The Lion of Flanders
So much has been happening this week I barely have time to tell you about it. Riding, watching races, taking photos, and drinking and eating enough Belgian beer and chocolate to bring the Euro back on track…it’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it. The only think I feel like we’re missing is the Track World Championships in Melbourne, but heck, they’re even showing that on TV here…
Yesterday we visited Tyne Cot Cemetery which was a sombre sight to see. It would be a shame to come all the way to Belgium and not pay our respects and learn more about the area we’re visiting. It’s the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world and is the most important reminders of the bloody battle of Passchendaele. During the British offensive of 1917 tens of thousands of soldiers died here in a period of 100 days for a gain of only eight kilometers. The cemetery is an incredible display of appreciation and gratitude dedicated by the Belgian people to the thousands of Allied troops who fought and died. I did not comprehend how powerful of an experience visiting this area would be before coming here.
From Tyne Cot Cemetery we lightened up the day by riding the interesting parts of the Gent Wevelgem course. The highlight of the day was bumping into the Velominati crew who were towing along who else but Johan Museeuw! You gotta be kidding me! I was taken back by meeting the Keepers of the Cog but getting to shake hands with The Lion of Flanders was something else. We had an instant bond. I’m not sure if it was the mutual respect that naturally comes between two legends of the sport or the Rapha jersey that he wanted off my back, but there was definitely a spark. I allowed one picture and one autograph and I had to get moving, but it’s a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life. After our departure I promptly consulted “The Rules” to see which ones I was in violation of, and more importantly, which ones Museeuw was breaking and re-writing.
Today we chased the 100 year old Semi-Classic Scheldeprijs around the countryside of Antwerp province and settled into a nice Belgian pub to watch the final 100kms. The race started and finished in the beautiful city of Antwerp where the peloton came past our pub four times before the finish. What a way to watch a race! Marcel Kittle won over Tyler Ferrar and Theo Bos in a small bunch kick after the bunch got split to pieces with gaps and crashes on the slick wet cobbles (see full race results here). It’s amazing to be in amongst the most important bike racing week in a nation where cycling is one of the biggest sports and everyone is following it and so knowledgable. Belgium is a very special place for a cyclist.