Confessions of a cyclist

John and his first Koga

Since 1982 it is possible for cycling enthusiasts to ride the tour version of Liege Bastogne Liege. Based on the route of the oldest cycling classic, this 235 kilometer tour offers a unique opportunity to defy the Belgian hills. With the famous col de la Redoute as a real challenge!

One of the pioneers of this ride is John Pool In 1983, he and his three older brothers hired a van and took off, filled with anticipation. They went from the Netherlands to the Belgium Ardennes and traveled abroad for the first time in their lives –  ignorant about the challenges they were about to face.

Their mother knitted woolen arm-warmers, because they had been told it could be pretty cold out there. John was very proud of his first bike: a Koga Miyata Gents Touring! He was under the impression that he would teach his older brothers a lesson with this bike. He didn’t think of adjusting his gear though. Back in the days, there weren’t as many options as we have today. There was only one possibility: the double with a combination of 42/53. Only a slight variation was possible with a combination of 42/52 and later also with 39/52 and 39/53.

However, John had his first meeting with steep slopes on a combination of 42/52. On his steel bike and with soaked wool arm-warmers. The first 100 kilometers he was still enjoying the steep percentages, the climbs and fast descents. The brothers were a good match for each other and noticed they caught up with many other participants. After a stop in Bastogne they moved on with good courage. Soon they found out the cols became steeper and steeper.

It was increasingly difficult to keep on pedaling. With every pedal stroke the brakes were pinched. The power they felt before, was totally gone. And what they didn’t know, the worst was yet to come!

They entered the village Remouchamps and crossed a bridge. They resisted the temptation to stop for a bag of Flemish fries and ended up at a viaduct. Riding alongside the provincial road it immediately became clear that this was going to be a serious and painful ascent. Both physically and mentally.

John lost sight of his brothers; every man had to fight for himself now. Every meter the pace decreased. Staying in the saddle was impossible because the front wheel would lose touch with the road, it was too steep! John kept on pushing, but in vain. His speed was too low and he nearly tumbled from his Koga Miyata. Halfway through La Redoute he set foot on the ground, stepped off and was forced to walk further upwards. To this day, he still hasn’t told his brothers the truth.

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