Euro City Cycle Challenge (Day 4)
Breda to Brussels
And so to the final day. I appreciate that ‘proper’ cycling tours are longer and don’t have support vehicles and whilst the cycling was easy it had been a challenge in other ways. One of the things I struggled with was being sociable first thing in the morning! At home I like to be out the house before the family rises. Once I’m at my café I like to spend an hour with coffee reading the papers and not having to speak to anybody. On this tour everybody is at breakfast together and talking about the day ahead.
We were pleased to be told that Dave had gone on ahead and marked the route with his yellow arrows. Everybody’s phone was predicting sunny conditions all the way to Brussels. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing did! It was a glorious ride in beautiful conditions.
The paths all seemed to be either along canals or through fields. A group of farm labourers in a field all stopped work to cheer us on. We certainly didn’t look like a professional race but we seemed of interest to them. One of the things that made us stand out was that the fact we were all wearing helmets. We had seen many cyclists on our journey but very few of them wore helmets. It didn’t matter if they were families in town or serious ‘roadies’ out training they did not wear helmets.
The least pretty part of the morning was the venue for the morning stop. Looi may have picturesque parts to it but the pull in to its water treatment plant certainly wasn’t one of them. We weren’t all cycling as one group again, but there weren’t huge gaps and everybody was there for a less than memorable ‘Sam’s coffee’ at the same time.
At some point before lunch we crossed over into Belgium but there was no border control or indeed border. Which is just as well for the number in our group without passports seemed to get bigger every day. Lunch was HUGE! A massive plate of chicken and rice was served up to us. It was a really nice bar/restaurant set at the side of a canal but we were the only customers in there.
After lunch it was very basic instructions of cycling by the side of a canal all the way to Walem. The sun was still shining, the road was flat and we were nearing the finish. Even the sight and sound of a lone BAGPIPER marching up and down could not dampen my spirits.
At the afternoon stop Uncle Mark was in well before Nephew Nic. The reason for this? They had swapped bikes! A good ten minutes later Nic arrived and looked absolutely shattered. He mouthed a string of obscenities but roughly translated he would not be finishing the ride on Mark’s bike. Mark was offered the ‘spare’ bike that the support van had been carrying. It was a respectable Giant lightweight hybrid. Mark’s legend grew when he declined the offer and wanted to finish on his boneshaker.
We weren’t worried about the group splintering as we were to meet four miles out of Brussels and ride in formation for the final part. We were to meet under a bridge that was described as a concrete four poster bed. Again, I wish I had a picture but it was one of the ugliest structures ever created. Imagine two giant concrete ‘H’s joined by concrete with nothing but sharp angles and you begin to get the idea. In the shadow of this ugly bridge was an ugly bar with an ugly and grumpy patron. In its favour it sold cold beer and a kitty was rustled up and quickly used to purchase as many beers as it could manage.
Mim (also with beer) asked us to consider an idea for the final stage. She suggested that Jane, Henry and Mark should have the honour of leading the ride into Brussels for the reason that it was they who had had the biggest challenge to complete the ride. Everybody (I think) agreed that this was a wonderful gesture. So for the final four miles we rode as a group with the van trailing us at around 11mph.
As we turned the final corner off the roundabout we were faced with the spectacular sight of the Atomium. In front of that was Sam and Dave (not the 60s soul duo) with a huge finish banner. Cue families there to meet people rushing up, phone calls being made, photos being taken and champagne corks popping.
Day 4 total – 71 miles at a 13.1 mph average.
TOTALS. 284 miles. Average speed 13.5 mph.
And that is the end of the story. There is nothing to report from the final night celebrations, absolutely nothing of interest to anybody. I lie, but it has nothing to do with cycling and belongs on a completely different sort of web address.
Guest post by Francis Brogden