Gorgeous, sunny day, light winds. Why did I bring all this cold weather gear?
Traditional breakfast is done and we are off to try to get a parking place as close as we got to the forest entrance on Friday when we rode 3 of the cobbled sectors. We are hoping to get there early like we did for Flanders so we beat the crowds and find a perfect spot to view in the forest and hopefully on a huge video screen that is set up. Yes, we are there by 10, the race starts at about 11 and doesn’t get to us until about 2:30. There are vendors, food and merchandise, a stage and music set up in an area that looks like a VIP section but turns out to be for anyone. We find a table and some chairs and look to our left only to see the couple with sat with during the Tour of Flanders race a week ago. How is that possible? They are from Brugge, 2-3 hours away by car. Amazing how things work out sometimes. We aren’t very good at speaking each others language but with sign language as an aid, we make do.
About 45 minutes before the race gets to us, Bushy and I move into the forest and find a spot behind some young kids so we can see over them. The crowd is massive for the entire 2.4 kilometers of this cobbled section. First service cars, then motorbikes and then the lead pack come charging trough the forest at a pace that puts our transit speed to shame. It’s like there are no cobbles, they don’t slow at all for the rough bit. The field is broken apart and we wait for most of it to come through before we move back to the tables and video screen to watch the drama unfold. Our favorite, Tom Boonen racing his last pro race outs in a good effort but ends up in a large second group not able to contest the win. Greg von Avermat, who almost won Flanders, takes today’s win in the fastest Paris Roubaix ever under bright, sunny skies with mid 70 temperatures and light tail winds. Great race to watch and be involved in. The atmosphere and fans are great, definitely hard-core cycling enthusiasts!
Back home and time to take Luci out for dinner as a thank you for all her hospitality. should be interesting, French versus English, trying to piece together conversations. The plan is drive to the central part of Lille where there are more upscale restaurants and shopping, kind of the old world tourist area compared to the really old residential area we are in called Fives (Pronounced like FeeVes, not like 5’s). We eventually find a french cafe with out-door seating that has regional french food that is delicious. Great way to end a phenomenal 3 days in and around Lille.