Things that do not suck:
Riding the Flanders course
Watching RVV on the Paterberg
Riding the Roubaix course
Watching P-R on the Carrefour de l'Abre
Throw in some good weather and a great riding companion and it's been a fantastic couple of weeks.
At some point last Spring I decided that I was going to do the Flanders and Roubaix rides and then reward myself by being able to watch the races in person. I knew the rides would be challenging, so I figured I could use the motivation of having some
sucker friend to ride it with me- so I asked Jens what he thought- and he agreed. Once he agreed I started making plans that couldn't be changed. Once I had booked the time off work and was committed to it, I knew Jens wouldn't be able to back out.
Luckily for me, I live in a place where it's not too hard to ride year round. Since I was home quite a bit this Winter and Spring, I was able to do some pretty decent training. I kept wondering what people who live in Sweden do to train in the Winter- and Jens confirmed he wasn't able to do much. I almost felt a twinge of sympathy and regret that I had convinced Jens to do this- knowing it was going to be a challenging ride and that it was going to be hard for him to train. But really, I was just happy to know I'd be in better shape than he would be.
We did our first recon ride of the course on the day before the ride. We hit many of the climbs - only the Kwaremont was blocked, so we had a pretty good day.
Photo's were a bit scarce, but I did manage to get in front of Jens on the Steenbeekdries and grab this shot.
The next day was fantastic. The weather was great, the route was great, Jens didn't die, it was about as close to a perfect day on the bike as I've ever experienced. The one downside was that the Koppenberg was too crowded to ride, but since we'd ridden it the day before, it wasn't that big a deal. Towards the end of the ride it got a little more congested as we started catching the stragglers from the shorter route- which made Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg even more technical- and if the big dude on the mountain bike that I had to nudge to get by is reading this- sorry man, I didn't realize you were going to wobble that much.
Again, there weren't many pics but here's one from the Eikenberg.
During our reconnaissance we decided that the Paterburg was the only place to watch the race from. It was a bit of a walk to get there but well worth it. It's really hard to appreciate how hard the steep part of the Paterberg is, but this picture helps.
First to come by were the women, and if I was worrying whether we had a good viewing spot, this put and end to it.
First Ellen van Dijk
then Emma J chasing
Then I put the camera down and just cheered. It was a good crowd and a fantastic atmosphere on the hill. Before long the men made their first ascent
Paolini and Kristoff
Degenkolb and Burghardt
No judging here.
and we were rather surprised to see Greg van Avermaet so far back
But things changed by the time they made it back around to us.
Van Avermaet trying to leave Vandenbergh behind.
while Sep tries to do the same to Sparticus.
It was a great place to watch the race from, and while it wasn't the Muur in 2010, it was a damn good day.
After riding Flanders, I honestly thought that Roubaix wouldn't be too hard- yeah I really thought that. Jens taught me a saying over the weekend- something like "It's rarely helpful to be an idiot"- I wonder what he meant by that?
Due to other things going on, neither of us did any recon before the ride on Saturday- It was going to be easy anyway...
First cobbled section- Arrenberg, and my water bottle falls out, fuck! This is one of the sections that was timed, and now I have to go back and remove my obstacle (and hydration source) from the middle of the road, so that sucked. Next up Wallers a Helesmes- ok this is better, wait- is that a train? Yep, it is. Let's all just hang out and wait... So it hadn't been going great so far, and next up was Hornaing a Wandignies and I began asking myself a lot of questions- Not quite of the "what am I doing here?" variety, but more of the "Is it possible I underestimated the difficulty of this course?" and "is this fucking section ever going to end?" It did and I changed my outlook a bit. I think the next section is where my bottle cage broke, and about the same time I decided that any path I could find was going to be fair game. The latter is probably the only reason I was able to finish. But finish we did, and while I won't say it was as fun as Flanders (which honestly was a much better organized ride) I found it more rewarding.
This is a typical section of the Carrefour.
I chose this pic because there are people behind me- thus creating the impression that I'm faster than they are.
The next day we watched from the Carrefour, and since you've all stopped reading now anyway, I'll just post the pictures.
Sagan was on us almost before we knew it.
with some pretty fast guys right behind him.
and more fast guys behind them. Vandenbergh was one of the guys riding the stones as if were fresh pavement, these guys were absolutely amazing.
After this group we decided to run back to the bar and watch Terpstra win on a big screen and a couple hundred of our new friends all crammed in to watch it.
I guess the cherry on top of this whole delicious Sunday was sitting next to the BMC team at dinner last night and listening to them talk about the race.
Yep, excellent indeed.