Challenge Number One: Insanity in Belgium

Suddenly, it’s less than seventy days. Just around the corner. Travel and lodgings have been arranged, a provisional date set for the bike to be serviced and so now it is just a case of training, counting down the days towards Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The first of this year’s challenges and the hardest.

So, why do it?

Well, last years challenge was tough and rewarding, both in terms of personal achievement through  funds raised via sponsorship. More money in to research projects in to MS that are personally very important and relevant to me. That I could cycle up a mountain to raise those funds was great. That so many people wanted to sponsor me and sent so many kind messages was…. well, I have said it before and will say it again, it was unbelievable! Raised the spirits!

And this years challenges just cannot match that. It will not be as fresh because part of me learnt from last year that I still can and many others with the same diagnosis also could.

So, I made the early decision that they would be personal only. Fundraising and sponsorship will perhaps play a role next year. But this year’s challenges are about personal achievement and, in the case of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, an ambition, something from my wish-list.

I am a latecomer to cycling and so cannot pretend that I watched the Classics over the years, something that my partner can lay better claim to as she did grow up with them on the television. I didn’t. I cannot say I remember watching Hinault or Merckx win as I was blissfully unaware of them!

But I made up for lost time. It was useful that, last year, I did most of my training on Saturdays so on Sunday I could sit in front of the TV and watch the insanity of the one day Classics. Insanity. That’s all it is. Who does this for fun?

Well, this year, apparently I do!

To do a Classic is a young ambition but because there is some fire there.  That the Classic is a Monument as well, one of the five, is a real plus. I think. By the way, there is more on how Liege-Bastogne-Liege was chosen in the post where I outlined the three challenges so I won’t repeat that here.

An element of last year’s challenge, though, is important this year. Especially with Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Quite simply, it was important for me to prove to myself and others that I still can. Last year, climb a mountain. This year, complete a Classic.

Yes, there is risk. I could wake up on April 22nd and….. well, it could be one of the ‘bad’ days and so a long-distance ride would just be off the agenda. That’s my risk.  As usual I will ride cautiously, very cautiously. Descent is something that I can struggle with, the absolute storm of the senses that comes with speed. So I will respect myself and focus on completion, no need for speed. In the end, the professionals can race and take risks. I won’t. That said, I will push myself, especially climbing. Something sadistic about me is that, although I may not be good at it, I like climbing. What happens when you live in a flat country, I suppose. The point is you can push yourself without taking risks.

Last year I trained hard which meant that, although I was pushing myself, I was taking no risks. And it felt amazing to complete the climb of Ventoux, look down, and realise what I just done. The Insanity in Belgium is all about completing 150km (I am not stupid – not doing 250km version!), never mind speed.

Then, on April 23rd, I will stretch out in front of the TV with a beer in my hand and watch the pros do their thing. And I predict that, with each phase of the race, I will become ever more boring with ‘I did that’ comments about the various phases of the race.

April 22nd. Insanity in Belgium. It will be all mine.

As long as the chain stays intact, anyway……

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