Today’s highlight was VIP access to the start village of the Tour de France. We traveled back to Brussels, received our special wrist bands and were escorted into the controlled area where the riders and teams warm up and sign in. Of course we focused on the Radioshack team, hoping to score an autograph or at least a glimpse of Lance Armstrong. We did even better than that! Lance signed my Livestrong hat, and Steve patted him on the back as he was heading for the start line.
It’s hard to describe what it is like at the start–chaos is probably the most accurate term. We were fighting with hordes of press to get close to the riders for a photo. Dignitaries from all walks of life are wandering around, some with body guards, all making contact with their favorites. Today we saw the US Ambassador to Belgium. Eddy Mercxx, the legendary cyclist, also greeted Lance and we got their picture together. Others in our group saw Ben Stiller, the actor, and got the autograph of a few other famous cyclists including Bernard Hinault.
The start was staged in front of the Grand Palais, which is where the King of Belgium lives. I guess it’s the equivalent to the White House in the US. It’s a massive old building, which you can see in the photos.
Brussels is also filled with other historic buildings and monuments. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to see much. Today was all about the race and that was fine with us!
This afternoon most of the group did a 55km ride but I decided to take the day off and watch the end of the race on TV. It’s been raining off and on since noon, and the ride today is going over pave, which is old cobblestones. When those suckers get wet, it’s even harder to ride. Steve is all over it!!
Tomorrow’s ride will also has pave and it’s expected to be a REALLY challenging day for both our group and the Tour de France peloton.