Recently we had a photo of Yates on the stones. Two days later, it was the killer photo of Boonen getting down to business. Until then, Frank’s photo from that day was the best photo ever but @Harminator’s shot is better. Tom tosses the squeezed bidon. The glove-less Belgian is already on his own- it’s business time. I’ll be hard pressed not to nominate that as ride of the year and not because a few of us were actually there. The above photo is from the same day, same location, maybe a bit after Tommeke soloed by.
Alex and William are the fixers, enablers, the Mr Wolfe(s) of the spring classics. You want to see Paris-Roubaix at three different locations and two of them have to be the Arenberg Forest and Carrfour de l’Arbe? They can do that. You want to ride two classics courses with support, then watch the same two classics with an ample supply of free beer and food? It’s all in a week’s work. You want to see Museeuw naked? He is right at the top of the stairs.
There really should be more than one article just to praise Pave Cycling Classics. For 2012, they put together an itinerary to give any hardcore cyclist heart palpitations. In cooking up the 2013 Keepers Tour, they paired a museum and dinner out, stirred in three cups of Museeuw and added a slab of Ardennes. Alex and William are the Pavé boys: one French, one Irish, one quiet, one loud. Both are great guys and very strong cyclists. I’m pretty sure they were toying with us that whole week. They were the professional guides: ride well but not too well, look after the slackers (me), and let the stronger ones have their fantasies of greatness.
When we first arrived in Lille I was amused to see that the Pavé business was run out of William’s family apartment, a little like Velominati headquarters, which is loosely based at Frank’s house. William’s mother-in-law, Genevieve, a retired French doctor and an amazing cook, was chef for the git. William, if he stops riding, will be a fat fuck. They have a business concern with a Belgian brewery, hence Malteni Beer. They have wives and employers who let them do this on the side. Did I mention they seem much too happy and young to be in this position?
One thing the Velominati have in common with Alex and William is we are doing all this because we want to share our passion for cycling. I assume they are losing more money than Velominati; passion and profit don’t seem to be good bed-fellows. But maybe that makes it more fun. We came back from a morning museum trip (relax, it was a cycling museum) and Johan Museeuw’s car was parked at the git. Mama Mia, you mean Museeuw is inside our place? We were immediately reduced to giggling teenagers. And Johan Museeuw is a very nice guy! He immediately put on his Velominati t-shirt and was ready to joke, tell us we were too fat, abuse us about The Rules. We all sat down to lunch with him. If he had then answered his ever-ringing phone, bolted for the car and driven away we still would have considered it an amazing Museeuw day but he didn’t. There was lunch, there was a naked Museeuw as he changed into kit, there was a RIDE, and there were beers afterward. We spent an afternoon with Johan Museeuw, all thanks to Alex and William.
I made one big mistake which was to drag my bike to Belgium and back. It’s expensive but more importantly it was a real pain in the ass, with multiple legs and stop-overs. The Pavé’s custom steel Cyfac bikes are perfect for the routes. None of the few flats and mechanicals we experienced were on the Cyfac bikes. Their bikes are well maintained and all running 27mm Vittoria Pavé sew-ups, with some SRAM and some Shimano components.
We all had a long week of memorable experiences but it’s Alex and William who really impressed me the most from this trip. They both have cool sounding full- time jobs in the French bike industry. They are doing these Pavé tours because they are as excitable as we are. Alex has done the L’Eroica Strade Bianche on a 1910 fixed gear beast. He loves cycling in all forms- no rules, no snobbery for him. William, our leader who rode at the front of all our rides is a racer, who looked as good at the end as he did at the start. And he is a lot of fun to travel with, always ready to deliver some abuse with a smile. The two of them kept their humor and patience with this large group of agitators on the road, in the van, and at the dinner table. By their actions they reminded me, it’s the love of cycling that’s really important, not Obeying The Rules.