Foto: Matilda Hedberg Dowdle
One question, and he was firing away. Fabian Cancellara must be one of the easiest to interview on the planet. The man can talk.
Two nights before Ronde van Vlaanderen and the pre-party before the race is on. Some of the great people of Zingem took us to places we would never have found ourselves near the Oude Kwaremont. To be sitting at the table next to the great cycling photographer Graham Watson or the cheif mechanic from the Orica GreenEdge team was great. But greatest of them all were of course our new-found friends from Zingem.
Later that night we drove down to a farm at the bottom of Oude Kwaremont that turns it’s old stable into a great bicycling bar for a coumple of nights every year. Jam-packed with cycling fans and local beer cheap as dirt. The man in the grey sweater told me what he considered to be the most important Belgian word: ”koers!”
Martin Vestby, Directeur Sportif in Team Cramo Go:green and one of the kindest hearts in the pro cycling circus. A good friend to have.
The fans. We were really interested in the fans at this year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen. So we arranged to meet Ivan – a really nice fan of Emma Johansson’s at a local sports bar. A bar that turned out to be filled with classic cycling memorabilia. Really nice to meet you Ivan!
We’re in the enormous beer tent at the finish area of this year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen. One of the guys at the next table see our press vests and walks over to us.
”Hey, take a photo of us. It will be the best photo you have taken at the race this year”, he asks happily.
The amount of beer on their table is somewhat…impressive, so we ask them how many beers they have bought.
Calculating on his fingers one of them replies ”first we bought forty. Then 60. And then 60”.
I ask him how many they are in the group sharing those beers.
”Ten!” he replies, smiling mischievously.
After going flat out down the Kanarieberg descent, a sharp 90 degrees turn at the bottom.
The day before the pro race, 16.000 amateurs take on the tough and challenging Ronde van Vlaanderen course. Paterberg is the last pavé (cobbled) climb of the day. With a 20% maximum grade the climb takes its toll on even the best riders.
After the tought Patersberg climb, a well deserved descent. All that is left now for the amateur riders in the sportif race is the last relatively flat 16 kilometers to the finish on Oudenaarde.
Molenberg. The first pavé climb of the women’s race. Driving up the cobbled climb the undercarriage scrapes against the stones every couple meters. Walking down to find a photo spot it strikes me just how uneven and slippery the cobbles are. A few minutes later the cyclists race up the hill.
Life as a member of the press at a pro cycling race equals full speed ahead from early morning until late at night. Once all batteries are recharged, photos has been backed-up and tomorrow’s maps have been examined – a couple of hours of photo editing in the hotel room. And then a few hours of sleep before an early breakfast and a new day. Love it.
Late at night, the day before the Ronde van Vlaanderen race passes through the village, the people of Zingem honors their favourite rider by painting her name on the road. Emma Johansson, the Swedish pro cyclist, lives in Zingem and the villagers has taken her to their heart. Along the Heirweg road, Swedish flags are hung above the road, turning it into ”Emma street” for one day. But the paint on the road stays on for months.