Cycling in the Ardennes is a passion for rider Fiona Mertens of the Bingoal Sauce Pauwels WB team. She gives us a route made during a preparation course in a holiday home in the Ardennes. This ride in the Semois valley follows three demanding climbs through the hilly landscape. Off we go!
Before you get on your bike, find out what the rider has in store for you.
“This trip starts from the Ardennes-étape holiday home in Petit-Fays. I'm staying there in preparation for the AG Tour de la Semois race. I think it’s the ideal place for those who love nature and tranquillity. In addition, cycling enthusiasts will find endless possibilities for beautiful routes. In terms of height differences, we are spoiled! This region offers gorgeous hilly landscapes that will sometimes push your body to the limit!”
The côte de la Haizette: like a little collar
"At the start, we go in the direction of Bellefontaine, and we immediately start with a light climb. Then it's on to Orchimont, where you can see the bison in the meadows around the Bison Ranch - which also has some great family activities. A slightly winding descent leads us to Vresse-sur-Semois (the start and finish of the AG Tour de la Semois, which will take place on 16 and 17 September 2022). There, we climb the first hill of the circuit, the côte de la Haizette. It is 1.7 km long, at 4.8%. It is a climb that I appreciate because it feels like a mini col. Then, we will go back down to Alle-sur-Semois along the river, to arrive at the foot of the côte de Rochehaut climb (4.6 km at 3.3%). I regularly do exercises on this hill, I know it very well! At the top I often take a refreshment break! It offers a wonderful view.”
Cycling near the Semois: a pleasure
"We go back down to Poupehan to start the third climb of the circuit, which takes us to Corbion (2.6 km at 4.8%). We end up on a flat track (some would say "at last") to reach the small village of Sugny by a long road through the woods that pass through France. We make a small detour via Pussemange, just for the pleasure of climbing a nice little hill that joins the crossroads of a place called La Bonne Idée. Sometimes I go all the way there just to do interval training. I practice, I go up and down, I do this a few times and then I continue my outing.
We then have a few more bumps to conquer before we get home. Afterwards, a long descent takes us to Bohan, where you can stop for a coffee at La Folie Douce, a very nice and original bistro in the centre of the village. This break will surely feel good before starting the last big climb of the course, the côte de Hérissart (3.5 km at 4.9 %), which I also know very well
Final challenge: côte de Hérissart
As an anecdote, during my first participation in the Trophée des Grimpeuses in 2020 - the first UCI race of my life - we arrived at this hill after having done only 10 km and I thought ‘Damn! If it's like this all the way up the hill, I'll never be able to make it to the end.’ I gritted my teeth all the way up and I dropped out at 200 m from the top, impossible to stay with the peloton above and, unfortunately, I never managed to catch up with the peloton. It was already over for me! So I told myself that it wasn't so bad, that I would train for the next year. Objective achieved! I completed the Tour de la Semois GA in 2021! I was happy."
Back on the trail. "Once you have reached the summit, you have about 20 km left, and this will lead you through the villages of Houdremont and Bièvre, before heading back to the holiday home, while passing the village of Monceau. Once arrived, that relaxing moment in the jacuzzi will be well deserved!
Portrait of Fiona Mertens - The 25 year old cyclist lives in Hodremont and studied physical education and sports. She is riding in the Bingoal-WB Ladies team for her second season, participated in the Belgian championships this summer and finished in 3rd place at the Mirabelle Classic Féminine (FR) in 2021.
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