058: Belgium (and France) — Part Two: Paris Roubaix
April 13 2009
I kept running into the Liquigas guys during the days leading up to the race itself. Everyone involved with this team was amazing. Even to the point where they handed me a bottle out of the teamcar as they blew by me on the cobbles on Friday.
Could they tell I was hurting that badly? Or were they just being nice?
So when we got in their way I felt kind of bad about it. But only for a second.
The drive had been all morning to get to our first position in front of the race, so I didn't really know what to expect. Arriving at the destination we hunkered down between everyone else that had been waiting there for presumably, hours. What followed was chaos.
It has a 90 degree turn on it and when everyone (team cars, photo cars, motorcycles and fans) pile into that corner things can get a little hectic. Which is why I was riding with one of the best course drivers in the industry. He's a writer and a photographer and he's been doing it for something like 17 years, lives in France, speaks the language, the whole nine yards. And let me tell you, this guy is amazing.
So, when he leans around to look at me and says—"Keep an eye on the car because we're going to need to get out of here quick and into the race." I listen.
Or at least I thought I was listening. Wait. Did he just say into the race?
Some but not all of the riders had gone through, when I saw him snake between motorcycle photographers and head for the car. I was right behind him, not wanting to be left behind in the middle of nowhere, and at the same time wondering how the hell we were going to get out of there.
As soon as a gap opened up — we were in it. Right into the middle of the race. Our objective was to get out of the meleé sidestep the race, and then through the broken backroads of Northern France beat the race to the next optimal viewing spot. Which we did.
What I didn't realize (maybe dust and excitement had something to do with it) was that really, we're getting into the race here...and when I turned to look at who was honking over my shoulder I realized that it was the Liquigas team car.
I sort of ducked for a moment, hoping that they wouldn't recognize that I, who was now holding them up (not really, as we were flying over cobbles) was the same 'jounalist' who had been having beers with them the night before. Then I realized that there was no way they would recognize me though all the dust that was in the air.
Plus, later that day when I showed them this video..of them honking and swerving all over the place.. they started high-fiving and cheering.
It is 3am here in Paris and I don't want to miss my flight back to the States...