Day One (Cold and bleak proper mans weather)
Well the drive through France into Belgium was to Van Morrison’s ‘Stoned Me’ and as he sang “hope it doesn’t rain all day” It began to chuck it down and as ‘Brand New Day’ came on the sun shone over the Flanders fields. As I approached Gent I thought I would ignore the Sat Nav twice and drive round in circles back and forth across the river.
Eventually after a few choice moves in the Gent traffic I found somewhere to park phew! Its hard to explain to non cycling or classics fans, the feeling you get when this day comes round every year its like that of a child let loose in a sweet shop.
The buzz around these races is amazing, electric, once the team buses have been carefully manoeuvred into place in Sint Pieterslain they are engulfed with fans none more so than the Quickstep and Team Sky buses all hoping to get a glimpse of their idols,
Barriers are set to guide the riders to the stage for signing on and introduction, I’m still a bit awestruck by the riders, non more so than local boy Iljo Keisse (Omega Pharma Quickstep) the unbelievable thing is he recognises me, I can now die happy… I asked him, will you be in the break today Iljo? ” Not in this jersey, no one lets us go “also a quick chat with Luke Rowe ( Team Sky) and the gentle giant, Ian Stannard (Team Sky) such a placid and humble man, I’m not sure he realises how talented he is, he takes modest to a new level.
The main fuss was around Tom Boonen as usual while other riders just come and go Tom is surrounded by journalists asking him pointless and ridiculous questions.
A quick run to the start line where the IAM Cycling boys were lined up on the front of the peloton to pay their respects to team mate Kristof Goddaert who lost his life while out training in Antwerpen.
After the roll out the crowd clear the square for a few hours until the arrival of the women, and who knows when that might happen there still remains a lack of commentary and information during the women’s race.
It so happened that Lizzie Armitstead was in a break of three after initialising the break on one of the climbs , so it was heart in mouth time waiting for them to appear in the square, unfortunately Lizzie had spent so much energy in the break there was nothing left for the sprint, so she had to settle for a commendable third place.
The mens race had fantastic outcome, just when it looked like Nikki Terpsra was going to continue in a break to victory he sat up, apparently waiting for Tom Boonen, who wasn’t there. This highlights the excitement of racing without radios and leaves it all down to the riders instincts, one man who took advantage of that was a friend of Rollapaluza Ian Stannard who broke away with Greg van Avermaet then always looked in control and had the power to outdo the BMC man in the sprint, YES! its great coming to an away match and getting a winner
Day Two Kuurne Brussels Kuurne ( Sunshine)
Headed out to the Kanarieberg the third climb in the race with the hope that i could make it back to the finish, I did make it and with my pass I was able to drive down the empty race route straight to the finish just in time to see the second British win of the week, James Shaw taking the junior race.
In the elite race Omega Pharma Quickstep were not going to make the same mistakes as in Het Nieuwsblad and controlled the break have five riders out of ten including the Prince of Belgium Tom Boonen. It was a close sprint but the person everyone wanted to see win nicked it on the line, Phew! and with the Boonen win everyone left for home on high spirits.
What a weekend and a great precursor for things to come.