Day 16 / Nov 29

Leuven – Brussels (36km)

21 riders, became 19, became 16. Average speed 12 km/h. Time pedalling 3h

It was always going to be a short distance from Leuven to Brussels but the weather made sure that it felt like a tough one. Rain and strong head wind accompanied us throughout. As a group we have accumulated tiredness, that we mentioned yesterday. The honeymoon fortnight has worn off. So even if a stage wasn´t so long, it wasn´t easy either. Arrival in Brussels was rather weird too.

The first 10k had elevation in the form of rolling hills going through villages. It was rather picturesque scenery that could´ve be beautiful and enjoyable but with the intense wind lashing rain in our faces, we were not able to take it in. [Quick shout out to all those people who told us that the weather would be shitty on this trip: Yes, you were right, aren´t you clever. And no, we don´t wish we´d stayed at home!]

Our group is evolving. One rider decided the night before that they would take the train into Brussels. Two more changed their mind after a couple of kilometres in order to rest injuries, so turned around to catch the train. And halfway though the ride a another group of three left the route in search of a train station to accompany an unwell rider. This breaking down of the group (riders dropping like flies) is something that we are dealing with as best as we can.

We need to stay healthy and safe, and it’s important that everyone listens to his or her own needs so we do our best to provide a safe space where everyone can take the decisions they need but at the same time it feels sad when someone cannot keep going with the group because it feels like somehow we have not been able to take care of each other properly. It’s also a mix of factors influencing us right now between being physically and mentally beat, and also getting sick. Another thing we´re getting stricter on is food hygiene, we´ll be washing hands better before meals to ensure bacteria infections aren´t passed around. Some people have been feeling bad in their stomach and this with many hours of cycling is not a good combination.

Reduced, wet and struggling, we rolled in Brussels. It felt like an oppressive city to enter, particularly around governmental buildings. Apart from occasional tourists, the streets were quiet and under high police and military surveillance. We had to detour from our route to find our way into our accommodation since so many streets were closed. Before arriving to our destination we saw police blocking streets and cycled past soldiers carrying machine guns. A circling helicopter and constant distant sound of sirens didn´t lighten the mood.

This evening in our meeting we were surprised to hear from one of our Swedish riders, Peter, that he would prefer to continue the ride alone. This came out of the blue, but he very articulately explained his reasoning for this and departed on the best of terms.

The good news is that we welcomed our beautiful Petra who will bike with us from today and brings us news from Sweden and tons of fresh energy! Also Jürgen is back!

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