As promised the blog is back to its original roots- I am back in Belgium and certainly back on the bike!
I have recently read about people doing four and five hours now, in November, so I thought that I wouldn’t talk too much about what I am doing on the bike; after four or five hours with a bike the last thing you want to do is read about bike riding! I will say, however, that I certainly have not been doing such long rides.
At the weekend I travelled north and over the border to Schijndel, north east of Eindhoven; thankfully not in my clapped out screeching Corsa but rather with new team mate Ludivine Herion in her brand new VW. We met up with seven others from my new team – Redsun Cycling Team – and enjoyed 80km under clear blue sunny skies along the best bike paths that you will find in Europe, and probably even the world for that matter.
In Holland the bike truly rules and always takes priority over the car. While riding two-abreast the nine of us were, for the best part, only occupying one half of the ‘fiestpad’. Now there’s a perfect proposition for you frustrated commuters in England (and America!)
After a 45-minute break at ‘home’ I was back on the road travelling towards Deerlijk in possession of two pieces of artwork and an invitation to the ‘supportersfeest’ of Stijn Devolder. Most pros will have such an annual event which will cater for between 250 and 400 supporters (in fact Stijn has two because he has so many fans!)
It may seem a rather strange concept to many sports fans that their idol is so easily accessible- €12 rewarded the supporters with a great two course meal and complementary drink. No, Stijn was not out of reach, he was mingling from start to finish without being mobbed or harassed.
I find this behaviour so refreshing to see and experience, that a professional sportsman or woman is treated like any other person. This may not always be the case at an event when crowds fight to reach the edge of the barrier for a glimpse or possible autograph and the media mobs the athletes like children in a sweet shop.
On such occasions I would be interested to know how many of these battling fans are actually Belgians. Thanks to the Stijn himself I was invited onto the stage for an official signing of the two pieces that I had with me. My rapidly improving Vlaams was put to good use as I proceeded to sell prints and chat about both my cycling and art with the supporters.
I have had a few similar experiences now in Belgium with respected cyclists and each time my understanding of the Belgian cycling culture grows. It is an ongoing lesson worth learning about I think.
All offers welcome for a signed painting of Stijn Devolder winning the Ronde Van Vlaanderen! It’s my turn to give Ludivine a lift to the next team training so I need sufficient funds to get that fan belt sorted, or maybe even buy a VW.