Belge, Belgique, Belgie, Belgien, Belgica, Ah Bheilg, Belgio, Belgicko, Gwlad Belg, Belgium... The Galactic center of cycling. There are many different ways to say it, in many different languages. Of course, you know by now that I think that is just about the silliest thing ever, as I have ranted against that before. But, basically they all mean the same thing...Friteland! Yep, come for the cycling and the beer, but leave with a belly full of frites and mayonnaise.
My friend Skip Hamilton used to say, "it is a potato, right? How bad can it be for you?" I do not know the answer to that, but I suspect it isn't really relevant. You are in Belgium, you are riding bikes, you are drinking Belgian Beer, why wouldn't you eat frites? duh...
So this years trip to Belgium started out the same as other trips, airports, no sleep, tired as hell when you arrive etc... But once you put down in Belgium, and it is April, it all seems to be alright. You are in the center of the cycling universe after all, in the grandest of months ever. H3, Flanders, Roubaix (I know this is in France, but it has cobbles and it is in April, and I am writing this...), just the 3 greatest races of the year. Specifically, Flanders. But, we will get to that in a bit.
"I am going to eat a pound of frites every day while I am here!"
Our trip started with Amsterdam airport, and a high speed car drive down to Belgium. We had decided after the Brussels bombing, that maybe going through Amsterdam was the right thing to do. Turned out to be a good decision as the airport was still not open. Global politics and religious fanaticism are complicated topics, but no matter what we are all with the people of Belgium when we say that a catastrophe like that will not stop us. Belgium does not deserve this.
We arrived in Brugge at the team hotel, Liz immediately took a nap. I do not know how she does that. If I sleep when I get somewhere, I am screwed for days. No, better to gut it out and stay awake for that day insuring sleep when the night comes. A quick trip to Service Course to sort out bikes and we were all set for the week.
Liz had herself convinced that she was not going to do the Granfondo. But, the day before we went for a little shakedown ride. Dirk said "go out of town, left right left and then find the little roads in the forest." We did that, found the little roads and all and then of course ended up in a place where we did not know where we were. Found our way back, and Liz said, "ok, I will do it..." And there it was.
I got to introduce the new partner level sponsor with the team that day. CA Technologies joins the Trek - Segafredo team as an important sponsor position. They will be providing software to help manage the team and the product development with the team. It will be a great addition.
Long lost kid!
Liz was out on a little run in the forest and posted a picture of a castle in the woods. Tagged with Brugge and thought nothing more of it. A few minutes later, she received a note from Lukas, our former foreign exchange student from Germany, "Are you in Belgium? So am I!" He hoped a train and a few hours later, we were all sitting at our favorite little pub in Brugge eating dinner, having a beer and frites and talking about all the good times we have had around the world together. Wisconsin, Canada, Germany, France and now Belgium. Wowza, the world it is a small place.
This is the 2ndd reason we are in Belgium. Flanders - Granfondo. Okay, maybe the 3rd - oh wait, the 4th. Frites - Beer - Flanders - Granfondo. Yep, something like that. I mean, come on frites are made of potato and fried in oil! How can you top that?
We all headed out together, but Liz peeled off and did the 75k ride. She figured that 75k of climbs and cobbles is enough for her. She made the right choice. Flanders is hard. I just did the 130k ride, and I can tell you that it is enough. I am not sure how pros can do 260k of that. I guess that is why they are pro's and we are not.
Chad Brown from Trek took most of the pictures. He is mister camera. I never have to worry about pictures while riding if I am riding with Chad. Anyway, enjoy.
We all know what happened in the race by now. Of course I am extremely proud to have been with Fabian at 7 of his 13 Flanders races. Also proud to say that for 4 of those he was on the podium. Wow, what a record there. I do not know if it is true, but he must have the most successful record with that race of all time. He is a hero for sure.
Since the crowd was so big during the granfondo, there was too many times that you had to put your foot down on the cobbles to make it up the hill. liz and I both were not satisfied with that so we went out the day after the race to get over the cobble sections on our own. We were mostly successful with that, but I will tell you that it is not easy. A new Domane makes it better, but it is ROUGH and your internal engine will be redlined to get up.
I already cannot wait until next year. Flanders and Belgium in April is the greatest place to be as a cyclist.