Summer vacation 2017
As the Tour de France was supposed to depart from Düsseldorf, Germany, my this year’s vacation plan was a no-brainer.
Instead of enjoying the beaches in Southern France with Luisa and my 14 years old son Philippe, I wanted to follow the Tour de France together with my family.
Saturday Düsseldorf, Sunday Liège in Belgium for the finish of stage 2. Stage 3, Longwy, a nice day in Vittel, afterwards La Planche Des Belles Filles, Troyes, Nuits-Saint-Georges …
As highlight for the end of our vacation on Sunday 9th of July stage 9, Nantua-Chambéry was perfect. Watching the pros climbing the Grand Colombier, what else would you want?
A great plan is a great plan, but only if the family shares the same interests. Cycling, and I knew this, doesn’t excite Luisa and Philippe too much.
Luisa was o.k. with no beaches, but at least she wanted to enjoy sightseeing. Philippe dreamed to visit New York, or at least London, for shopping reasons.
The compromise everybody was o.k. with (well at least Luisa) was to follow the Tour de France on stage two to Belgium and continue with a week of sightseeing in Brussels and Bruges, enjoying Belgian chocolate, craft beer and frites (fries).
This compromise was o.k. for me. At least I was able to watch stage 2 of the Tour in Belgium and wanted to find out if it really was true that Belgians are super fanatic when it comes to road cycling and cyclocross.
So we did.
Tour de France Stage 2 - Climb of Côte d’Olne
The day after the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in Düsseldorf, we left early for Belgium with our camper trailer. We had a reservation at a camp site near Soumagne, close to Côte d’Olne, which was the second climb of Stage 2 of this year’s Tour de France.
When we arrived in the area of Soumagne, we realized that our early depart from Düsseldorf was not early enough. Whichever routing and detour we tried, getting to our camp site was impossible. Belgian police had blocked all traffic on roads crossing the route of the Tour de France already at noon.
Somehow we found a way around the road blockings and all of a sudden we drove on the blocked route of the Tour – not for very long though. We were stopped by a Belgian policeman on a motorcycle and had a difficult conversation with the non-English speaking officer. After some grief we realized that he kindly offered to escort us to the next parking from where we could watch the race.
How cool was that?
We followed the motor cycle, passing the town of Soumagne and up the climb to Côte d’Olne. Like in Düsseldorf supporters were already waiting for the peloton hours in advance.
Directly here I wanted to stop but the police officer drove on. Yet, my concern of being escorted to a remote parking far off the course didn’t come true.
Approaching the top of the climb, the policemen stopped and indicated us to turn right. Close to the intersection local farmers had opened a huge field for parking. 4 EUR for car and trailer, fine for us.
Within minutes we were part of the crowd, still having two to three hours until arrival of the peloton.
Why not having a party with the locals?
Philippe got us some Belgian beer and a coke for himself while I was back to the car, getting some cans of chalk spray – a cycling supporter should always have handy.
I wanted to give John „Dege“ Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Simon Geschke (Sundweb) from the local Frankfurt guilty76 gang, some extra motivation for the climb.
Afterwards I showed it live on Facebook (sorry, German language only).
In total we had to wait for 2.5 hours until the Tour came through. Two sprints, the peloton and some riders in small groups which were minutes behind. Later on TV we learnt that there was a heavy crash just before the climb.
Watching professional cycling in Belgium is big fun
Literally the whole town of Soumagne was at the track cheering up the cyclists. Hours of waiting time, even in rain, didn’t cool their enthusiasm. Watching professional road cycling in Belgium is really big fun! I enjoyed every minute, even the Belgian rain couldn’t stopp the cycling party.
Overall it was such a great experience that even Luisa and Philippe got hooked. Next year, they said, we want to watch more of the Tour de France.
Is this why Belgium is called the "spiritual home of cycling“?
Although the rest of the vacation wasn’t supposed to be dedicated to cycling, I had to find out more about cycling in Belgium, cobbles, cycling beer …
There are some more stories to share.
This week I will be at Eurobike, the world’s largest bike show (way bigger than Interbike), in Friedrichshafen at the Lake Constance, Germany.
Let’s see what’s new. From the rumor mill we learnt that Garmin may launch a successor for the Edge 1000 and maybe a new generation of Vector pedals? Wahoo seems to have something in the pipeline too …
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About the author:
Claude, 52, is a marketing manager from Germany, addicted to cycling. In his free time Claude runs a popular German language cycling blog. He enjoys long distance cycling on his Litespeed T5.