The Dwars door Vlaanderen is the start of Flanders week. Although not a full-on Classic, its popular with the locals, makes full use of the cobbles and bergs that are scattered throughout the area and easily accessible from Calais. Last year ‘G’ Thomas was narrowly beaten into 2nd place following a spectacular sprint, this year with Cav a last minute addition to the squad, I left home at 05:30 with high hopes.
Parking up in Roeselare I swiftly made my way to the Grote Markt that was already packed. The first riders had just started to sign-in and the front of stage and route used by the riders was heaving.
The only thing I don’t like at the ‘Dwars’ is the inability to get near the team buses without a VIP pass. Accessibility to the stars is one of the things that makes this sport so special and I think the organisers have got it wrong at this race. I hung around and watched the riders make their way to the sign-on stage where fortunately all the interviews were being conducted in English.
When Mark Cavendish became World Champion he said he wanted to honour the jersey. Although I can’t help him honour it, I have followed cycling for many many years and have witnessed the evolution of British cycling from just one or two successful riders to Brits not only winning at will but dominating the sport. This year I am determined to attend as many races involving Mark as possible, to cheer-on, support, photograph and just ‘be there’ to see and witness a British rider wearing the ‘Rainbow Bands’ abroad for the first time since 1965.
After the roll-out I jumped back in the car and set off for Waregem where the race would ultimately finish, but not before it had passed through the town twice prior to heading off to the cobbles and climbs. The night before the race I posted on Facebook where and when I intended to watch the race. Unfortunately it appeared that a number of Flanders Farmers had read my post and had other ideas… All day, everywhere I went, I ended up behind a tractor lumbering along at 6mph with no opportunity to overtake..!
I arrived at Waregem at the same time as the riders and watched the peloton flash through from the comfort of my car…
Once the road re-opened I parked up and made my way back to the finishing straight to await the second pass. Whilst I was waiting I bumped into Peter, Tibo and Matties, the family that featured in my 2011 Dwars door Vlaanderen blog. It was good to say hello again. When the riders returned about 30 minutes later the field was still together but stretched out as the riders at the front attempted to break away
After the riders had passed I bade farewell to Peter and pointed the car in the direction of Horebeke where I intended to watch the race at the Haaghoek cobbles. I had an hour and ten minutes to make a journey that TomTom said would take just over 30 minutes. Unfortunately TomTom does not take into account the intentions of the local farmers and as I crawled through Meldon, shouting and swearing at the ancient Massey Ferguson wallowing along in the middle of the road in front of me, a policeman stepped out and indicated that the road was now closed and there was no chance I was going to make the Haaghoek.
All was not lost, it just meant that I would watch the race at Meldon instead. I wandered over to a roundabout that afforded a good view down the road and didn’t have too long to wait before a small break arrived, closely followed by five riders trying to get across, who in turn were closely followed by the main field.
After the last support vehicle had passed I had a decision to make. Initially I had intended to try and watch the race again at a climb before dashing back to Waregem for the finish. As a result of the way the day was unfolding, and the amount of traffic on the road, I decided to give the climb a miss and took a leisurely drive back to Waregem to ensure that I didn’t miss the finish.
As last year, the weather was glorious, 17 degrees according to the car. I parked at Waregem and made my way to the finish. Most of the team buses were parked, as usual, in the road that runs parallel to the finishing straight. This means that spectators are able to watch the race at the barriers and then, by crossing the grass reservation, mingle with the riders as they return to their respective bus. Unfortunately Sky and Rabobank were the only two teams that had parked elsewhere and I found them beyond the finish line.
Fortunately Slarky had left the door open on the Sky bus and I was able to watch the last 50km of the race on their big screen, or I was until the signal was lost with around 10km to go. It was clear that Sky were not going to win this year and it looked like Niki Terpstra’s brave solo attack was going to be successful.
Although Sky were parked beyond the finish line the course passed the area where their bus was parked before making a loop around the town which meant I had a good view of the road with 3km to go. Sure enough Terpstra came through with an unassailable lead. The question was who was going to come second – Sylvain Chavenel or Koen de Kort? -
Some three minutes later Sky led the main field home. Chris Sutton, Luke Rowe, Christian Knees, Salvatore Puccio and Cav came through together and I noticed that Mark had clearly been involved in a crash, the Rainbow Jersey was scuffed and his left elbow was bleeding.
Once the peloton passed through I wandered back to the bus to await the riders return. First back was CJ Sutton followed shortly afterwards by Cav, Puccio and Christian Knees. Cav was not happy. The facial expression said it all and I decided that my copy of ‘Boy Racer’ would probably be better off remaining in my rucksack for another day…
Several minutes later Luke Rowe returned and despite just finishing a gruelling 200 km road race he still took time out to sign autographs and pose for photographs. Good to see Luke.
As I made my way back to the car I had to pass the presentation stage and stopped to see Terpstra, Chavenel and de Kort receive their trophies and applause. Fair play to Omega Pharma-Quick Step who have had a cracking start to the season. To get a 1 – 2 at the start of Flanders week is an impressive result and certainly went down well with the locals’
Despite the difficulties encountered out on the road it had still been a great day’s racing and the Dwars door Vlaanderen remains a race I thoroughly recommend. Next up for me now is my first fully blown Classic of the season – Gent-Wevelgem. Let’s hope Cav’s tumble won’t effect his chances at Gent-Wevelgem, a race he has already stated is a target. One things for sure, I will be on the Kemmelberg cheering on the World Champion and this year, for a change, I won’t be alone… right Bev?