I had every intention of asking for autographs this morning when I arrived at sign on. But then I remembered I was in Belgium and, despite the beautiful sunshine, the cold temperatures and fierce wind quickly changed my mind. My general rule is that if my fingers are too cold to remove and replace the cap to my marker, I don’t ask for signatures. It’s not fair to the riders! Nevertheless, it was a great sign on.
Crelan – Vastgoedserice.
With everyone feeling the cold, it was no surprise that many teams opted to linger in their buses. Leaving the emcee to have to draw out interviews with the early teams to keep the audience entertained. The boys of One Pro Cycling dealt quite well with this, having a laugh as the emcee, upon learning that Yanto Barjer was Welsh, launched into a story by proclaiming, “Oh I had a girl from Wales once…” He went on to comment on the plethora of beards in the team, discussed homesickness, asked which riders were single and looking for a Belgian girlfriend.
I didn’t catch the details as to who this guy was (my Dutch being near nonexistent), but he had several caricatures to present to several riders.
Canadian Ryan Anderson spent time in Belgium during his days with SpiderTech and clearly made an impression on the locals as he was one of the few riders to receive a caricature.
Fortuneo Vital Concept.
Team leader Yauheni Hutarovich spent a moment checking his bike.
Boris Vallee, the lone Belgian on the team, stopped for an interview.
Among the transfers since last season, I’m really excited to see Chris Juul Jensen joining Orica. He’s a dependable rider and, based on quotes, podcasts, and a handful of interactions I’ve had with him, he’s hilarious. I imagine he’s fitting in well with the Aussie squad. So when the emcee started up with his slightly off key humor (maybe it’s a Belgian thing?), Juul Jensen went toe to toe with him, much to the crowd’s delight.
Maarten Wynants multitasks.
A well bundled Tom Devriendt of Wanty Groupe Gobert.
Discussing Greg Van Avermaet’s win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad yesterday.
With Andre Greipel out for the time being with broken ribs, Jens Debusschere was among the cards Lotto Soudal had to play today.
Sprinter Niccolo Bonifazio and young Classics rider Jasper Stuyven.
Alexander Kristoff, second in the 2015 edition of KBK, looking to improve this year.
Sergey Lagutin doesn’t quite get the joke while a teammate laughs.
Elia Viviani was the protected rider for Sky today.
Regardless of his results, Tom Boonen is always well received in Belgium.
Maciej Bodnar and Adam Blythe.
The peloton queued up ahead of the start.
The Jasper Stuyven fan club was out in full force.
A marching band in wool jerseys? Only in Belgium.
The peloton rolls out.
Photos and recap of the final kilometers coming shortly in Part II!