mont Ventoux. A few days after crushing into a car and breaking my nice aero wheels :( I was already back on my bike :) riding one of the most iconic climbs of  road cycling. It was the main event of the (partly) cycling holidays in France (thanks again for the invitation, Valery), perfect weather, hundreds of cyclists on the roads, awesome pictures, great company. And the final time of 1h 38m 41s is quite good for someone who only started cycling in 2010. Also this contributed to my best mont (July) on the road summing up to 1,256.32 km.
  3. Track cycling in the velodrome of Gent. Not only one of the best things last year, but one of the best things I have done in Belgium ever. Riding on the track is an amazing experience, the pace is high, the curves are steep, and the atmosphere can not be described with words. It is just a big blur of the track and the other riders around you. We have even made a nice video, and I also experienced how does it feel when someone crashes in front of you while riding with 40-45 km/h. Luckily I did not experience how does it feel to crash with this speed…
  4. My first first-author paper got published. There is no exception, every PhD student gets happy about this. Seeing your work in print is always a nice thing. I also kept my proposal acceptance rate at 100%, with an accepted Kepler Guest Observer proposal and a successful NOAO proposal to the 6.5 meter MMT in Arizona. So this year I am going to the USA (among others)!
  5. Visualising and analysing cycling workouts. I have written a nice python script to plot and analyse my rides, providing me with information which is way beyond the capabilities of Garmin Connect. To read more about this, head over the original posts: 1, 2, and 3. I would take the opportunity here to write down the totals from 2011 (and the values compared to 2010): 224h 39m 27s of cycling (+84%), 6,204.16 kilometres (+86%), 50,758.0 metres of elevation gain (+128%), and 176,855 Calories burned (+72%). The goal for 2012 is 7000 km.
  6. Night sky photography from and with Mercator. This year I had 4 observing runs (3 on La Palma and 1 on Tenerife, with a total of 40 nights at the telescope), and for the last one I left my bike at home and brought my photo gear with me instead. This resulted in quite some spectacular images, especially the post about the Draconid meteor storm got quite some attention over the internet. Then to prove that we can create nice outreach images with our telescope too, I produced colour images of a planetary nebula and Jupiter.
  7. Great personal best to Mechelen and back. No explanation needed, it was a superb ride, flying with the aero wheels after more than two weeks of high altitude training. Now that I have broken those wheels, I do not really expect to break this record in 2012 (without further expenses). But who knows ;)
  8. 8 Hours Cycling @ Spa-Francorchamps. A great race with the AstroTeam, the experience of cycling, racing in the rain on the Belgian F1 track is something money can’t buy (for everything else, there’s MasterCard).
  9. The climb from Masca in the Teno Mountains. This was a climb on my last day during my cycling holidays on Tenerife (24-29 May, 4 rides, 441.98 km, an elevation gain of 10,684.0 metres). Epic scenery, 4.0 km @ 10.8% with a maximum over 100 meters of 16.8%, scorching sunshine, no wind, zipped open jersey, pedalling out of the saddle all way long, bad asphalt, so although it was ‘only’ a 2nd category climb, this was the most memorable slope of this holiday…
  10. Skiing. For the first time in several years, I went on a skiing holiday (only a long weekend though). I really love skiing, and I am quite good at it, so :)

Making this selection was way more difficult than I expected it to be, so I feel happy about the year. And I did not even mention the great photo-excursions with Elise, the experience I gained in electric assembly, wall painting, and terrace constructions while helping Tijl at his (now almost finished) house, the memories of several exceptional rides alone or with members of the newly formed AstroTeam, my surprise visit to Hungary, finishing the 2010-2011 season with a bronze medal in the Adults’ 1st Division of the Belgian Floorball League (and then quitting floorball…), getting a MacBook Air, etc. So yes, this was a good year. The only thing I still kinda miss is a girlfriend…

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