Tempting you to Tour Part III

 

In the final instalment of this series ex-Pro Emma Silversides talks us through a seven day European tour in August which took in Belgium, Luxemborg and Germany, all with glorious photographs.

 

I feel fortunate to have good friends living in Belgium, friendships formed during the time I was living out there while racing.  A good friend makes a great host and doesn’t mind you rocking up once a year, only to depart the following day on a bike tour!  In short, if you are fortunate enough to have contacts abroad, it is a great tip to try to visit them, because not only can you rekindle friendships but they also make great bases to unpack and sort out kit following a plane flight or long journey.

 

My tour started close to Hoegaarten (famous for its beer) and then headed south east towards the Ardennes, passing north of Huy before swinging south to end the first day in Roche-en-Ardenne.  Too many people think of Belgium as a flat country or, at best rather bleak with the occasional cobbled kick.  However, if you venture into the Ardennes you will realise that this image could not be further from the truth.  There are climbs a plenty and stunning valley roads with, for the most part, smooth asphalt and relatively little traffic.  If you like the terrain of the Cotswolds or Scotland you will love the Ardennes.  There is no shortage of accommodation and campsites either, though they do tend to be hectic in season because it is a favourite destination for the Dutch.

 

Day two saw me head south easterly again and I was clearly riding into hotter weather.  I crossed the border into Luxembourg and was bowled over by the perfect road surfaces, absence of cars and beautiful scenery.  My hilly route through Luxembourg, planned for me by a friend who is familiar with the roads there, left me in no doubt that this has to be one of the top five European countries to ride in.  The hotel owner assured me that I was there at the best time too because all the Luxembourgers who know the roads that I had been riding on were out of the country to avoid the holiday makers!  Another valuable tip therefore is to try to get route hints and suggestions from people who have ridden there before or ride there regularly.

 

 

I left Wallendorf behind me at the start of day three and rode into Germany.  The country’s cleanliness always impresses me, everywhere is pristine and its bike network is vast – frequently off road, where I appreciated the shaded sections on cool forest tracks and trails.  Accommodation and hospitality is always of the same high standards too, yet normally cheaper than neighbouring countries.  After a sweltering 92 miles in temperatures reaching 40 degrees, I was so happy to enjoy a cold beer and a hearty meal in a pub offering accommodation; I was most definitely off the tourist track and among local folk enjoying a Saturday evening out, exactly what touring is all about.

 

cycle touring off road

 

I headed southwards on day four keeping the border to my right and finished close to Strasbourg in a town called Obernai. There was a huge concert on that evening and I soaked up the atmosphere late into the night.

 

cycle touring France

 

Days five and six were spent in the Vosges, enjoying countless climbs and descents mingled with moving war memorials, patchy mist and cloud, and a splattering of fellow cyclists too.  Two days were not enough and I can see why this is a popular region for riders from Belgium, Holland, Germany and Luxembourg.  It is popular with professional ‘cross riders pre-season too.  Again, it’s vast openness and forested areas made me think of Scotland.

 

cycle touring Vosges

 

On day seven I skirted along the edge of the national park, permanently surrounded by vineyards, castles and villages thriving on their associated wine production.  I rode into Colmar, from where I could take a train back to my original destination.  Naturally this was researched beforehand because some countries require the bike to be packed in a bag for train journeys, while others simply require an extra ticket, so it is always worth checking prior to travel, so that you are not caught out.

 

cycle touring through vineyards

 

If I have sold touring to you check out the concluding article full of hints and tips to help get you on the road.  Happy travels!

 

In case you missed them, Part II is here here and Part I is here here .  Tips for planning the perfect tour will follow.

 

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