La Ronde Sportif

D1ABB8D1-CBE0-475F-A3CC-A2E1FEF06951The first two riders in the sportif zipped past the campervan at about 9:45, followed by one or two every few minutes. Later on the flow became heavier – there are several different lengths of routes for them, one starting in Antwerp and all ending in Oudenaarde. Colin was told that there were about 16,000 entrants, compared with only 5 or 6,000 at Gent-Wevelgem. The shortest course is 74 km and the longest 230 km.
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Colin had just finished a nice cup of coffee when we saw someone walking towards us – it was none other than our dutch friend from E3 BinckBank and last year’s Tour ITT! He chatted with us for awhile – he’s in one of the campervans just up and around the corner from us and he’d seen our flags. Once again we’re only flying the Lion of Flanders, my Maple Leaf and Colin’s Union Jack (which is actually a wind sock, not a flag). Our friend – still don’t know his name (!) – told us there were actually more like 18,000 riders today.
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After lunch we walked up to the Paterberg along the top road to watch the amateurs struggle up – and struggle they did. At some points there were more people walking their bikes up the cobbles than there were riding up. It was especially good to see the younger riders going for it, and there was a nice percentage of ladies as well.
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The congestion got so bad at times that I was compelled to shout out ‘riders coming! riders coming!’ to get the walkers to move out of their way. It’s difficult enough to lose your momentum when you’re riding uphill, let alone on cobbles. Some of the riders thanked me as they passed, while others cursed the walkers themselves. I’m not sure what nationalities the cursers were but ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’ must be universally understood.
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One fellow did a wheelie in front of us and continued to the top – it wasn’t Peter Sagan, but very impressive strength and bike-handling just the same. After about two and a half hours of cheering and clapping we wandered back to the campervan. Along the way Mo made a couple of friends, which was a bit surprising as they were both females – two little jackies that we guessed were mother and daughter.
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Back at the campervan we got the chairs out and cheered on the riders as they continued to pass. The flags are visible from quite a distance and we’re the only ones on this stretch of road so everyone noticed them. And they all appreciated our cheers and claps – my hands are going to be sore!
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After a nice dinner of pasta and greek salad I was just starting the dishes when there was a knock on the campervan door. I opened it to see a fairly young man in riding gear, and he said something about ‘it’s too bad you won’t be seeing Cancellara tomorrow’ (great swiss rider who retired recently) – he must have seen my red and white flag and mistook it for Switzerland’s.
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He told us he owned the land we’re on, and it’s his house that’s being built just below us. He was perfectly happy that we were there and hadn’t come to kick us off. He chatted with us for a bit, then left – very nice fellow.F92C10F4-429E-4510-BE85-CF03BA3631DD

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