Cycling in the Ardennes, Wallonia

Typical Ardenne Landscape

Introducing Wallonia

To be honest, I’d never heard of Wallonia until I passed a road sign on my way to Liege in 2016 to ride the Liege Bastogne Liege Challenge. I knew that the pro races and the challenge traversed the Ardennes, which I mainly knew because of studying World War 2 at school and I still remember the stories of very fierce fighting that changed the course of the conflict. But I did not know Wallonia. Since then I’ve been to Wallonia three times in total, which is more than the I’ve been to Flanders (twice)! Cycling in Wallonia for me, is really all about the beautiful Ardennes and going to ride the roads of Liege Bastogne Liege and Fleche Wallonne.

Strangely familiar

Back to 2016. After rolling out of Liege at 6.30 am as we started to leave the city behind, we could begin to see what the landscape was like as we progressed to Remouchamps for the first time. Somehow it all started to feel quite familiar. Was it because the landscape was what I remembered from the Band of Brothers TV series? Perhaps a little. But then I soon realised that it felt familiar because it actually feels like riding in the UK. But not anywhere or every time you ride in the UK. You know those rare occasions, the ones where you consciously submit it to memory, where the road surface and the section of road is near perfect and the combination of countryside, trees, sun, light and no traffic all make you realise, why you love riding your bike. This feeling you experience is why you do it! The beautiful part of riding through the Ardennes on a sunny day, is that it feels like that all of the time!

Combine this feeling with the cycling history of some of the biggest one-day races and it’s a perfect cycling destination.

Below is some of the highlights I’ve enjoyed from riding in this region, and not all of them are climbs.

Riding through La Roche-en-Ardenne

Towns and villages in the Forest of Ardennes are very picturesque and one of the best, in my opinion, is La Roche-en-Ardenne. The bonus is that it’s on the LBL route at around mile 50, so you don’t need to find it yourself. When you arrive you might have already been through 3 or 4 towns, but this one stands out for it’s position on the river just poking out of the woods, it has a better selection of older buildings which includes a medieval castle and a Sherman tank in the main small car park. Plus if you are not riding the challenge, it’s less than 20 miles to Houffalize, so there is no excuse for missing out the Cote De St Roch.

La Roche-en-Ardenne

Cote De St Roch

Key Facts: : Distance – 0.8km, Avg Gradient – 12%, Max Gradient – 18%

Cote De St Roch cycling difficulty: 4/5

Ride It: Liege Bastogne Liege Sportive 

If you are riding the full distance 257km option, this is where things start to get serious. The previous 80ish* miles are purely a warm up. If you’ve gone too hard already, this is where you will find out and the prospect of getting to the end with a further 8 or 9 “very steep” climbs and nearly 90 miles remaining will seem impossible. Ideally you will have been soft pedalling all the way to Houffalize and open your taps for the first time once you’ve turned right past the Panther Tank at the bottom of this climb. If you’ve been riding within yourself, this is a climb to be enjoyed and savoured as this is exactly when you’ll realise that you are actually doing this, you are riding La Doyenne (well as close as you can get as a mortal) and you are on one of the most photographed climbs (during a pro race) in Europe. Having been luck enough to ride this in 2016 and then again in 2017, I look back on this climb and think a “Welcome to Wallonia” sign would be very appropriate! As for tackling it, it’s very steep at the bottom and remains that way for more than half it’s distance. It eases slightly after this and them ramps up again for the final pull. Thankfully it’s only 1/2 so it doesn’t last forever, although if I remember rightly it does have an annoying false summit.

*As it was a few years ago since I rode this, the distances have changed, but I guarantee the experience will be exactly the same.

Stoumont to Remouchamps

Key Facts: Distance 20.4km, Avg Gradient -0.9%

Ride It: Strava segment 

I’m not sure this section has been in the Liege Bastogne Liege route for the pro races or the challenge since 2016, but it’s a descent that will always sticks in my mind. I’ve done it twice, once in the challenge and once with my best friend and on both occasion I can’t really remember pedalling but my average speed was 20mph on both occasions. You just seemed to get sucked along by the river, that is always a constant on your left hand side. It’s also memorable because it the anticipation of what is to come. You are getting through the challenge and there isn’t really that far to go compared what you have already completed, but you still need to get over the Redoute and Cote de la Roche-Aux-Faucons, so it’s fun and dread in equal measure.


Cote De La Redoute

Key Facts: Distance – 1.7km, Avg Gradient 9.5%, Max Gradient  20%

La Redoute cycling difficulty: 4/5

Ride It: Liege Bastogne Liege Sportive (All Routes)

La Redoute is one of the iconic climbs of LBL but its probably more to do with it’s position on the race rather it’s beauty.  In the Challenge this climb often features immediately after a feed stop making that second waffle a poor choice. The legs are called into action from the off as the quiet lane climbs around 5% alongside a dual carriageway. After 500m the road turns left and straight up the hillside. The views improve but the pain increases. This is a proper climb at 1.7km long and the 20% ramp fills the already softened up legs with lactic and the lungs send warning messages to the brain. The gradient drop slightly but not enough to recover before a second ramp. The worst is nearly over though and the top is in sight. The legs will still be burning but salvation is at hand. Time for another waffle.

Cote de la Roche-Aux-Faucons

Key Facts: Distance – 1.5km, Avg Gradient – 9.1%, Max Gradient – 13.6%

Cote de la Roche-Aux-Faucons cycling difficulty: 4.5/5

Ride It: Liege Bastogne Liege Sportive (All Routes)

Promoted to the final climb in 2019, from it’s 3rd from the end spot (if you include the final ramp to Ans, which we think you should) This is still the hardest climb on the route. It starts by going over a level crossing and then is immediately steep with constant changes of gradient and there are quite a few corners it’s difficult to figure out where you go next. Once you turn into Rue d’Avister it’s still not over. You must continue up, up, up leaving the houses behind and into a forest. We always find it much more difficult to judge distances when all the trees look the same, so it just feels like it goes on forever. The final summit just never seems to come. Probably explains the expression on the pros in the image below.


Mur de Huy

The Mur de Huy is the key climb of the midweek baby classic the Fleche Wallonne. If you have watched the race on TV, you may be thinking thanks but no thanks as it reduces the peloton to walking speed on the insanely steep bends. The gradient hits 25% at the apex, a great reason to take the corners as wide as possible. Whilst not as famous as some of the other Belgian climbs this is certainly one of the toughest challenges out there and is one of the few climbs to also feature in the Tour de France. If you drive to Wallonia for Liege Bastogne Liege, it’s worth making the slight detour to allow you to tick off this classic climb.

Key Facts: Distance – 1.3km, Avg Gradient – 9.8%, Max Gradient – 25%

Muur de Huy cycling difficulty: 4.5/5

Ride or watch in Wallonia with us.

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