Fleche Wallonne: Superfans, Another Crash, and the Huy
At the team presentation on Tuesday, the day before the race, we were approached by some seriously organized fans. These guys had neat, 1.5″ binders filled with pages and pages of computer paper on which they’d typed out every single rider’s name followed by several blank lines for a signature. We signed. One fan even had photos of Ali that he’d printed out in advance and brought to the presentation specifically for her to sign. Race day stalking was even crazier. There were cameras EVERYWHERE, but no specific “team parking” area. We just pulled off the road and made camp like we would for any other race except we were surrounded by fans with cameras, race organization with cameras, motos with cameras, and a helicopter with a camera flying overhead. It never occurred to me until then how much of my pre-race routine I wouldn’t want documented: changing into my chamois, applying chamois cream, peeing in bushes.
On top of the cameras, people here aren’t afraid to stare. At one point, I had a glob of chamois cream in my hand and was just about to go reaching down my pants when I looked up and realized there was a semi-circle about 8 feet in radius of men with cameras just standing there watching me. I got inside the car.
I talked to one Australian dude who said all he and his wife do is travel around in their RV following the pro peleton. Anyway, we finally got kitted up and made our way over to the start where we did another team presentation and began to stage.
The race kicked off well. I covered some little attacks early on until we hit the climbs. I made it up the first climb okay, but then ended up crashing onto the descent into riders who were already down. Guess that’s what I get for being in the back. This is what I’m looking like:
Some big bruises and and road rash. See the chain ring in my shoulder? At least I get a new helmet out of it!
I took four years of French in highschool, but I’ve forgotten a lot of it because (WOW!) that was five years ago now. After the crash, I sat for awhile and waited for it to start hurting more. I’d gone down HARD. When the pain didn’t come, I took some deep breaths, stood up, and began to look for my bicycle. Just then, a female medic came up to me and began talking to me in French. It must have been the adrenaline because all of a sudden those French lessons came back to me! I was a flippin’ French language expert! I told her I was O.K. and that I wanted to keep going but couldn’t find my bicycle. J’ai perdu ma bicyclette! haha. Past tense and everything!
I got back on my bike and rode to the finish with some girls who’d been dropped. After about ten miles of riding one-handed, I began to regret not getting in the broomwagon; In the end it was worth it to get the chance to ride up the Huy (my teammate Ali prefers to pronounce it Whoeeeeeeeeeeee!). The Huy is a very steep climb, 1.3k at an average of 9.3%, but there’s a turn where it hits well over 20%. Maybe next year.
O.K., time for rubs and food. Tomorrow we race in the Netherlands again. Real quick, a picture for my friends and family. Your presents: