There is no reason, tactical or otherwise, to watch/spectate/attend/support/view/participate-in/take-in Wallonne from any place other than somewhere on Huy. And that’s why Manual For Speed (me) paid some dude named with UCI Moto Credentials (and a driver’s license) 308.00 American dollars to drive me for the day.
“Flèche is my favorite race, it’s all about the Mur de Huy. When everything comes together and you’ve got your momentum going and you hit that climb, you don’t really hear anything in particular, it’s just atmosphere, and everything else except getting to the top of the hill as fast possible becomes irrelevant.”
– DAN MARTIN, TEAM GARMIN-SHARP (4TH PLACE)
Stijn, who does not speak a “whole lot” of English, and who’s day-job is running N°7even Bikes (former sponsors of Marco Polo Cycling Team Donckers Koffie ), was pretty young, kinda reckless, a little prepared and totally awesome. Stijn claimed we’d see the race 11 times plus all three laps up Huy; in actuality we saw the race 7 times plus two laps up Huy, which, after four hours (or whatever) of doing 110km down the back alleys and goat paths of rural Wallonia was plenty. In Europe they limit the number of motos with “full” course privileges to something like three bikes. Full course moto privileges go to the same driver-photographer teams they’ve gone to since the beginning of time. While we were credentialed, we only had secondary course privileges. That meant Stijn and I were allowed to drive on the course ahead of and behind the Peloton but not up through the middle of it, which up through the middle of it is the more common or typical way it’s done, at least in American Races like the TOC, Utah and Colorado. Secondary privileges was mostly fine anyway because Stijn had a semi-sophisticated, quasi-efficient RP (routing plan) in the form of map strapped to his gas tank and a GPS unit mounted to his handlebars.
It felt like storm chasing a spandex herd in pleasant weather.
After the start we raced through Wallonia alternating between the course whenever possible and a vast, amorphous, ever-changing, ever-evolving, sometimes hidden, none-too-specific and sometimes unpaved network of “roads,” in an effort to follow and photograph the race. It felt like storm chasing a spandex herd in pleasant weather. Speaking of pleasant weather, the weather was in fact pleasant—mid 70’s and sunny. For the me the sensation was a little bit like apparating (see Harry Potter) all over Belgium/West Virginia.