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Combining #dadlife with #bikelife can be challenging. When SHIMANO rider @nasraddinetouhami became a parent earlier this year it took some time and effort to (re)find the balance. But he managed to plan a weekend away with one of his cycling buddies and shared his experience.

I gently close our little man's bedroom door behind me in the middle of the night. A few weeks after the birth of our son, I step out of the baby bubble for a while. No changing diapers, preparing bottles or being neurotic about time and schedules. A weekend in the Vosges instead. Enjoy cycling and a few days off and enjoyment comes first.

Welcome to fatherhood

Some weeks ago, our lives changed completely with the arrival of our son Casijn. We have been able to see and hear from friends and family up close what it is like to become parents. There are also 1001 theories that should help you with preparations. The idea is that you know what to expect. Nothing turns out to be less true. The experience of parenthood for yourself is indescribable. The impact it has on your life cannot be underestimated. From one moment to the next you hardly have any more control over your own schedule and everything revolves around your newborn child. It is a lot of responsibility and change. A few weeks later I can say that it is all more than worth it. I wouldn't miss the look in his eyes, his smile and the babbling. It sounds like a cliché, but it is one for a reason!

Balancing act

Of course life goes on. For example, there is a full-time job and a passion for the bicycle. The combination with parenthood requires the right balance. Finding this is not obvious and often also depends on how 'easy' your child is. Good communication, planning and mutual understanding are also crucial. Fortunately, we found this quickly and Casijn appears to be developing in an exemplary manner. This gave me the space to get back on the bike after only one week. This moment for myself is not only an opportunity to stay fit, the mental peace that cycling gives is also very important to me. It gives me the energy to cope with the inevitable reduced sleep. It helps me appreciate fatherhood more and more. To the surprise of my bike mates, less sleep doesn't seem to affect my performance. One after another PR falls as I cherish every moment on the bike.

Out of the baby bubble

But, the blood crawls where it can't go. So the desire for a trip abroad is slowly but surely growing. Also with Ralph Hoffman, a good friend of mine and father of two young daughters. Climbing is our preference and to minimise the impact, one night away from home is the limit. Our eye quickly falls on the Vosges. This low mountain range is a mere 4.5-hour drive and has climbs with more than 1000 altimeters. Sounds like a challenge. The date has been set, routes are mapped out and the home front has been convinced and given the go. The anticipation and especially preparation can begin.

With the long climbs and length of the routes ahead, some preparation is needed. We have a month to hone the condition. Our situation forces us to use time effectively. We do this by alternating low-intensity rides with a focus on altimeters and short rides on high heart rate and power. Fortunately, the trails start almost in my backyard and mountain biking quickly turns into an interval session. Perfect for improving the last percentages. 

De grand depart

It is foggy when I leave the house at 3:15 am on Saturday morning, mother and son are still asleep. I pick up Ralph and we set course for France. At dawn, the first contours of the Vosges appear. The mist provides the dreamed magical autumn edge.

After a short stop at our hotel in Guebwiller, we continue to our start at the foot of the Col de Amic in Soultz-Haut-Rhin. The thermometer reads only 6 degrees celsius and the fog also appears to be persistent. With the knowledge that it can be up to 20 degrees in the sun later in the day, the choice of clothing is essential. In these kinds of situations, I always opt for layers that you can easily put on or take off on the go. A good base layer is a must in both warm and cold conditions, it helps against the cold and absorbs sweat. We also put on an Evolve shirt with short sleeves and arm warmers. To arm ourselves against the worst cold in the morning and the long descents, we also opt for the S-PHYRE wind jacket with short sleeves. We keep the leg muscles warm with the Evolve long pants. What stands out is the velvety soft fabric. The material feels pleasant and is so flexible that the disadvantages of long trousers are almost negated.

Back in time

The first kilometers of the ride take us over undulating terrain to the base of the Grand-Ballon in Wattweiler, watts in a name! The Vosges are not the Alps, but with more than 1000 meters of altitude over 21 kilometers this climb is not much inferior. We make our way up through the dense forest. During the First World War there was a lot of fighting between the French and Germans on the flanks of this mountain. In memory of the bloody battle in which 30,000 soldiers lost their lives, there is an impressive monument on the Hartmannswillerkopf. This is one of the four national monuments to the First World War in France. This strategically located area has a complex history. For example, Alsace has once been annexed by Germany and an attempt has even been made to make the region autonomous. Without success so far, but to this day there are still proponents of this idea who do not hide it. Elsass Frei is still painted on many a wall here.

