Omloop Het Volk & Kuurne Brussel Kuurne 2008 – Day 3
Sunday dawned bright and clear and it was three refreshed men who headed for Kuurne.: This was bike skeking taken to a new level; two-and-a-half hours of it, and it wasn't enough.
Batavus are an old favourite of ours and their 'Professional X' is cool, matt black against a tide of white this year.
We do like those Silence-Lotto Ridleys, the Basso's of Jartazi are just a tad 'blingey' for us, but we like the CA Looks, the AG2R BH's and the F des J Lapierres.
I had a good blether with Alan Buttler, the Astana mechanic, he's moved across from Disco with Mr. Bruyneel; "It's great, we can't do much racing, thanks to ASO, but it's a sound set-up."
I'm not a Trek man, but I liked last years colour scheme, this years? Well... I do like the SRAM 'Red' groupset though - different.
We had a moment with ex-British champion, Jeremy Hunt of CA, he's a nice guy and still carries his Devon brogue, it's hard to believe he's been a pro since 1996.
'Find' of the day was the Shimano electronic gears to one of the Skil-Shimano Kogas and one of the Rabobank Colnagos; there'll be a feature on Pez this week.
The start at Kuurne is always chaotic and this year was no exception, despite the best efforts of the stewards, the crowd always seem to infiltrate the bunch and the oom-pah band have to be restrained from launching before the riders - it's great!
Frites, Jupiler, rice cake and then skek the junior race - which was proceding at what looked liked pro speed; then head for the hills.
The top of the Kwaremont is a good spot, you can see the race three times, well - one of the three is actually at the top of the Cote de Trieu, which is only a five minute walk away.
The cobbles on the Kwaremont need to be seen to be appreciated and when a guy like Devolder blasts past you in the big ring, it really is impressive. He was still at the front over the Trieu, if you were with him then you were still in the race, if not - it was all over.
We grabbed a bar for the finalé, pils and coffee this time. If you love the chess game that is pro racing, then you would have loved this one - QuickStep at their best, wonderful. For the second year running, they salvaged a disastrous Het Volk with a consumate lesson in professional cycling team tactics on the Sunday at Kuurne.
Last year, big Gert Steegmans delivered Boonen to the line in an armchair, 'The Tornado' could hardly help but win.
This year, they put seven in the break, worked like bears to drive it clear without asking or expecting help, and at the end, just when the sprinters who had been unpaying passengers on the train were tightening their velcro straps, they allowed young Rabobank Dutchman Sebastian Langeveld go clear - but with their own Dutchman, Steven de Jongh (who won here in 2004) riding shotgun.
At the death, the wily old fox de Jongh was lengths clear, to give Patrick Lefevre something to smile about.
We would have loved a Boonen, Devolder or Steegmans win, but it was still a joy to watch QuickStep at their brilliant best.
Gilbert was a classy, convincing winner on the Saturday, he's a French speaker, so we can't indulge in the pagan idolatory we would reserve for a Fleming - but a great ride, nonethless.
Last item on the agenda was a drive down to Brabant and a meet with former British elite champion. To say his house is, "in the sticks" doesn't do it justice.
He's a focussed, dedicated man and he looks you straight in the eye as he answers your questions.
The full interview will be on Pez soon, but meantime, we wish the Mancunian all the best for 2008; the British press have neglected him, hopefully we can help change that.
We left Hamish and his partner Emma, and headed west, off down those long straights to Charleroi, an Ibis Hotel, Ryanair and snow on the M77 - ah well, soon be the Primavera!
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