I woke up this morning to the insistent sound of song birds over the roofs of Brussels. They're quiet now as I try to catch you up with the story of the last few days. We rode our prologue on Friday accompanied by Hennie Kuiper, and Jan Janssen; both of whom still look incredibly fit on and off the bike. We toured the closed course at a leisurely pace; the boys riding a fleet of fun, stylish Vanmoofs for the day and me often just off the front on the A2B Hybrid bike equipped with the camera mount that Phil Wood fabricated so I could shoot them around the entire circuit. It worked well.
We rode to the start via the bike paths and surface streets of the waking city, but the best part was riding into what I thought was a subway station, taking our bikes down the escalator a hundred feet and then riding under the River Meuse in a underground stream of commuting cyclists. An escalator ride on the other side popped us back to the surface where we rode out of the station building, easy as you please.
After the prologue we attended a wonderful team presentation from the lofty heights of the Deloitte tower (the tallest building in Benelux) and there Hennie Kuiper inspired the team with tales of his Tours. Sadly, I could only pick up a little of the emotional thread as he spoke in Dutch but I could see the weight of his words register on the faces of everyone in attendance. He told them to persevere and good things could happen. Prophetic words for all sports.
And then there was football. At 4pm, the entire country stopped to watch the Netherlands play Brazil. We piled into a jam-packed bar (sweat lodge would be a better description) to live and die for ninety minutes in orange. The team got off to a slow start in the first half going down a goal but as you know came roaring back in the second. The place went crazy... I mean totally crazy. HOLLAND, HOLLAND, HOLLAND!!!
Yesterday the team and friends (65 riders in total) rode the 223 kilometres to Brussels. It showered as they crossed into Belgium covering bikes in road grit and making the big group a little nervous. Several riders left some skin on the pavement including a couple of ours, but they wore the damage proudly. Typically, the wet roads spawned a series of flat tires.
Without a driver until Tuesday, I some significant navigational frustrations, so I stayed with the Cycling Dutchman convoy through Belgium, driving Jolmer's big red Mercedes wagon behind Leon in the first support van I wondered if he was actually trying to shake me through Antwerp. Turns out he didn't know I was there for about 30 kilometers. I think I earned my first Tour driving stripe Saturday.
Today I hope we see the yellow arrow signage earlier on the route. Yesterday it didn't appear until the afternoon and it made an enormous difference in following the Tour's labyrinthine track through old towns and newer city streets. If the arrows are out, I can forget about trying to follow my Dutch GPS... she does have a nice voice though.
Out of time now must stop writing to get down to breakfast. It's another 200km to Spa.