Friday, April 17, 2009

Belgium - part 3

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.  

crazy fans!

The marching band

Here they come through the Arenberg Forest!

Flying...through the forest

The Arenberg forest

crash up ahead all the cars stopped

sector 13 - nobody was there

sector 13

Sector 13

Back in the car and up to Roubaix for the finish at the Velodrome.  It was hard to find parking, we actually ended up parking about 4km away but it wasn’t too bad of a walk.  The velodrome has a huge screen where they are showing the race, we walked right up and saw that they were 15km away.  Tom Boonen, Belgian and favorite was in the lead.  When he turned into the velodrome the crowd went crazy.  Super exciting.  We saw 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place come in and then we walked over to where all the team buses are (the guys wanted to see the mechanics washing the bikes, seriously).  Then we went into the velodrome pub and who comes in but Tom Boonen.  Bruce got to pat him on the back!  Great race, great day.  We saw 3 sectors which is pretty much unheard of, it was amazing.  

heading through Roubaix to the Velodrome

the Velodrome, was packed...thank goodness for the big screen

the boys loved to watch the mechanics wash the dirty bikes

long hard day at the office

one of the team buses

we were in the right's Tom Boonen the winner

he walked right past us.

This will be my last bike race post (until the Giro d'italia, which is in Italy).  Sorry for boring most of you with this but it's our passion.  Appreciate you sticking with me during the last 3 posts.  Back to regular scheduled programming.


Cindy said...

Not boring. Exhausting! I enjoy your compassion for this sport.

La Belette Rouge said...

Passion is never boring.I love learning about other's passion. I am still holding out for hearing about Belgian food.

La Framéricaine said...

I think that it is delightful that you both are so enthusiastic about biking. It is a wonderful passion that allows you to get out and see the world following a golden thread! Not to mention being healthy as all get out!

It's also really nice that your passion allows you to meet new people and make friends from all over the world.

My dream is to travel all over the world speaking French with people who are speaking it outside of France!

And to travel all over the world meeting people who carve limestone! They're everywhere!

I'll read ya later!

Randal Graves said...

What LBR said. Of course, being a red-blooded American commoner, it's very strange to see Europe go nuts for a bike race. ;-)

Becky said...

Ooh, Italy! I can't wait to see pictures from Italy. :)

Rowena... said...

I think people without a passion are missing out on life, or at least what it could possibly be if they'd just let go and live a little. I feel the same way about hiking--no matter how tired we are after a long day, it just feels good to know that we made the effort to get to the top and touch the sky!

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

cindy - thanks...sometimes I think that always talking about biking gets a big boring. Sorry about the delay with the rooster. We are trying to find the right size box and just can't. Of course they don't have "box stores" here in france.

LBR - ah that's right...the food. Sorry. I'll write something up and post about the food.

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

LF - Mr. LF would love carving in all the limestone around us here. Maybe you should buy a house down here with your own limestone wall.

Randall - it's crazy how nuts they are about cycling, maybe that's why we fit in so well here. We still don't know what's in store for us...the tour de france is going to be even crazier, especially with Lance Armstrong riding again.

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Becky - I'm waiting to Italy too.....

R - you got it girl. Nothing better than getting to the top and seeing where you came from.

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