We admit to never having seen the act. Yet this Sunday we are ready to dive in, face first, clothes off, half drunk, reveling in this cycling monument.
We’re American for god-sakes and we’ve come a long way. We’ve seen the Tour de France’s before Lance Armstrong was winning them, we’ve seen Paris Roubaix, we’ve followed the Giro and Vuelta and Tour of California. We can do a dead-on imitation of Phil & Paul.
But honestly, truly, no lie, we’ve never seen television coverage of Flanders and we are so insanely excited it’s a tad embarrassing. We’re stockpiling our Belgian Trappist ales, some Ore Ida frozen fries to act as a pale substitute for the essential Belgian frites and we have doused our body in lighter fluid because we’re about to get crazy.
We are as pumped as one of those geeked up amphetamine freak bike racers in Joe Parkin’s Dog in the Hat. We want Saturday to just not show up so we can get to the main event. We are a bag of goosebumps in search of absolution.
An admission of sorts. We love the whole helligen thing, the ‘babyshead cobbles” — could anything be more descriptive and image laden? We’ve read all the previews, prognostications, bullshit, lame commentary, historical background, rider commentary and general pre-orgasm crapola. We’re turned on and lathered up.
Ladies and gents and slobbering bike race fans, we’ve got an astonishing cast of characters about to hit the stones. Fabian freak of nature Cancellara, reincarnation of Spartacus, Swiss champion, the man who made Boonen look like a lost little boy is lining up with all the power and all the pressure. Yeah the race is his to lose and even Jonathan Vaughters of Snazzy Garment- Cervelo is ready to hire a sniper.
Tom Boonen, fresh from his win at Gent Wevekgem and with every eyeball and desperate hope in Belgium on him, will try to exact revenge on the man who embarrassed him in every bar in the home country. He’s on form, he’s confident, he might just have a shot. And if not, then bring on the cocaine because there’s a nightclub sex binge of disappointment coming on and we hope we’re invited. It’s a tornado either way, right?
Then there’s sand-bagging Philippe Gilbert of the Omega Pharma Druga boys. Aggressive, unafraid, will take risks, itching to grab his first real cobbled classic. He will not sit back and suck wheels and play odds and mark riders. He will attack like a Belgian kamikaze. He will fuck with this race and be the animator and protagonist and chief executor and several other roles he will improvise as needed. We love this muthapedlah. Aside, his wife is smokin’ hot.
You want human interest, tears of empathy, long shot hopes? What about the nicest guy with the biggest jaw in the peloton, George Hincapie at the ripe age of 37 taking perhaps his final shot at Flanders? If George wins, we will immediately go to the Hincapie Sportswear website and buy $200 worth of apparel in BMC technical gear and his casual wear jeans. This is a promise that I expect everyone to hold me to and a celebration I fully intennd to make.
Which reminds us of Big George’s teammate Alessandro Ballan, After two years doing exactly and exspensively squat, he’s back to his rainbow bad-ass form and a guy like Ballan could possibly put it all together in Flanders. A good story to follow. Sure, he’s got a weird facial expression but everybody looks better surrounded by podium girls and spraying champagne.
What about the Norse God of annihilation on hard Belgian stones, Thor Hushovd? He’s got that crazy multi-colored jersey that says he’s somebody special in the world of cycling. He’s an original and a throwback hard man. He doesn’t take shit-frites from anyone and he doesn’t disappear in big races. Plus boss Jonathan Vaughters has promised him a day of clothes shopping with him in New York and a monogrammed argyle vest if he wins.
What about the man with the biggest back tattoo and best wheel sucker Filippo Pozzato? He’s doing his cobblestone tune-up in De Panne or De Pain. Now, we personally love Mr P because for all the criticism he’s endured he still comes across as a genuine guy trying to do his best, riding his own race as he sees fit. Only God and Twisted Spoke Can Judge Me! Agree or disagree but at least he isn’t working a pr angle every time he opens his mouth.
Finally, in all this trembling virgin talk about Flanders, we are also pulling for Juan Antonio Flecha. Because he has a big nose, because he’s a Spaniard who doesn’t dope, because he’s got that cool bow & arrow victory routine, because he’s just a basic, honest, hardworking guy.
So we are counting the hours, minutes and seconds until Flanders. We are reading every web-scrap on the race, we are dialed in and fully committed. This is gonna rock no matter what happens or who wins and frankly it may be difficult to keep our clothes on.
But we’ll do our best.