Vive la fléchage jaune. If Stage one was challenging, stage two's navigation was effortless thanks to the Tour and two large white vans that place strategic yellow arrows at every critical junction (and plenty of places in between to eliminate any doubt you're still on course). Barring mischief, it's foolproof. I actually shadowed one of the vans for a few kilometres at the outer limit of the signage before turning back 7k to meet the team for lunch. Huge plate of spaghetti liberally sprinkled with cheese and fresh bread.
The team is the real thing. Clearly they've got the training base to attempt this; as you'll see in the photos they're lean and strong. They look great in their kit and all of the donated gear from Giro, Specialized, Twin Six and Skins has them looking, if not riding like pros (something they're very quick to point out that they're not). And there are some surprises... like Tim Bloemhof who had never ridden a road bike until last December. That's right, never! Sure he's Dutch and always has ridden his bike, but ride the Tour de France on seven months of training. Well, we're a long way from Paris but he's looked great both days and you'd never suspect he was this new to the road. Bravo Tim.
Having been around the easy chemistry of the Rapha Continental boys, I know a good thing when I see it. These guys are terrific together, all of them sharing the work, full of good humor and a healthy respect for the parcours. Only good legs will get them over les alpes and the Pyrénéennes but this kind of camaraderie will take them to the foot of those mountain passes.
On a perfect sunny day they rode through Belgium. Late in the stage we stopped briefly on a forest road at the top of the Col de Stockeu (we were descending it) where a wonderful relief statue to Eddy Merckx stands. He emerges from the living rock. We actually rode down a parallel road into the next town because the local kids were having a soap box race down the hill on the TdF course (and they were flying, these were not wooden crates they were driving but cool little missiles)
The finish in Spa is a long straight shot that would certainly suit a bunch sprint but it may not come to that with the climb and rocket descent into town giving a breakaway or solo rider a great chance at success. Here are a handful of the images on the day.
Today we get a late start on Stage three. We have to meet the mayor of Wanze for a little donation ceremony.