One of the great things about Belgium is that it's a) tiny and b) smack dab in the middle of Europe. The UK is close, Germany's only a smidge away, Luxembourg might as well be Belgium, France is right near by and Holland? Holland isn't too far either. So with a day off and only an hour drive to Roermond, how could I not go check out the Eneco ITT? Don't ask Feng Han, he knows nothing
So, after having managed the disaster that is Knooppunt Kerensheide - seriously Ed, is there any spot in Nederlands Limburg where they're not working on the road? And I thought Belgium was bad - I finally made it into Roermond. After a lot of swearing and almost killing a Skil rider who decided to start a training ride in the mother of all traffic jams, I managed to locate the race. The first riders were about to go start, but plenty of them were still warming up, so off to the prep area I went.
You see, ITTs are way more fun than road stages to go watch. The riders all ride on rollers before they hit the course, and you can go watch them all, right in their faces. Which is what I did.
A full flickr set can be found here, a selection of them below. Virtual cookies for the first folks who can identify the two Astana fellows.
Firstly I encountered Jacopo Guarnieri who, knowing that Albertina would get to see this picture, promptly unzipped his jersey.
Matthew Wilson greeted the public to a beautiful smile.
Some of the buses were lined up by the street, but Vacansoleil, Katusha, Garmin, TSV, Quick-Step, Lotto, Veranda's Willems, BMC, Sky, BMC, Liqui and the Shack were all together on the same square. The difference between the big money teams and the average sized squads such as QST and Liqui was very noticeable, lining them up next to squads like TSV and Veranda's was downright cruel.
But at least some of them found it funny. Here's Michael van Staeyen and his soigneur Gunther Van den Bossche checking out the competition, Statler and Waldorf style.
Tyler looked like he was having a good time, despite losing two sprints so far this race. He called over a kid who wanted a picture with him, and was just generally smiling and relaxed.
Guillaume van Keirsbulck was definitely the hottitude discovery of the day. Tasty!
Feng Han is not a very useful teammate if you want info on the ITT you're about to race. Whatever question Mitchell Docker asked him, the answer was always "Eh... ok". "Is it difficult?" "Eh, ok." "Many spectators?" "Eh, ok." "Technical corners?" "Eh, ok." Yes, thank you Feng. That's informative.
After some time at the prep area I decided that maybe I should watch some cyclists actually cycling too. I walked the parcours for a little bit, and found a nice corner at the 1k mark. Here's Mark Renshaw taking it.
And Steve Morabito.
But I have the attention span of a five year old, so that corner got boring after a while. And off I went again. But since I have never been to Roermond, don't have a map nor a GPS nor, you know, a sense of direction, I got a little lost. No worries though, grabbed some lunch on the way and followed the sound of cyclists racing, and voila, there was the race again. And hey, I was a corner away from the start. Ok, that was a good spot too.
Jurgen Roelandts got third on the day.
Geraint on the cobbles, just the way he likes it.
But that too got dull, so back to prep area.Where I ran into some interesting Astana fans. Yes boys, that's girls with bodypaint and bikini's. As they walked on, the Astana soignie gave a sad outcry of "Hey, where are they going?"
As one might imagine, the Rabo bus was very, very crowded, at all times. Parked right next to them were the Euskies. All lonesome, without any spectators. Except for me. Here's Castroviejo for you.
When I got to the square again, there was a lot of commotion around the Lotto bus. That could only mean one thing... Jens Debusschere!
I keed, I keed.
Looks like Phil bought his entire team Icewatches, staff included.
The bus next to this wasn't free of commotion either though, as the owner of this bike had quite a few fans.
That's pretty much when I decided to head home, to avoid rush hour on Kerensheide, but not before a final visit by the Garmin bus.
That's it. Tomorrow, if I wake up in time, I'm going to pay the start and finish town of Genk a visit. 10 minutes by train. I love Belgium.
All pictures by me