Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Barely South of the Border

Not too long ago, nearly a lifetime ago, I took advantage of a work assignment to Paris and visited the beautiful pavés of the north. There, I was shown around by my friend Laurent and his dog Thibal, a local of Lille and very proud to be a Ch'ti.

We saw monuments, and the old citadel of Lille, and fortresses of Vauban, and even had home-made croissant which was amazing. We were on our way to a café for frites, when lo and behold: a bicycle race! We stopped the car immediately.

Secteur Pavés Gilbert Duclosse-Lasalle.

It was not just any bicycle race: it was one for juniors, barely south of the Belgian border, very near Le Quesnoy a fortress built to thwart Flanders, and then to thwart Hainaut, and then to stop the Burgundians, and then keep the French out, and then to oppose the Holy Roman Empire, and then to fight the Austrian, and then to stop the German Empire, and then to slow the Allies, and then to exorcise the Nazis.

A Cyfac was immediately spotted, hiding under Cofidis-MBK paintjob. A gaggle of Belgians, from Belgians teams and from the famed Vélo Club Roubaix-Lille Métropole run by Cyrille Guimard. Deep dish carbon wheels. Downtube shifters. Old Mapei gloves.

Entire families were also spotted. Daddy giving last-minute advice to son and daughter in full-on racing kit. Mommy holding an extra bidon, and that spare jacket the boy or the girl took off just a minute ago. Younger siblings, barely seven years old, holding spare wheels at critical junctures in the race.

And finally, a podium was spotted. Euro dance music blaring, podium girls, and TWO official cars.

Did you get that? An amateur race for junior with a freakin' podium, and podium girls, and TWO official cars.

The start was announced, and off they go.

Whoosh, and to complete the visit Laurent and Thibal took me to Pavés Secteur Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle. "I would feel bad if you were to come all the way here and not see any pavé," he said wisely.

1 comment:

  1. This is how you manufacture future champions!

    Good time! you are right, it feels like yesterday, and yet, it was several years ago...
    Beer, fries, cheese, and 5 degrees in june.. Ah, I miss all of this!