Friday: pick-up at Brussels airport or Liège TGV railway station
We will pick you up at the airport or railway station and will assist you to our vehicle. It’s a short drive to our hotel near Liège where we will spend the next 9 nights.
After some time to relax, the first job will be to assemble your bike and the Go4Cycling staff will be there to assist you with any mechanical problems or need. For those willing to get the rid of some travel stiffness, we can go for a short ride to discover the area around the hotel.
After freshing up, an evening Welcome Dinner is provided at the dining room of the hotel. There, the tour leaders will explain the whole itinerary and present the program of the following ten days. We’ll also explain how we ride in group, the pace, the organized evening city trips, et cetera. This is a good occasion to ask any questions you might have but of course also to meet the people who you will be spending your holiday with.
Saturday: riding the Tour version of the Amstel Gold Race
The Tour version of the Amstel Gold Race is one of the most popular rides on the amateur events calendar, with an annual registration of 12,000 riders (limited!). The six distances offered (60, 100, 125, 150, 200 and 250 kilometers) all start and finish in the small town of Valkenburg, about 12 kilometers from Maastricht. The various routes appeal to a wide range of riders and fitness levels, and the rolling start times offer flexibility and ensure the routes are easily navigable by all participants. The province of Limburg in The Netherlands is a paradise for the cycling enthusiast. The rural environment, the often very steep, short climbs and the great differences in altitude within just a few kilometers, make the Limburg hills a real challenge. You’ll appreciate that the wind may also play a key roll in the professional race. We are also just a few kilometers away from Vaals. This town is known for being the location where the borders of three countries come together, giving its summit the name of "Three-Country Point". The bordering countries are The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
Photo: Keutenberg wit hits 20% gradient.
Sunday: watching the Amstel Gold Race in VIP-style
The first Amstel Gold Race took place on April 30th 1966, Queensday for the Dutch. The first start was in Breda. In order to reduce the distance to the hills in Limburg, the start was moved to Helmond, then to Heerlen and finally to wonderful Maastricht where the race starts since a few years. The course has changed many times over the years to make for attractive racing. In 2005 the race took almost entirely place within the boundaries of the province of Limburg, but there have also been editions that covered significant parts of Belgium.
The race is tough and selective, mainly because of the 31 (ouch!) hills (in Dutch ‘mountain’ is berg) that have to be climbed, some with gradients up to 20% (Keutenberg). The Amstel can be confusing to riders who participate in it for the first time riders, because the course features a lot of turning. A race to stay in front as a rider in order to remain in contention to win it. Nervous stuff!
Monday: riding around la Roche-en-Ardenne, ‘the heart of the Ardennes’.
Today we will ride from la Roche-en-Ardenne to Bastogne and end in Achouffe for some beer tasting. The region around la Roche is often referred to as the true Ardennes. La Roche also holds the hardest climb of Belgium (N° 1 according to the Cotacol guide), Col de Haussire.
Photos: La Roche-en-Ardenne and the top of Col de Haussire.
For those interested in the battles that took place in December 1944 in this area of Europe, the Bastogne Memorial Museum is a must-see.
Tuesday: riding the final of the Flèche Wallone
Today we will test our strength and endurance and ride part of the hilly course of the Flèche Wallone which includes an extreme grade of about 20% on the final climb of the "Mur de Huy" (i.e. the wall of Huy). We will start our ride on top of the "Mur de Huy" for the final of the race. Coffee stop at ‘MUR’ coffee & cycling café. A loop with 8 climbs is awaiting us. Afterwards we'll visit the wine castle of Genoels-Elderen, a little village in the neighbourhoud of Tongeren, the oldest city of Belgium and build by the Romans.This "chateau" is the only winecastle in Belgium, not surprisingly because the first vineyards in this region were cultivated by the Romans. A guide will show us the park, the vineyards, the famous rosegarden, the distillery, the winepress and the 13th-century-winecaves, followed of course by a degustation of these refined wines.
Photo: the refined wines of wijnkasteel Genoels-Elderen.
Wednesday, 24th of April: watching the Flèche Wallone in VIP-style
Today we will travel to Huy to see the start of the women’s Flèche Wallonne in Huy. These women will race the final loop of the men’s course which also finishes on top of the "Mur de Huy".
