Another beautiful day; I like the drive to Kuurne Brussels Kuurne, if the weather is nice.
The fields, the canals, the rows of poplars, the old brick farm houses, counter posed by flat roof modernist houses.
The routine is well rehearsed at Kuurne – check the ‘B’ team car park at the sports centre, then up to the ‘A’ team car park at the start.
It never feels the same at Kuurne now, knowing that the late Flanders boss, Frans Assez won’t pop up – we miss you, Frans.
The smaller teams – and the French – are at the sports centre, the public mingle freely among the team vehicles and riders.
This is at the heart of Belgian cycle sport – except at the big Pro Tour races – the public can see the riders up close, get autographs, touch the five grand bikes and get their pictures taken with their heroes.
It’s “the peoples sport;” the parcours comes past folks front doors – there’s no other sport like it.
I was on Pez duty again, so it was ‘sound bite’ time.
I had a chat with Kurt Bogaerts from AN Post at the sports centre, but kicked myself later because I didn’t ask if I could have a word with Matt Brammeier, who would have been in the camper van; I’d forgotten how chaotic it is at the start and never even saw Matt.
We exchanged emails on Monday and he told me that ‘Rambo’ Eeckhout, ‘the Boss’ as Matt calls him, has been sick with flu since he pulled out of stage one of the Tour of the Algarve and had toiled on the recce run round the Kuurne parcours on the Wednesday prior to the race.
Matt reckons he’ll be back with a vengeance for the Three Days of West Flanders, this weekend.
I hope so, I think there are still a few good rides in a man who represents – along with Bert Roesems – the end of an era; the last of the Flemish Hardmen – “if it snows, we only do three hours.”
Up the big compound I had to flash my press card to get in, security was tighter than last year; but the crowd just mobbed at the gate and fell upon the riders as they emerged.
Very rarely do you see an autograph or photo request refused; the riders know who ultimately pays their wages.
The Katyusha set up draws a lot of attention; I had a chat with Bart Leysens, ex-pro and former spanner man with Lotto – now DS with the Russians.
As well as Bart, Ridley and Robbie McEwen went the wrong way over the Berlin Wall as well.
The Ridley colour scheme at Katyusha is just a little too fussy for me – I’m not a stripes man – but the team is well presented and colourful.
They’ve had a good start to the season, but were nowhere over this weekend – albeit Pozzato hit the deck in the Gent finalé whilst well in the mix.
Marc Sargeant, the Lotto boss still looks in good shape – Dave raced against him, back in the 80’s – and gave me a couple of minutes of his time.
He told me that he couldn’t understand the Rabobank tactics on Saturday – I was glad about that; I thought that maybe I missed something!
There was Alex Rasmussen, resplendent in Saxo Bank strip, the last time I saw him on a road bike was at the Tour of Britain a few years ago as a member of the Danish amateur squad – he’s come a long way.
His six day partner and ‘Riis Cycling’ team mate, Michael Mørkøv is down in Spain, to ride the Tour of Murcia.