Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Race Day: Images of the Tour of Flanders 2013

Dawn breaks on the Hooligans
What a way to start a day
Breaking out the bikes
New Day Rising, New Day Rising!!!

That was the song in my head as my brother and I took our seats on the train from Zedeglem to Brugge.  

The sun was just cracking the horizon.

I had received a call from our contact with Trek that the car ride we were hoping for was not to be.

Well thats life.

He did say however that he could get us a VIP pass to sign in and start.  It was a tough decision.  I really wanted to take some good photographs of the race this day, but also realized that access is everything in good photography so I took the offer.

We arrived at Brugge just as the masses did.  It was a really cool site.  People just pouring out from all the streets and buildings, all headed for the main medieval square.  It felt like the Romans heading out to see the Gladiators and it made me realize how Spartacus got his nickname.

Within 2.2 seconds we landed in a group of Cycling Hooligans.  Not sure why I attract the crazies but I seem to have that knack.  Well as much as it has caused me strife in my life, it has also been the cause of great fun as well.

The things they have seen
We met up with Trek and snared a little yellow bracelet to get into the fenced off area where the team cars were parking.  With only one bracelet I walked back to the fence and slid it underneath so my brother could come in with me.

Must have been the general plan because although it was the VIP area, it was totally packed.  If there were 10,000 people outside the fence, there were 5,000 "VIPs" inside.  Wanting to support Trek (as they have been such huge supporters of IMBA) we walked over to the bus to see Cancellera and the rest of the team getting ready for the event.

The Beasts bike. Hayden's pulls during the race should be stuff of legends.
Go to the square!
The rubber that won two races
The excitement was palpable and the vibe was amazing.  It was really great to see just how rabid the fans are for cycling in Belgium.  It brought great clarity to me on a lot of questions I have had on the sport and why there is so much pressure for these racers to dope.

When you see the money, the fame and the power that surrounds these events, you also see the temptation and the pressure.

Unfortunately for Aran and I, that was about all we saw.  I got some nice shots, but the idea of shooting the race was a bust.

We were faced with sneak shots, 10 people back of the Trek team.

We re-grouped after walking about and decided that it was too much to take the train back to the car and try and drive to a spot on the course, maybe first thing in the AM but now it was too late, we had played our cards.

Have fun storming the castle!
To Oudenaarde!

Hats in hand we left the VIP area and wandered down to the square.

Where once again were engaged by the hooligans, only this time they started handing us beers, from a huge duffle bag they were hauling.  Perhaps they sensed our mood?  Not sure but I went immediately from thinking about shooting the race, to shooting what 99% of Belgians do around the race....head to the pub.

Come with us we take you to see the race!!!
Its in a pub, just down here.......
Not your beer snob crowd!
The Belgians react to Boonen's crash......."we will make more"
We clicked right away with this crew.

Must be the fact that we were all drinking Jupiler at 7.30 am!

The hooligans told us that they had a full pub crawl scheduled starting STAT and that we were invited. With all due officialdom as the oldest brother I humbly accepted.

The full crew ended up down a back alley in a small bar.  The waitress was walking around handing out free pastries and shots.

The crew put a hat out and collected 20 Euros a person and took the full pile to the bar and did one mass order effectively saying bring Julipers and shots until the money runs out.  Which they did.

The cheesy Euro-pop was blasting and the beer was flowing when the TV flashed on and the party immediately stopped.

It stopped because Boonen had crashed out.  It was an interesting moment, there was respect and calm for about 1.5 seconds before the cat calls and the excuses started flying.  As well as the money, as it seemed a lot of bets were happening.

I guess in Belgium, your a hero until your not.

Eventually things started getting a little too crazy for us.  Once the pants started dropping and the punches started flying, we decided it was time to look for some lunch.

WW2 Site Belgium
WW 1 Site Belgium (Yper)
WW2 Site Belgium, original Nazi Wire on the North Sea
While we ate lunch I sat and wondered at the history the race course would travel through.  Layers and layers of history.

History of a country that had seen more war than any one place should.

Starting with the medieval wars, to Napolean to WW1 and WW2.  It makes me wonder if those sad times, times that are still right there every day, are not something that steep the cycling culture there.  What an escape to watch these maniacs flying at ludicrous speeds through narrow towns over broken cobble streets, beer in hand while you slap your brothers on the back.

A peaceful ending

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