VeloVeritas and chums were over at the Belgian season opening Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne Brussels Kuurne semi-classics. Unfortunately the latter was cancelled but we still snapped away – here’s a selection of our favourite images from the weekend.
Vik always gives us stick for attending Het Nieuwsblad; ‘the race has sold out, it’s all glossy marketing!’ and to an extent he’s right.
But when you’re out there in the Flemish Ardennes and the wind is trying to take the skin off your face and there’s ice on the puddles beside the ‘kassein,’ there’s no doubting that this is the real deal.
We drove part of the parcours on Friday on our way up from Charleroi – it’s always good to be back in Flanders and especially good after you’ve been aboard a Ryanair plane.
Despite the sub-zero temperatures and the fact that the race was a day away, the camper vans were out; and the banners aren’t half baked, professionally produced in the 2013 team colours.
That’s real enthusiasm.
At the top of the Molenberg it’s real Heartland, bleak, agricultural with little to break the landscape, except this hard working old windmill.
Vik does have a point though; it’s all very slick now, Johan is selling the race, not riding it and there are VIP tents everywhere – and worse, you cant’s get near a lot of the bikes…
Russell Downing was a little tense before the start, checking and double double checking his position – that’s why he’s a good pro.
He’d end the day in the main group.
Some pros can’t adjust to ‘civilian’ life, one of the top Six Day men of the recent past ended up cleaning offices for a living.
But Big Bert Roesems has taken to his new marketing job with Shimano like a duck to water – a day like this would have suited him down to the ground, he was one hard man on a bike.
‘Who do you expect to win, Bert?’
‘I’m not concerned, as long as he is riding Shimano!’
It’s freezing and windy and maybe the head count is down a little but they’re out to see the great show – and it’s free.
Rider identification was a bit of a problem on Saturday with racing capes to the fore and body numbers not on show.
Geraint looked good early, particularly here on Berendries. He would just miss out on a podium spot, and Chava was as aggressive as ever.
You can almost hear Iljo Keisse wishing he was on a nice warm indoor track somewhere, but as his dad told us; ‘he goes where he’s told!’
Vandenbergh was well back on Berendries but would be at the front when it mattered. Despite his size and demeanour, he’s a really nice guy and always happy to chat.
Boonen regards him very highly – he’s a respected member of the QuickStep and Belgian national squads and it’s nice to see him get some limelight.
The Rodania watches lead car is a feature of most Belgian races, it used to blast out the word ‘Rodania’ endlessly over the PA – the driver must have had ear plugs.
But now it’s the fans who chant, ‘Rodania’ as the car drives past.
Paolini was an unexpected but not unworthy winner.
The African team has hit the ground running with strong rides by Ciolek (he was 11th here) meaning that the invites should keep coming in.
That’s the problem if you’re Pro Continental, there’s no guarantee of a ride in the big races – you have to catch the organisers’ eye.
The African guys don’t enjoy the cold – but it’ll get warmer, eventually.
I wanted to stop the car and go in search of this lady, but Dave wouldn’t have it.
Callum suffered for his art, climbing up the banking at the top of the Eikenberg to get his shots – I haven’t seen them, yet…
Greg Van Avermaet was one of my favourites for the race but put in a monstrous turn on the Molenberg, going into the red and was unable to follow Vandenbergh when the big QuickStep man went on the cobbles of the Paddestraat, soon after – that’s bike racing.
Thor Hushovd has won this race in the past but last year was a disaster for the Norwegian. He won a stage in Haut Var just a week or two ago but was fighting for survival on the Eikenberg, too far down to have any chance of being in the finale.
There are good bars, great frites, the Flanders bike shop, the Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen and beautiful architecture – we love it.
Snow put an end to Kuurne Brussels Kuurne, to the disappointment of Bobby Traksel who won here on a vile day back in 2010.
VeloVeritas amigo, Craig Geater couldn’t hide in the bus like the riders do – and with riders headed all over Europe after KBK, he was a busy boy.
With KBK cancelled, we took a run down to Roubaix, where Dave raced for VC Roubaix, back in the 80’s – unfortunately the café was shut.
It was that kind of day.
It was actually very pretty on the Oude Kwaremont but horribly cold and very slippery – the organisers were right to decide as they did.
Orvelo triple, a speciality of Iljo Keisse’s dad’s bar, De Karper – always a nice way to end a weekend in the Flatlands.