Aaaah Belgium, falsely known as ‘The Flat Country’. Despite its nickname popularised by Jacques Brel's song, Belgium is far from being flat when you cycle through it. With this slightly extreme itinerary, I want to introduce you to Wallonia and its beautiful Ardennes area. This region has a nice, hilly terrain and some tough climbs, made famous by cycle races such as the Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour de France.
The Conquest is an ultra-ordinary cycling adventure, a demanding route, which follows one hill after another over more than 450 kilometres (280 mi) to flirt with 8,000 metres (26, 250 ft) of altitude gain – almost as much as Mount Everest! The route takes you through the heart of the Belgian Ardennes, the Famenne and the Condroz. You will have the opportunity to test yourself on all types of climbs, from hills and small passes in the Liege region to the Mosan walls.
The conquest of the Ardennes is part of a climbing triptych called the "D+ challenge". Three very demanding courses, which share the same values of challenging yourself and humility. The first is ‘The 7 Majors’, an epic climb that brings you to the seven legendary passes of the French-Italian Alps. The second is called ‘L'Omomarto’. Starting in Annecy, this challenge covers little-known roads in the Bornes-Aravis massif. And the third one is not in the Pyrenees, nor in another mountain range, but in Belgium, in the heart of the Ardennes.
Even if this challenge is aimed at those who love extreme challenges, I wanted to make it accessible and enjoyable for all cyclists with minimum training. I have therefore divided it into five stages. The best place to begin is in Namur, the capital of Wallonia, which is easily accessible by train. Each stage ends in a small town where you will find accommodation for the night (hotels, gites, campsites, etc.) and food for the next stage. The Tours follow the official route of the Ardennes Conquest with some additional variations. You’ll find epic climbs, peaceful lanes, magnificent viewpoints, historic castles and plenty more quintessential Ardennes highlights.
You’ll notice that each stage name is a reference to a singular element of the route. Thus stage 1, the ‘mise en Jambes’, starts in the commune of Jambes.
As far as practical information is concerned, you’ll find a lot of useful information to prepare your journey, especially concerning accommodation, on this site: walloniabelgiumtourism.co.uk.
Namur is easily accessible by train or car. The Conquest route starts five minutes from the city centre and the train station. To consult the train timetable or book your ticket, here is the official website of the SNCB: belgiantrain.be/en (in English). Please note that in Belgium, you need to buy a ‘bicycle supplement’ ticket in addition to your train ticket. This is a single price per bicycle, whatever your destination.
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: November 16, 2021
This first stage begins at the foot of the citadel of Namur and its monumental sculpture in the shape of a turtle called Searching for Utopia. Your route starts on the Route Merveilleuse (that's its real name!) Which runs along the winding ramparts and offers you superb views over Namur, at the confluence…
For this second stage, the route heads east. The day begins with Thier de Huy, on an average slope of 10.3%. Shortly after you take a small stretch of Ravel, an old railway line rehabilitated into a cycle path, in the magical Hoyoux valley.
On the Condroz plateaus, these are country roads surrounded by…
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"La Doyenne" is how Liège-Bastogne-Liège is nicknamed, because it is the oldest of the cycling races still contested. Together with the Flèche wallonne, they are the classic Belgian Ardennes.
This third stage is inspired by it and follows hills, steep hills, thiers and passes almost without respite. In…
With a ratio of 16 vertical meters per kilometer, the Grande Traversée serves as a recovery stage in this Conquest of the Ardennes. This hook south towards La Roche-en-Ardenne and its feudal castle will not be easy, however. Sometimes gentler slopes, of course, but slopes all the same. Especially since…
There is still one battle to be won: that of the Walls. Cut in jagged teeth, this last stage runs along the Mosan banks with shorter but steeper slopes, while alternating the pleasures with a few more gradual slopes as well. Without going into details: Montagne de La Croix, Gayolle, 7 Meuses, Triple…
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