Last Saturday, the Signal the Botrange – with an altitude of 694 meters the highest point in Belgium – was the place to be for cycling enthusiasts that were willing to push their boundaries. ‘BOTReycat 2017’ was on, and it was going to be epic.
BOTReycat – not your average alley cat ride – was organized by the kind people of Bikepacking.be. The concept was rather simple: you get 6 checkpoints to visit and one mandatory stop along the way. The riders had to figure out their own routes and the only catch was that after every two checkpoints you had to return to the Botrange. It’s just that easy. Or is it?
Visit 6 checkpoints and 1 mandatory stop, how hard can that be?
We plotted our three routes (75 km, 31.6 km and 67.7 km) on Ride with GPS, good for an elevation gain of 2.128 meters. As it was the first time that my buddy Bobby and I were going to ride 175 kilometers you would have expected us to be a little bit nervous for this venture. The ‘Flandriens’ we are however, this didn’t scare us one bit. Nor did the climbs or the snow for that matter. That’s right, snow. A certain somebody had been praying for snow and he definitely prayed to all the right gods.
While we were making our way up to the Botrange early morning, we noticed the poor visibility on the main road, a mere 10 meters tops. Then and there it was clear to us that we were not going to start with the planned ‘Route 1’ (75 km) that would take us 15 to 20 some kilometers downhill on the same foggy road. To us it seemed like a good idea to do the shortest route first, mostly on car free roads first.
Little did we know that 31 kilometers would soon turn out to be 40 kilometers and mostly through heavy snow. Somehow we didn’t anticipate the crystal clear fact that all car free roads would be covered with snow. Rookie mistake number one. More than once we got stuck in piles of snow, having to touch ground with our feet.
Long story short, when we arrived at Botrange after having visited two obligatory stops – the Robertville dam and Butchenbach dam – our feet were cold, wet and near numb. Nothing wrong with our legs, but those darn feet called the shots. We hesitatingly decided to forfeit*, but with a promise to come back prepared like never before. See you next year!
* To give you an idea of the rough conditions, only one rider finished the challenge. There’s that!