21-12-17

Botreycat, bring the madness (epic redefined)

Botreycat, an alleycat with the highest point of Belgium (Signal de Botrange 694m) as the central point: https://guntherds.exposure.co/botreycat-2

The first Botreycat in 2016 gave us mild temperatures and a couple of rain drops here and there, we didn't ride it as a race and took a big pizza break in Monschau.
We were all stoked to ride again this year. We decided to turn it into a weekend away with a group of XC Bikers and rented a small house in Ovifat close to the Botrange.
Ief and I decided that we would ride a bit harder and keep the stops limited. Stef and Wim set out to finish the ride and Reno and Bart would start the ride and see where it would end.
Stef planned the routes using Strava and we were good to go.

The run up to the Botreycat weekend gave us snow, rain and cold temperatures, nothing like the mild fall conditions of 2016. Arriving in the Hautes Fagnes region we were greeted by icy white roads and a thick blanket of snow.

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Morning broke on Saturday, fog and sleet filled the air. We took our 'race-director-care-package' (some Trappist beers and XC Bikers bidons) up the hill and met the other riders.

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After a quick briefing (from the 'If you have any problems along the way, sort them out yourselves'-type) Gunther from Bikepacking.be gave the start at sunrise.

Ief, Wim, Stef and I set out in the direction of Eupen, Reno and Bart headed to Monschau.

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As we descended it Eupen it got warmer and the snow disappeared. This would not be for long, soon after the Wesertalsperre we found ourselves in snowy landscapes again. We hit the Vennbahn cycleway which was covered with a thin sheet of snow and ice which was perfectly rideable for the first kilometers.

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But then the snow got deeper and deeper and riding got very energy consuming. If you came to a halt it was very hard to start riding again so we tried to keep riding. Ief and myself struck a gap on Wim and Stef and powered through onwards to the Kalltalsperre ('famous' from the Dirty Boar ride).

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On our way back to the Botrange we were supposed to use the Vennbahn again but we tried to navigate around it by using a combination of the cycle maps posted near the cycleways, Google maps and Garmin navigation. This led to some detours and extra kilometers. At the return to the Botrange we already had 12km more than scheduled.

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At the Botrange we decided to keep going and not take a break to keep the momentum going and avoid cooling down. We set out for the Monschau-Perlenbach-Oleftal-loop and retraced a part of the end of our first loop to quickly reach the Perlenbachsperre, along our way we met Berten who was stuck with his third flat tire. We chatted a bit and asked if he needed some help but he said that he would 'zijn plan wel trekken'. After Perlenbach we dipped into Monschau for a very quick stop. The following part to the Oleftalsperre seemed to be near endless. Despite a strong tailwind it felt like we were riding with flat tires, the power was drained from our legs due to the pedal stomping in the snow earlier on the day. Nevertheless we pushed on to the Oleftal enjoying some really nice views of the snowy rolling hills on the plateaus. We left the Oleftalsperre using the gravel service road on the south side of the lake, Ief was having a bit of a first 'dipke'.

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When we reached the main road again we caught up with Lissa again who still had to loop around the Oleftal-lake. Her spirits were still high and she carried on. Impressed with her fighting spirit we soldiered on. Battling head winds and rough roads, detouring because of snow packed roads. In the mean time the darkness had fallen upon the Hohes Venn and not much later heavy snow started falling from the dark sky above. Roads turning white, glasses and faces covered in ice. Bottles empty all bars eaten, we decided to call it a day and roll into Ovifat to join the rest of the XC Bikers. 166.4km after the start we sat down at the table, drank a coke, ate spaghetti (thank you to our support team) and shared stories over a Duvel or Westmalle. 

It was a good day, hard but good.

Thanks to Gunther for hosting the event and thanks to the other riders for the smiles, hi's and cheers along the way as we crossed/passed each other.
Special thanks to the hikers who found my ID and bankcard and special thanks to Ben and his friend for taking these back to the 'race office' and to Stef for driving to the Botrange in the snow to pick it up for me.

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