Here Stands a Man: Johan Van Summeren
Here stands a man. A quiet man. A hard working man. A Belgian man. A man from a life of grit, cold, and rain.
Here stands a man who has chosen a life of hard work and sacrifice; a hard life even within the context of Cycling. A man who spends long hours in the wind and in the rain, in the service of his team. A man who despite those long hours in the wind and in the rain, typically tastes victory only upon the tongue of others.
Here stands a man who even today, spent the day in the service of another. A man who’s loyalty lay elsewhere, for another man’s glory. But he is also a man who was given an opportunity. A man who more so than any other today, wanted that opportunity and grabbed hold with both hands, resolving only to let go if the very air within his lungs abandoned him.
Here stands a man who only required air in his lungs – not his tires – in order to reach the velodrome alone. A man who even as the air escaped his tire five kilometers from the finish refused to let up on the pedals.
Here stands a man who despite a half minute lead entering the final two kilometers had me biting my nails since the man chasing at 30 seconds happened to be the fastest man in the world, known for making the impossible possible. A man for whom my legs twitched in sympathy as he circled the velodrome and as I continued to wonder if a Swiss gentleman aboard a brommer wouldn’t appear out of nowhere to steal his glory.
Here stands a man who’s name is forever changed by the words, “Vainqueur de Paris-Roubaix.”
Here stands a man. A quiet man. A hard working man. A Belgian man. A man from a life of grit, cold, and rain. No other man stands today who better represents the wondrous power of this sport in general, and the magic of Paris-Roubaix in particular.