Johan Van Summeren, professional cyclist, hopeless romantic.
You’re in love and spring has sprung in Northern France, it’s Paris-Roubaix, the queen of the classics and you’re flying over the cobblestones.
You hardly feel a thing, not the pain and suffering, the inevitable crash, the dust and bone-breaking stones. You float over the treacherous Forest of Arenberg where Tom Boonen loses two minutes and all hope. You rip across the Carrefour de l’Arbre were dreams of glory die barely feeling a thing except the mad beating of your love struck heart.
Over the cobblestones you roll, a song in your heart. Look at the beautiful wild flowers alongside the roads! You’re practicing your speech — should you get down on one knee — no, after six brutal hours in the saddle and 258 kilometers your legs might cramp. Better propose standing up.
Fabian Cancellara, the Superman, the Swiss gladiator, can’t catch you. Boonen is gone, Pozzato is in the broom wagon, Alessandro Ballan is stuck behind, Chavanel is nursing his wounds and you, you are on your way to the Velodrome of Love.
The Hell of the North is your personal Valentines’s Day, you’re ready to pop the question. She’s waiting there for you, your girl of seven years, Jasmine Vangrieken. She’s been with you through thick and thin and now Hell feels like Heavan.
You’ve picked out the biggest rock a woman has ever received, bigger than the Hope Diamond, bigger than the 62 carat rock Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor. The thing weights over 30 pounds!
You tick down the most dangerous sectors one by one — Quievy, Haveluy, Arenberg, Wallers, Mons-en-Pévèle, Cysoing – Bourghelles, Carrefour de l’Abre — should you stop and get flowers — is there time? No, not with this flat tire.
Here it is, the last ceremonial stretch of cooblestone, the Chemin des Géants — Road of the Giants. You’ve got goosebump, whole body trembling with excitment and determination.
The final right turn and into the roar of the velodrome, the finish line and her arms. You’re both crazy in love as she kisses the sweat and slimy dirt-mud off your face. You pop the question in a scrum of photographers and media.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Yes, you won Paris-Roubaix, you’re engaged, you’re the double happiest man in the world.