So today was the big day! The pro tour version if yesterday! By cycling terms, our day started late with a 7:45am breakfast followed by going to see the start.
The start area is an amazing place! Spectators, busses & bikes everywhere!!!! After seeing a bit of the rider sign ons, the attractive sight of the clothing stall caught my eye and we went and spent a small amount of money there on stuff. Useful on and off the bike stuff....
Then it was game on! To see riders and rider buses. It's amazing how it varies from big teams with tons of money (like Sky, RadioShack etc to smaller teams) in bus size - from camper vans to massive buses with awenings. There was certainly not a lack of teams either but you could see who the popular teams were by the number of people standing around their busses. One highlight for me was seeing team Agr2 le monde! They are such a cool team cause they are sponsored by Bryton and use the same Bryton as me! I must be using the right device if a pro team uses that device.
We then meandered to the start area to look at the mavic support cars and to get a good spot. And good spot we got! They came zooming past us! Right there. Was awesome.
We then darted to the bus where we were taken to Houssonloge where we stood around for the riders to come past (this point is 30km into the race). After a fair wait the breakaway group flew past us! Yikes those guys fly!!! Then 8mins later the peloton flew by. Then it was an uphill sprint to the bus where we were taken to Manhay (46km into the race) to catch them again - this time we just got the main peloton as we had missed the breakaway.
Point 3 was the town of Houffalize which is 115km into the race but hosts a nasty climb. This time however we had time to chill as the cyclists were only due past us an hour later. So we grabbed lunch and took a slow walk up to the Panzer tank and then to a spot on the climb. This climb is a stunning short and sharp climb!! It's amazing. I would actually love to ride it. The bunch came past us even closer this time! Was so awesome seeing their speed and to be so close to the action!
After that we sprinted back to the buses to go catch the riders at Houfalize to see them go up another big climb. This time it was a section that had a bit of cobbles at a point so we positioned ourselves at the cobbled section and waited. When they came it was so fast and I don't think I could have gotten much closer to the riders had I even tried! (I have included a pic of Alberto Contador from Saxon Bank for you to see.)
After that adrenaline rush we were off to see the riders at Cote de la Redoute, a short but steep climb. If you were watching that day on tv you would have noticed it! A steep climb with a really narrow bit, oh and half of Belgium standing on the sides with motorhomes that had been there for days. The atmosphere at this point was amazing!!!! People cheering and going wild - was like a World Cup atmosphere. You could see where the riders were based on where the chopper was and soon enough they were starting the climb and the spectators started going wild! The riders started coming past us at a speed and once again, they were right by us (as can be seen by the blurred pic of Andy Schleck)! We stayed an extra few seconds at this spot to watch the non climbers battle their way up. The climbs were starting to hurt the riders and only the strong could make this hill look flat. The others had expressions which I am sure are not unlike what we must have had the day before.
With that legendary climb over it was an uphill sprint back to the bus and then a mad dash to the finish line in Ans the crowds there were insane so to get a view one had to get creative... I spotted some kids sitting on the platform of the big spectator screen so we jumped up there and watched from our perch. Once again, the atmosphere was insane - I will upload video when I am back from my trip - and it's hard to describe just how insanely hyped people here are over cycling.
With the blink of an eye, the race was over and we were all jabbering about the race.
The evening ended with us packing bikes for the next part of the adventure and then enjoying a dinner in town where we even enjoyed a local drink called Peke which is a gin type drink that's got a fruity taste - am definitely buying a bottle of that to take home!
This will likely be the last blog post for a few days due to not having wifi from today until Saturday so apologies if I go quiet on Facebook, Twitter and Blog. Am available on SMS though.