12-09-17

Dirty Boar 2017 Gravel Ride

Last weekend we rode the Dirty Boar gravel ride. 170km of the finest dirt and gravel roads of the Hautes Fagnes and Huertgenwald area combined with roughly 2700m of climbing. 

In the run up to the event I started rethinking my bike choice. Should I take my Transition Rapture 'gravel' racer or should I go singlespeed? Fired up by some fellow singlespeeders I decided to convert the Rapture back to full commuter mode and prepare my trusty Niner One 9 for this ride. An easier gear was chosen for the climbs (32x18) and the fat MTB tires were replaced with some very nice WTB Resolute 42 tires that I set up tubeless on my MTB wheels. 

Friday evening prior to the ride we already went to sign in in Ovifat. We then went to the youth hostel in Malmedy for one beer before going to bed early.

That one beer quickly turned in to one to many beer as we hooked up with some of belgians singlespeed usual suspects. At 01.50am we decided it was time to go to bed. 4 hours later we got up and had breakfast, probably not the best preparation for a big ride, but hey, we had good fun.

The typical morning grumbling and fumbling with bikes had us leaving late from the hostel. Stef unleashed all 200 horses from his Jetta to get us up to Ovifat as soon as possible.

When we got there the start had already been given so we calmly prepared to set off. About 200m into the ride we already passed a lot of riders with flat tires, something that would be seen many times during the day.

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The course brought us straight to the Botrange and then slowly towards the German woods. The course was rolling well despite the heavy rainfall. The weather would be the same all day, on and off rain with a dash of sunshine from time to time.

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We quickly passed the first feed stop and had a bite to eat, filled up our bottles and pressed on. Somewhere between feed zone 1 and 2 I managed to miss a course marker and got lost. While checking the GPS I noticed a singletrail short cut that could bring me back to the course. it was I really nice trail so I wasn't to bothered with the detour. On my way to the second feed zone I rationalized my efforts as I didn't want to blow up my legs on the singlespeed and cramp up at the end.

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The second feed zone was really good and the ham sandwich did a perfect job of calming down my stomach and the sportsdrink chased away my little hangover. From then onwards I started pushing a bit harder on the climbs again as we were getting into the final part of the ride. 

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Some 30km before the finish there was a surprise feed zone and I decided to wait for Stef to start the final part of the ride together. We were getting closer to our second home, the Bayehon valley which we have been riding for more than 20 years now. 

The last 10km through the Bayehon area went by really fast, my legs were still strong and the climbing went smooth. I was suprised how much the Bayehon river had swollen, the river crossings were very deep, deeper than I have ever seen them this time of the year. A clear reminder of how much rain had fallen.

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Together with Stef we rolled into the finish to meet up with our faster clubriders Bert and Wim and to have some nice fries. 

After a cold dry shower in the parking lot we packed up and headed home. On the way home we contemplated on what gravel riding is or can be or used to be. We noticed that there are many different gravel riders. Roadies that can ride fast uphill but have poor cornering and descending skills, the converted MTBer that nows how to steer a bike and go downhill fast, the randonneur taking things easy and as they come and many more types of riders. This alone made it an interesting ride. 

Gravel riding may be hot and trendy, but to me there is a clear reason why it is so fun. On a true MTB this would be a really boring ride, but slap on some faster skinnier tires and you cover ground much more easily. Combine that with a pair of open eyes to take in the beauty of the nature surrounding yourself and you have a true winner. We will be back for more!

Thanks Vettige Swa's for organising the event.

 

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