Friday: pick up at Brussels airport or Liège TGV train station
Today someone from our organization will meet you at the Brussels or Liège and will assist you to our vehicle and bring you to our accommodation near Liège where we will spend the next 9 nights.
The first job will be to assemble your bike and Go4Cycling staff will be on hand if you have mechanical problems or need any other assistance. We will then leave for a short ride to discover the area around the place where we stay.
Tonight a Welcome Dinner is provided at the dining room of the hotel. There, the tour leaders will explain the whole itinerary and present the programme 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 village 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 participants. Unique about this race is the beautiful setting. 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. 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 touching countries are The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
Sunday: watching the Amstel Gold Race in VIP-style
The first Amstel Gold Race took place on April the 30th 1966, Queensday for the Dutch. The first start was in Breda. In order to reduce the distance to the hills in Limbourg, the start has been moved to Helmond first and then to Heerlen and finally to Maastricht where the race starts since a few years. The course has changed many times over the years. 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. Since 2003 the finish is at the top of the Cauberg hill, in the Valkenburg municipality. Before 2003 the finish used to be in Maastricht.
The race is tough and selective, mainly because of the 31 hills that have to be climbed, some with angles as steep as 20% (Keutenberg). The Amstel can be confusing to riders who participate to it for the first time riders, because the course features a lot of turns. Some spots are visited more than once during the race.
Monday: riding to Han sur Lesse
Today we'll ride through the heart of the Ardennes and arrive in Han sur Lesse. Here we will visit the Caves of Han-sur-Lesse. These caves are the result of the underground erosion of a limestone hill by the river Lesse. The river forces its way under the hill over a straight line of over one kilometer. The caves have a constant temperature of 13°C (55°F) and a high level of humidity. Access is only possible via a vintage streetcar, a remnant of the country's once extensive vicinal tramway system, which starts from the center of Han-sur-Lesse. The entry to the caves is about 2 km from the village. The guided tour takes about an hour to an hour and a half and includes a sound and light show in one of the largest chambers of the cave and a short boat trip ending with a cannon shot to demonstrate the cave's acoustic properties.
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%, the final climb of the "Mur de Huy". We will start our ride on top of the "Mur de Huy" for the final of the race. A loop with 8 climbs is awaiting us. Afterwards we'll visit the 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 ofcourse by a degustation of these superb wines.
Wednesday: 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 races multiple times on the Mur de Huy. During the race we will be able to watch the race on a big screen close to the finish line.
Thursday: 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'lle see the castles of Fernelmont and Franc-Warêt, both real architectural jewels. Halfway we will make a stop for lunch and a good Belgian beer. Those who want, can go back to the hotel with the bus, the others can complete the ride.
Friday: visit Liège
In the morning we’ll take a small relaxing ride and in the afternoon we’ll visit the neigbourhood of Liège. First we'll visit the cristalfactory of Val Saint Lambert. In 1826 smoke was coming out of the chimneys of the abbaye of Seraing, a city near to Liège. The release of the cristalfactory Val Saint Lambert was an historical fact. Soon it became the epicentre of the Belgian cristalindustry, knew during her history hights but also difficult times because of the two worldwars. Nowaday the family Onclin is owner of the industrial site and wants to place it back on the worldmap. Be surprised and see how this fine piece of art is made, from heating the sand untill the polishing of the cristal. The late afternoon and evening we'll spend in Liège, "La Cité Ardente", "The Burning City". Liège is a major Walloon city and municipality in Belgium located in the province, carrying her name and of which she is the administrative capital. It is situated in the valley of the river Meuse near Belgiums eastern borders with The Netherlands and Germany, where the Ourthe debouches in the Meuse. The city is the principal economic and cultural centre of the Walloon provinces in Belgium. The agglomeration of the city, with a population of 476,000 inhabitants, to more than 600,000 inhabitants, depending on where one would put the boundaries, is the third largest in Belgium, after the agglomerations of Brussels and Antwerp. If you like local specialties you cannot leave the city without having tasted a sweet Gaufre de Liège (Waffle of Liège).
Saturday: riding the cyclo Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Luik-Bastenaken-Luik, the Dutch name for 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. Since last years you can also participate in the cyclo version containing the main slopes. We will ride around in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Belgian Ardennes.
Sunday: watching Liège-Bastogne-Liège in VIP-style
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. At one time, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège were run on successive days as le Week-end Ardennais. Only six riders have achieved the Ardennes double by winning both in the same year: the Swiss Ferdi Kübler even twice (in 1951 and 1952), Belgians Stan Ockers (1955) and Eddy Merckx (1972), Italians Moreno Argentin (1991) and Davide Rebellin (2004), and the Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (2006). The race has in several editions been affected by tough weather conditions. In 1919, 1957 and 1980 there were severe conditions with low temperatures and snow. Two riders shared the win of the 1957 race. Germain Derijcke was the first over the line but because he crossed a closed rail crossing, the second placed rider, Frans Schoubben, was promoted to first place as well. Derijcke was not disqualified because he had won with three minutes advantage so the judges felt he had not profited from illegally crossing the closed rail crossing. 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.
Our programme for today:
Today we’ll go to the start of the race at the Place Saint-Lambert in Liège. After the start, we will view the race at multiple locations on the course.
Monday: a goodbye from Go4Cycling
The trip ends and we head our different ways. Maybe we’ll see you again on another tour. We will have a bus available to shuttle people to the airport during the day.