And so the journey ends, kinda like it began, with a complete Saxo/Cance smackdown. Major camera issues, so you'll have to get by on iPhone shots for the moment. Have a great Sunday! Time for a brief writeup and some pics...
We made it to the rollout in time, a bright sunny morning an hour north of Paris. Rollouts are never big news, unless you count my malfunctioning camera, but whatever. There was reason for optimism at least as far as conditions were concerned. We parked next to a nice family who confided that they were off to see the second sector of cobbles before Arenberg, our destination, and they didn't mind if we followed them. Ultimately I think we would have done better on our own but the bottom line is that we got there and saw the race.
The secteur was #24 in Quievy, a/k/a Saint-Python (such a great name), fairly rideable cobbles through a dusty area, albeit three sectors totaling almost 8km with only slight pauses. The break rolled through about three minutes ahead of a mellow, if businesslike, peloton. About what you would expect with 150km to go.
Next, we hit upon the highly original idea of stopping by the old Arenberg Forest to view the race. Ahem... 2km of walking later, we were in position, with plenty of time to go. So no regrets, at all. We had heard that the usual suspects were on the front but that crashes had already begun to eliminate some big names. Garmin were particularly scattered around by then. More camera problems, but I got a couple decent shots, enough to give a feel:
Time then for our fourth and last stop. I've already groused about pictures, but whatever, I was able to worm my way down to the infield of the Roubaix Velodrome and watch people take various victory and consolation laps. It's a great way to end a race: we get to watch most of the last km play out in one place, and by we I mean the rather large crowd filling the stands and anyplace else around the perimeter. Much better than what you'd get with just road. It was pretty chilling being there. So much history, in the dilapidated building, the Belgian-National-Squad turquoise paint, and etched into special cobbles in the last 1km stretch up the median of the road outside the velodrome. One for each winner.
I won't totally get into the feeling of being there at the moment, but I am pretty excited that we were able to chase the race and make several stops. We could have made more (six?) if we had chosen spots other than the Forest and the Velodrome, which required long walks. As you're driving up the A23 from Valenciennes, the race seems to be all around you, across empty fields and quiet overpasses, zigzagging back and forth across the highway. In sum, it's a great race to chase. Flanders is a great race to see, but I don't know if you could get anywhere near as much done in a car.