By Ruben Hoogland If you had to name one thing that makes cycling so special, what would it be? There are all kinds of right answers. The freedom you experience while riding your bike, the equipment that transforms your strength into speed or the beautiful surroundings you discover during a bike ride in the autumn sun. All answers that I can relate to, but for me ‘’connection’’ was the main theme when I explored beautiful Luxembourg with Etxeondo and six fellow adventurers.
That ‘’connection’’ began on Tuesday, Oct. 11, when we received a warm and cordial welcome at Østergaard’s Bikeshop by Jan Erik Østergaard, former cycling pro, in person. It turned out to be the start of two special days in a particularly cycling-friendly Luxembourg. Some of the group had met on bikes before, but we didn’t know each other well. That soon changed as we got on our bikes and, accompanied by a new vista after each hill, took the time to question each other.
Don’t get fooled. Cycling in Luxembourg is not always easy. As you ride through the fields, steep hills loom with some regularity. Climbing percentages of above 20% are no exception. You could plan around this if you want to, but it adds something to the ride you won’t soon forget. Within the context of our trip, autumn also played an important role for me. I have been to Luxembourg before, but through a combination of the autumn colors, the light and certainly the company, the beauty of the landscape came in with a higher intensity than during previous experiences in the ‘’land of the Schlecks’’. We were satisfied from the ride, but before turning to a wonderful night’s sleep at the newly renovated Hôtel Martha Mersch Luxembourg, dinner at A Guddesch Restaurant across the street from the hotel was scheduled. I had the privilege of having Jan from Østergaard’s Bikeshop, whom we had invited to dinner, sit across from me. All evening I was treated to great cycling stories from another time. The time when the “patrons” of the cycling peloton still wielded the scepter and the youngsters only emerged later. It was a nice metaphor for putting my age into perspective, where I would blow out 28 candles the next day.
October 12. My birthday. And not just mine, because Benoît of Andy Schleck Cycles turned out to have his birthday on the same day. After all, that was the whole reason for this joint trip: a Birthday Ride from the magnificent bike store of former Tour winner Andy Schleck. After a magical ‘commute’ in morning dew right through the center of Luxembourg, we were treated to coffee and cake in Andy’s equally hip and practical bikeshop. This was followed by the ‘official start’ of what should be a beautiful and long day on the bike. That an accident is never far away, and that respect for hazards is always required, was demonstrated when after a few mere kilometers the group was startled by a crash. On the descent, there was a backward curve that was difficult to assess. After the first ones were able to brake in time, two people unfortunately quacked against the asphalt. Once recovered from the shock, the damage turned out to be only material. We decided to shorten the route because of the delay and, once again, treat ourselves to delicious coffee and cake at Bloom’s in the center of Luxembourg city. Tip: I believe you will find the best coffee in the country here!
What was special about this whole incident is that it actually further strengthened the mutual connection. You are confronted with an incident and share the responsibility to resolve it adequately. And so it happened. Despite the crash, we made it a great day on the bike. A day with lots of laughter, and even more fun.
Thanks to Visit Luxembourg, Etxeondo and Cycling Destination for the invitation. And special thanks to Østergaard’s Bikeshop and Andy Schleck Cycles for the generous welcome. Thanks to you guys, I am already looking forward to my next visit to Luxembourg.