Top in sight

At 900 meters altitude we roll over the top of Vieil Armand. In the short descent that follows, the tension can be relieved for a while. Forest has made way for meadows, so that the top of the Grand-Ballon is in sight. The last 6 kilometers are still quite steep. With more than 137 kilometers to go, we round our first summit. The Grand Ballon is part of the Routes de Cretes, a 90 kilometers long road over the highest peaks of the Vosges. At more than 1300 meters altitude it is also noticeably colder. The zippers close and arm warmers go up. We descend towards the Markstein, the place to be for winter sports enthusiasts and paragliders. The wind has free rein here, we make ourselves as small as possible. On this hilly terrain, fast sections alternate with calf biters. Driving at a fast pace is not possible here. After 25 kilometers we arrive at the foot of the Hohneck. A dead end side road from the Routes des Cretes, but the hairpin bends and fantastic views atop the 1,364 meters peak make it well worth the extra effort.

Battle scars

At the top of Col de la Schlucht we leave the Routes des Crêtes. The descent to Soultzeren is a race track. In no time we are at the foot of the Col du Wettstein. The fresh wind gives way to a burning sun, the temperature is also significantly higher. Layers appear to be the right clothing choice today. The arm warmers go down, sweat pours out from under the helmet, but we ride up the mountain with a smile from ear to ear, because it is so beautiful here. And here, too, the scars of the First World War are clearly visible. Among other things, Mémorial du Linge, the German cemetery of Hohrod and numerous bunkers symbolize the terrible battle that was waged in this area. We consider it a privilege that we can enjoy the natural beauty in complete freedom today.

Vineyards as far as the eye can see

When entering Niedermorschwir we turn left into a nasty steep agricultural road. The asphalt soon gives way to gravel and forest to vineyards as far as the eye can see. An abrupt transition that is characteristic of this region. The view is breathtaking. We would almost forget the lurking hunger knock. A bakery is quickly found in the enchanting Eguisheim.

Our batteries are half charged again to start the last part of the ride. I’m convinced that we have almost flat terrain up to the Col de Amic. Ralph immediately helps me out of that dream. What awaits us is a hilly terrain that is similar to our training area in South Limburg, known for the Amstel Gold Race. No meter is flat, one calf biter follows another. The legs are filling up faster and faster and recovery is no longer possible. And yet we enjoy this beautiful decor to the fullest.

The last hurdle

In Soultz-Haut-Rhin we ride past the car. As Ralph begins to show symptoms of illness, he makes a wise choice. In the wake he follows me in the car over the last obstacle: the Col de Amic. Dusk makes the forest through which this climb meanders even darker than it already is. With 10 kilometers of climbing to go, it feels like a race against the clock. After all, the goal is to get the setting sun in the picture. Once out of the forest, the reward is there. A beautiful sunset under a threatening cloud cover. In the last bit of daylight I make the most of the descent, because I must and will finish the route. After 7 hours a long day comes to an end. But how we enjoyed it. The heavy backpack with spare material and camera gear didn’t help on this tough route. For now we turn on recovery mode and see what tomorrow brings.


Unfortunately, the night does not go as planned. On the way to the Vosges, neither of us felt very well. The children have had a cold all week and we’re next. With Ralph things go from bad to worse. The nausea is such that little sleep is achieved. Nevertheless, we get out of bed at 06:30 in good spirits. The prospect of sunrise on the Routes des Crêtes is of course very helpful.

The temperature is around the freezing point. The S-PHYRE winter jacket and winter gloves come in handy now. We get on the bike for a panoramic ride. Dawn cautiously makes its appearance. The skies are coloured yellow, orange, blue and purple. Low billowing clouds cover the woods like a blanket. In the distance we see the Black Forest and even the Bernese Oberland peaks above the cloud cover. There is no wind, we feel alone in the world for a while! We wouldn't have wanted to miss this magical moment and it was worth it.

We descend towards the Col de Amic. Sun and fog alternate very quickly with the peak of the Vieil Armand as the highlight (photo sunbeams). One and a half hours on an empty stomach are now on the clock. Time to go to the hotel and join for breakfast. Unfortunately, Ralph's physical condition is still not what it should be. We therefore wisely skip the planned 120 kilometer ride. To be honest, I've also felt better. However, the urge for beautiful autumn images takes over. In addition, I am convinced that fresh air is the best remedy for a cold.

A warm shower and packed car later we are on our way to the Routes Crêtes again. After Markstein I get on my bike and Ralph follows in the car. At Ferme Auberge Breizhousen we stop for coffee. This is one of the many aurberges along the Routes des Crêtes. With a view of Lac de la Lande and the brightly colored forests, we enjoy the sun and the lack of the planned ride is quickly forgotten. After another climb of the Hohneck I bomb down the Schlucht to Lake Xonrupt in record time. A short climb in the surrounding forest takes me to the lake, the final station of this trip. There is no better place to end our mini-trip that feels like a full on holiday.

This trip tastes like more. In the car back home we quickly agree, in spring we will be back for some unfinished business, we will make and find time for that!


  • Distance: 164 kilometers
  • Altimeters: 3422 meters
  • Driving time: 7:00:36 hours
  • Average speed: 23.4 km/h
  • Ballast: photo bag of +/- 10 kg :-)
  • Groupset: Ultegra Di2, DuraAce PowerCrank
  • Gearing: 52x36 (front), 11-28 (rear)

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