Another early start to the day – we were up and in the van by 6:15am. We hit the road for the Team hotel and when we arrived the team mechanics were in full flight readying the cars, vans, wheels and bikes for the race. The excitement was palpable, and we tried our best to take it all in while not getting in the way.
As we were just about ready to leave the hotel for the start line, a Team Cannondale consigliere approached our group. A couple days prior we’d chatted with him and one of our tour members showed him a cobble that he had acquired. The man laughed at it and said, in very broken English, “That’s not a cobble.” Today he brought us each a real cobble! The family feel within Team Cannondale is incredible, and they really took us in.
After finding a safe spot for our cobbles we loaded into the Cannondale van and headed for Brugge for the grand start of the race. We were granted access to all areas – allowing us to get up close and personal the teams.
Once the riders had all departed their busses we hit the road for the Oude Kwaremont. That’s where we would be stationed with two support staff, ready with wheels and bottles for the riders.
The Kwaremont is a famous climb, and comes at a point in the race where the final selection often happens. Additionally it is climbed three times during the race. As a result of this the area along the cobbled roadway is lined with everything you need for a day at a bike race: beer, food, music, giant tv screens broadcasting the race, games and toilets. It’s a huge set up. We explored the area, enjoyed some beer and frites with mayonnaise, and watched the race pass by. Seeing a bike race is person is not about watching a bike race. It is about the experience. Full stop.
And we’ve had the real Belgian bike race experience with Team Cannondale.
After the race passed our spot for the final time we made a mad dash in the van towards the finish line. Although the streets were completely deserted, we had to settle for watching the race in the van. The distance was too great for us to make it to the finish line before the riders. While we sat in the van watching the final 4km of the race I didn’t see a single person outside – the streets were deserted. Everyone here loves the Ronde.
The only blip on our perfect week was that Peter did not win. The team worked well together but as in life, you can’t win ’em all.
We made our way back to the Team hotel, said goodbye and thanks to many of the support team, and loaded into the van to go for dinner.
The route to get to the restaurant took us on highways, side roads and a few roads that made the cobbles of Roubaix seem smooth!
The restaurant itself was amazing. I feel like I’ve overused that word this week but it’s all true. I ordered a pavé de boeuf. 650 grams if Belgian beef. Wow. Even sitting here hours later I am somewhat amazed that I ate it all. And then I had dessert. Lots of it. We all did.
It was a terrific way to spend our final evening together.