We will enjoy the day in Huy watching the races, seeing the men’s and women's race multiple times on the Mur de Huy. You won’t miss out on the final as there’s a big screen close to the finish line broadcasting the race.
Thursday: visit Liège
In the morning we’ll take a short easy ride and in the afternoon we will visit the neigbourhood of Liège. First we'll visit the cristal factory of Val Saint Lambert. In 1826 smoke was coming out of the chimneys of the abbaye of Seraing, a city near to Liège. The cristal factory Val Saint Lambert was an historical fact. Soon it became the epicentre of the Belgian cristal industry. Nowadays, the Onclin family is owner of the industrial site and wants to put VSL back on the worldmap. Be surprised and see how these fine piece of arts are handmade, from heating the sand untill the polishing of the cristal. The remaining part of the day we will spend in Liège, "La Cité Ardente", "The Burning City". Liège is the largest city of Wallonia (i.e. French-speaking part of Belgium) and carries a rich cultural and economical background. It is located in the valley of the river Meuse near Belgiums eastern border with The Netherlands and Germany, where the Ourthe river joins the Meuse. If you like local specialties you cannot leave the city without having tasted a sweet Gaufre de Liège (Waffle of Liège). Don’t worry, you’ll burn these calories on Saturday!
Friday: cycling in the Hesbaye region
Today we take an easy ride from our hotel going through quiet countrified roads in the Hesbaye region, following the stream valleys of Burdinale and Mehaigne, where we will pass by the castles of Fernelmont and Franc-Warêt, both architectural jewels. Halfway the ride we will make a stop for lunch and a good Belgian beer. Those who want, can visit Leo’s bike collection in Zepperen and go back to the hotel with our bus, the others can complete the ride.
Photo: Leo’s bike collection including race bicycles as from 1941 and more recent bicycles ridden by champions like Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck, Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert, Mark Cavendish, Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan.
Saturday: riding the cyclo Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Liège-Bastogne-Liège, is one of the highlights of each cycling season. Professional cyclists describe it as the most beautiful but also the most difficult race. Amateurs may participate in the cyclosportive version of the race. Today your legs will experience the toughest ‘côtes’ (French for hills) and the most beautiful landscapes in the Belgian Ardennes. Go4Cycling will be there to pamper you during your endeavour.
Photo: The Mardasson Memorial in Bastogne.
The region known as ‘the Ardennes’ was once witness of some of the hardest fighting during the second world war known as the ‘Battle of the Ardennes’ or ‘Battle of the Bulge’. 2019 celebrates the 75th anniversary of this fierce key battle of world war II. Still today memorials, statues, crosses, burial grounds are silent reminders of the great sacrifices for peace.
Photo: The M December 44 memorial museum in la Gleize with its abandoned German Tiger II tank.
Sunday: Living Liège-Bastogne-Liège in VIP-style
Today we’ll go to the start of the race at the Place Saint-Lambert in wonderful Liège. After the start, we will view the race at multiple key locations on the course and enjoy the appreciate the suffering of the pro riders during the hardest classic of the season.
Brief history of Liège-Bastogne-Liège:
Liège-Bastogne-Liège, in French often called ‘La Doyenne’ (‘the oldest’), is one of the five 'Monuments' of the European professional road cycling calendar. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is part of the UCI World Calendar and is part of the Belgian Ardennes Classics series, which also include the Flèche Wallonne. Both are organised by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO). At one time, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège were run on successive days as le Week-end Ardennais. Only seven riders have achieved the Ardennes double by winning both races in the same year: the Swiss Ferdi Kübler even twice (in 1951 and 1952), Belgians Stan Ockers (1955), Eddy Merckx (1972) and Philippe Gilbert (2011), Italians Moreno Argentin (1991) and Davide Rebellin (2004) and the Spaniard Alejandro Valverde who repeated this in three different years (2006, 2015 and 2017). The race has become renowned not just because of its very selective course but also because several editions have been affected by extremely tough weather conditions. The 1980 edition is memorable because of snow that besieged the race from the start and was referred to as neige-Bastogne-neige (snow-Bastogne-snow) by commentators. Bernard Hinault attacked with 80 km to go and finished nearly 10 minutes ahead of the second in the race.
Monday: your goodbye from Belgium.
This unforgetable trip comes to an end and we head our separate ways. We will have a bus available to shuttle people to the airport or railway station during the day.