Homeboy: Inside Flanders
Here in Belgium the Tour of Flanders Sunday can be easily be put on par with Palm Sunday or most any other major holiday or religious day. The point was well made as I was driving to the start of the race and over the radio came an announcement about the road closures for the race and message that basically said, “It’s the Tour of Flanders today and most roads in East Flanders will be closed, so avoid this area or stop and enjoy the race.”
Once at the race start I found the rider area and snagged my VIP pass. A special thanks to the ABC – Aitos team doctor, Dr. Dag, who just happens to be the USPS doctor when they are in Belgium, for getting me on the inside. On my way to finding Dr. Dag I hear a very loud air horn and then some very loud chanting. Curious as to the nature of the noise I go to inspect and hear the chorus “N-I-C-O M-A-T-T-A-N, N-I-C-O M-A-T-T-A-N!” It was the Nico Mattan Ultra’s, a rowdy group of partygoers who would rival ANY superbowl fan group. Nico Mattan, who ended up 5th later that day, came out and greeted them all and quickly when back to he preparations as I think he was getting a little embarrassed.
Once inside the rider area I ran into the who’s who of cycling. Last year it was a sensory overload getting to see all of cycling’s top riders, the whole atmosphere of the race and the sheer number of fans who showed up. This year it was a bit different, I looked around and saw all of the different pros, many of which I grew up with photos on my wall, who all of a sudden started to not look like they were quite so illustrious. I look at a lot of the pros and think, “I race a ton of guys who look bigger and faster than them.” It just helped me feel like the level of a pro wasn’t to far off and well within my reach. Anyways, when you see Bradley McGee eating a Twix bar before the race you it starts to shatter the mental image of these health nuts that do nothing but eat sleep and ride. They are human to, well at least some of them.
The highlight of the day would have to be meeting up with the voice of English cycling, Phil Ligget, who true to his reputation is a very friendly guy. He was so friendly in fact that as we talked his companion in acoustic narrative, Paul Sherwin, and two camera men left to go do some filming. Phil looked to his left and was like, “Hey where did they go?” Like I said, a very friendly guy.
By about this time the start was beginning and the team cars were packing up. I headed to the train station, hopped on a train, and spent the rest of my rest day watching movies and the finally of the Tour of Flanders with Julie, my girlfriend.
So the days keep on going by, the races are coming more and more quickly, and I really have to stop and remind myself exactly how great it is to be doing what I am here in Belgium. It is really hard to be a cyclist and Julie’s mom asked me this weekend why I race bikes when it is so very hard. I simply stated that because I enjoy it, even when you are hurting, feeling the pain of lactate acid run it’s torturous path up and down your muscles and your field of vision becomes a bit blurred.
Mathematically it is explained quite easily. Pain = Performance, Performance = The Win, The Win = Happiness.
Therefore; Pain = Happiness. This has been your math lesson for the week, class dismissed and I will see you all next week.