On possibly one of the last summery weekends of 2009, Reli and I participated in the Grand Raid Godefroy, a mountainbike marathon held every year in Bouillon, Belgium (near the French border.) Out of the possible distances of 40-70-90-130 and 160 km we chose to ride the 90km race. Excited to find out what the Ardennes terrain this far south would look like, we left for Bouillon on the morning the day before the race.
Similar to other races (Houffamarathon, Bart Brentjens Challenge), the start grid is divided into start boxes. Now normally the best/fastest/highest qualified riders are in front in the first box, and fun riders like Reli and me are typically somewhere in box 2 or 3. However, this year there was the option to earn a place in the first box by joining a time trial race on Saturday. Since the first box is valued place if you want to avoid the traffic jams that are bound to happen right after the start (when the first difficult parts of the track manifest themselves), Reli and I decided to give the time trial a go.
We actually did better than we both expected: I came in 9th and Reli followed at the 11th (see time trial results.) Happy with this result we went out to the village to find something to eat. We ended up in a small taverne with a lot of couleur locale and good food.
The day of the race.
After breakfast (7:30) and some shocking news from fellow bikers who got their bikes stolen from the hotel garage (fortunately for us our bikes were locked inside next to the unused hotel bar), we headed for the start area. Because of our time trial results we were invited by the speaker to move int to the first box.
Did the premium start position help? Well, we certainly did not get stuck in traffic jams. However at least for me it was not easy to keep up with those fast front riders. The next 30km I kept regretting the fact that I even tried: every uphill felt as if someone tied an invisible boat anchor to my bike. It seemed that Reli had less trouble though. Fortunately (hmm…) I got a flat tire so I got time to come to my senses and rethink my biking strategy. After that things went a bit better (although there were a few times that the invisible boat anchor again reared its ugly head) and I enjoyed most of the 90 kms: long climbs (some of them impossible), flowy trails, technical single track, superfast downhills (with the odd switchbacks.)
Somewhere halfway I met up with Reli again, who had also suffered a flat. We rode together for a while but then he fell back because of some technical problems with his gears. Even though it was a very nice day of biking, I was more than happy to finally see the finish line, after 5 hours and 24 minutes. Reli finished 6 minutes later, in 5 hours and 30 minutes (see the 90 km results.)
After this we enjoyed a well deserved Doner Kebab (grand appetit, i.e. huge, I could not finish it) packed up our bikes and headed home. Till next year!