First thing I had to do when arriving in Dunkirk was to drive up beside a arctic driver and inform him there were people hanging out the back of his truck waving, probably got in the wrong truck I doubt they would seek asylum in France from the UK.
Due to the French workers at Calais being on strike I missed the race I was going to see ‘3 Days De Panne, so opted for a nice ride around some of the Flanders climbs until the Paddestraat got the better of my wrist.
I stayed in a superb studio flat found through Air B&B smack bang in the centre of Sint Peitersplain Gent, the fun fair was in town as per normal for this time of year, but when inside it was so peaceful. Only problem I had with the studio was sitting on a previously broken chair so I collapsed in a heap lucky no one saw it.
On the Friday before attending press conferences I went for a ride up the Schipdonk canal, lovely ride although a bit windy but flat as a pancake with plenty of places to stop for the obligatory coffee and pastry I made it to Dienze before turning around and getting a nice tailwind ride back to Gent.
After seeing Zdenek Stybar arrive at the Omega Pharma Quickstep press conference by helicopter, why ? I don’t know I managed to arrive at the Trek one just as it finished and Cancellara was being filmed by his supporters club declaring that he was Spartacus, who would deny it?
Finally to Cannondale and Mr Sagan, who came across as a very genuine person who just wanted to ride his bike for fun, I think some peoples impression of him may well be wrong.
Driving back to Gent I was stopped by what I could only describe as secret Police some in plan clothes wearing armbands and others in black baseball jackets, a torch was shone in my eyes as I was questioned, it was like a scene out of World War One luckily, I was sent on my way phew!
On the day prior to the Tour of Flanders the idea was to have a nice relaxed ride to Brugge to collect my accreditation, I even went without a helmet on as I would be riding almost all of the ride on cycle paths, well this may well have been a jinx I only made it five minutes down the road when managing to put my front wheel down a tram line resulting in one of the best tram line crash escapes ever! lord knows how I stayed up right all I done was drop my banana…oh and completely wreck my front wheel, but my banana was saved by a nice lady, cars stopped rather than run over my banana, only in Belgium.
I was so determined to use the bike to get to Brugge that I went to Gents most famous bike shop ‘PLUM’ they were only just open and the grumpy but helpful lady took pity on me, I doubt I was the first to succumb to the tram lines…it turned out a new wheel was needed, never mind a lesson learned.
Its a good 40 kilometres to Brugge, a pleasant route but into a headwind the Belgian signage is good most of the time and it helps having massive canals to help you navigate.
There are all kinds of people riding the tow paths from pros being motor paced, groups of children and pensioners in fact it hits home the fact that people don’t cycle in Belgium, they ride bikes as a way of life, it helps that its safe (apart from tram lines) thats the other thing you need to get used to motorists will stop for you, amazing.
Brugge was lovely and sunny bustling with tourists as usual, I still look up to the bell tower and think of the classic film ‘In Brugge’ and have a little laugh to myself, once we searched every church for the piece of cloth with Christ’s blood on it, but gave up and assumed it didn’t exist.
The ride home was wind assisted and a lot quicker, there are so many cycle routes you could ride forever, but I now realise a map is a good idea because the routes are numbered and don’t tell you were they go, although its quite hard to get too lost.
On the Saturday night the quite little studio was filled with the noise from the next door neighbours all night long shout at each other party, and they were still going as I awoke from my disturbed sleep, which was annoying as I planned to make enough noise to wake them.
Race day and back to Brugge, possibly the best bit of the day watching the teams be introduced to the huge crowd worryingly in front of the bell tower.