After a numbingly bizarre transition in the hotel, I awoke at 10:17 a.m., grabbed coffee, and hit the shuttle to the venue. The sun had come out as Pierre drove the Nissan diesel van to the venue on wet road. He pointed out to me how poor the bike lane – which would blow away any such thing in America – was by design.
In warm sunshine punctuated by drizzle out of clouds passing off the North Sea, I hit the ground and started to walk the course. With some sleep, my mood had elevated dramatically along with the weather conditions. Within a minute of arrival, I spotted UCI staff I knew. I bumped into American fans, and the entire experience began to bloom wonderfully. Brook Watts, Theo Kindermans and his wife, Katherine Cagle, Matt Howie (sp?), Molly Cameron, and countless other Americans swarmed the press center and course. Photographer Will Matthews and I stumbled about the course infatuated with the riders able to master this course.
The sand of Koksijde defies description. This course is laid out on a military base atop dunes. The only thing the base is used for now is rescuing beachgoers and sinking fishing boats.
The numbers in Koksijde are astounding. Organizers announced the event had sold out at 42,000…..Let me say that again….SOLD OUT.
Here are some more:
These guys have the entire venue hard fenced. That means 18 km of fencing. They ran out of fencing in all of Belgium and had to get more from the Netherlands!
Much of the fencing has been braced by secured side panels set at 90 degrees. They are concerned about crowd control and the fencing actually collapsing.
There are as many tents near the finish line as they had at Tabor and Sankt Wendel…The only difference is that this is just in the finish area. By the pits and the dunes there are four more massive tents such as those.
So with all that, today’s pre-ride was fabulous. There were probably 2,000 people here today just watching that.
For you folks handicapping at home, here’s the rub:
• Sven Nys has not been here for a few days, choosing to forego the public pre-ride
• Klaas Vanternout has been here for five weeks.
• Zdenek Stybar railed the course yesterday doing 15 hot laps.
• Caroline Mani rode today, but was obviously in pain.
• Katerina Nash rode the course for the first time this week…as in, she has never raced here before.
• Japanese riders are wildly popular. And even their fans get dragged into photo shoots and beer parties.
• Jeremy Powers and Zach MacDonald looked fine.
• Tom Meeusen will surprise people.
The pre-ride ended and I went to the rehearsal for the awards ceremony. I’m working with Mark Bollard (sp???). This guy speaks five languages and has announced for 31 years! I feel like a French guy going in to Yankee Stadium to talk a little baseball.
This guy seems nice.
The Louisville folks had their presentation for 2013. They did a nice job. Better, in my opinion, than the prior two I witnessed. I wish them luck.
More to come tomorrow. Thanks for reading.
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