MonsChimay 01_05_11


Report on the Visit to Mons for the 2011 Mons Chimay Audax.

A summary of the trip from Colin Baldwin. Photos on the Photo Gallery Page.

You will be aware that 'our' club is 'twinned' with Dragons Audax Club, Mons, BELGIUM. The riders representing the club on the trip this year;- Terry SEANOR, Steve GINTY, Peter GAWTHORNE, Geoff LOVELADY, Colin BALDWIN.

I first visted Mons on the inaugural trip in 2000, I recall driving the van there with all the bikes - about 18 including Alec Baxter's penny farthing!! At the beginning of this year rumours were circulating regarding a visit to ride the May day Audax over 50, 150 or 210 kilometres. The above mentioned appeared to be the only ones showing interest, so planning began re accommodation, ferries, transport etc. I had never ridden with panniers before, unlike my experienced companions needless to say I was a little dubious about carrying my world possessions in 2 panniers on the bike.

We departed on THURSDAY 28th April in my car and Terry's van and drove to Hull, where we left the vehicles at a former colleague of Terry's near the Port in order to evade paying parking charges. At 5pm we boarded the ferry for the overnight crossing to Zeebrugge. Once on board we discovered we were all in the same cabin!!, bunk beds and a sofa bed. After a hearty meal, and putting up with Terry's brainteaser we retired to sleep, well sort of as best one can with 5 in a cabin....taking turns for the 'loo' etc....

The following morning after a good breakfast we collected the bikes and rode off, almost falling on the slippy metal boarding plates. Hello Belgium here we come watch out. Pedallling away from the Port towards Bruges Terry had a puncture[quickly mended] whilst the Garmin and map were consulted, a slight detour and we were on our way, Steve setting the pace.Stopped for lunch after about 5 hours riding and topped up the bottles, so far so good, the weather was kind to us. Sometime in the afternoon one of my panniers was slipping so I signalled to slow down and promptly heard a crash behind me, Big Pete had fallen onto the footpath trying to avoid a kerb. Lying prostrate looking up at the sky, he was muttering and moaning but ok, problem is he had a bad fall last year and didn't want another one....onwards and upwards. We eventually arrived at the YMCA about 6pm, a quick change and off to meet the Belgians at the headquarters in a school which was nearby.

We were greeted on arrival with beer/wine/cheese a hearty welcome. After riding 95 miles from the ferry we just wanted to sit down.. As the evening drew on and renewing old acquaintences and plenty of booze, we decided to retire aware that we had a long ride on the Saturday, back to the YMCA and more bunk beds. It was decided to put the 'older' gentlemen together i.e Terry and Geoff and the remaing 3 together. Up at 6.15am on the Saturday we pedalled across to the HQ. ,There were 2,400 riders so you can imagine the organisation involved, we had decided beforehand we would ride together, however, that didn't last long as Steve and I rode off and left Pete, Terry and Geoff lagging behind. At the first checkpoint after a couple of hours it was evident that Pete was not going to complete the ride and he wisely turned back, eventually there is a point in the road when you have to decide to complete to 210k or the lesser distance. Geoff said he couldn't do the big one so I elected[reluctantly] to stay with him while Steve and Terry did the 210k.

On arrival at Chimay[famous for beer] and also a control point amongst other food/drink we drank the famous Chimay beer On the way back to Mons Geoff was struggling a bit so we just took our time to enjoy the scenery [which goes into France] and the roads with a much better surface. Our arrival back at Mons was very welcome about 5pm a long but enjoyable day in the saddle.Terry and Steve arrived back only about an hour later.

Incidentally Terry is now 77 years of age and was the oldest finisher in the 210k ride, one hell of an achievement considering we had ridden 95 miles the previous day. He was awarded a huge bottle of Chimay but said he couldn't carry it....WHAT A WASTE!!!!!!!!!!!. That evening after the ride we were in the town square looking for a restaurant and there are plenty, but we finished up at McDonalds for Big couldn't make it up!!!

We later joined up with our hosts in the local hostelry for more beer/wine. The next day was Sunday and we hadn't intended to ride. Although Steve wanted to, he was outvoted and we were shown to places of interest from the First World War and cemeteries, very interesting and much appreciated, we were then wined and dined by our 'hosts' at a local sailing club to round off the day. As we wanted to leave early on Monday morning the YMCA wouldn't provide breakfast so we were given a loaf, butter and jam to make a 'buttie' to eat as breakfast[not very substantial to say the least ahead of a 95 mile ride]. We were to rise at 6am, but Steve decided to jump out of his top bunk at 3.10am waking up me and Peter and going to the bathroom putting on all the lights having no idea what time it was!!! Steve get a watch/clock.

We departed at 6.45am and very quickly got a bit lost leaving Mons adding a bit onto the journey, added to which we had a stiff headwind to contend with, at some stage Steve managed to get his chain tangled but was eventually sorted and then had a puncture on a descent, don't let anyone tell you Belgium is flat because it's not, certainly lumpy in parts. At one pont we 'overtook' an ANPOST team rider who seemed a bit surpised by our fast moving quintet complete with panniers!!!! We stopped in the town square at Bruges for ice cream, which is a real tourist hot spot and then onto the Port to arrive in good time for the return crossing..... Once on board we soon quaffed the evening meal with a few beers, Terry of course retired to bed at 9pm and left us to it. Left Hull at 9am and were back in Southport for midday.

A good memorable hard riding visit and reccomended to other members. Two of their members are coming here to ride the Bill Bradley event on 25th July, it is in our interest to ensure we give them the same hospitality which they showed to us. In 2015 Mons will be the European Capital of Culture and plans are already in hand to celebrate, which will include cyclists. I hope this report gives some idea of the trip.

Colin Baldwin Posted 25/07/2011

Website Designed by Taylored Web Solutions