Wednesday morning arrived, I checked out of the hotel, went to the train station and headed towards Charleroi and the beginning of the Fleche Wallonne.
Upon arriving, I was able to find the staging area for the race and it was very cool to see all of the teams buses parked along the road with the bikes lined up and ready for battle. Many of the riders were hanging around and signing autographs and taking pictures with the fans or simply chilling out on the bus.
Here are some of my favorite pre-race pics, including Alejandro Valverde's saddle, David Millar, Erik Zabel, Carlos Sastre and a few others:
After the start of the race I headed back to the train station for the 45 minute ride to Huy and the finishing climbs.
As could be expected, the scene at the Mur de Huy was electric, there were people scattered all over this tiny little road through a neighborhood, that if it weren't for the Fleche Wallonne, would be completely unknown to all but it's residents.
I made my way up the climb and staked out a location to watch the riders pass. For the first pass I picked the spot I had rested the day day before as it gave a view of two parts of the climb. Once again, the helicopters overhead provided an indication of the arrival of the riders and the fans began to buzz.
For the first pass was uneventful and the second pass saw a lead group of about 20 with a 2 minute lead. Waiting for the third and final pass saw the skies begin to darken, a significant drop in the temperature and rain fall. Also had a nice surprise as the finish of the women's Fleche Wallone came by. You want to talk about some serious pain on the faces of riders, they looked cooked. The final results for the women saw Marianne Vos, the world champion just ahead of Nicole Cooke followed by Judith Arndt rounding out the podium.
About an hour later it was time for the big boys and the fireworks to ensue. I settled into my spot and awaited the telltale sound of helicopters. About an hour later it was there and through the rain, the lead lights of the moto cameras came around the bend followed very closely by Cadel Evans, David Rebellin, Damiano Cuenego, Kim Kirchen and a few others. As they went by my location Cadel surged ahead of the group but was shortly caught and passed by Kirchen who took the win.
One of the cool things was my brief appearance on television as the lead group went by, as evidenced by this screen shot from cycling.tv:
All in all an amazing trip and a great time.
Thanks for reading