Monday, April 20, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
The race on Sunday was the main reason we went to Belgium. Paris-Roubaix, the classic 1-day ride from Paris to Roubaix which is just at the France/Belgium border. Total km 267km (166 miles) and 28 cobble sectors and these are not nice flat, perfectly placed cobbles, these are old, uneven, dirty pavés. The race didn’t start until 11:30 so earlier in the morning Bruce and I drove over to the Arenberg Forest (sector 17) where we decided to see the race (this strech of cobbles is only open to vehicles 1 day of the year, today. This is the most famous spot (other than the finish at the Velodrome in Roubaix). It’s 2km of the worst cobbles of the race and they say it can make the race. There have been people camping here for a week to get their spot and see the race, it’s crazy! It was only 10 minutes from our hotel (we are now in France) and the race was estimated to come through about 3pm, so we decided to get there at noon.
We got a great parking space and headed over to the entertainment/food/beer tents. We got some lunch (brat and fries), some beer and watched the marching band perform (yes you read that right, the marching band). Then the majorettes got on stage and performed to Britney Spears, girls from age 5-17 (classic!), then we decided to walk down the cobble sector and secure our spot. Only 3 hours to wait! At almost exactly 3pm the helicopters showed up, the race official cars went through, the motocycles went through and we knew the riders were close. The TV helicopter is so low it’s easy to know when they are arriving. It was so exciting, there were thousands of people lined on each side of the cobbles and when the riders came through it was nuts. They were going so fast and they were all dirty and jockeying for position and then after the 3 groups (1 lead group and 2 packs following) passed us (only seconds apart) the team cars, which follow the riders came to a halt. There was a big crash about ¼ mile past us, we couldn’t see it but the backup of cars was amazing. So, that was it. We didn’t want to just go back to the hotel or to a pub to watch the rest of the race, so we decided to bust it up to Roubaix to the velodrome to see the finish, we had about 2 hours to make it, so off we went. On the way to the car a guy told us that at sector 13 you can see the riders right off the freeway, so we figured we’d try that. It was so cool. We pulled over, the cobble sector was right next to the freeway, we jumped over the guard rail and onto the cobbles. 20 minutes later the riders went by.
Friday, April 10, 2009
On Saturday the four of us drove over to Geraardsbergen to do some more riding, especially the "muur" a classic 20% grade climb right in the middle of the city. We did that last, spending 2 1/2 hours riding flat along the river, it was really nice. We did a few climbs but nothing like Thursday and Friday. I was sent up the muur first, with the camera. It was hard but not as hard as I thought it was, it is long but you have a couple easy sections to catch your breath, at the very end you cycle by this pub and there were these cyclists cheering me on, I had to make it to the top so I pushed on. Bruce and Steve road up no problem and then turned around and road up it again. It was a super fun day and our last in Belgium.