Yesterday started out spectacularly on the Grote Markt in St. Truiden. But before that could happen, the guys had to do laundry. Then three riders took to the start.
|In the laundromat|
|Grote Markt, St. Truiden|
|Hunter getting ready. He would be the only survivor of the day|
|Matt Lipscomb before the start. He was second in GC, 2 sec back|
|It was hot in the sun|
What followed was not so beautiful. As soon as we rounded the corner, race radio announced the first flat of the day. This was followed by the first crash. All within the neutral zone. It never stopped after that.
When the race hit the open country there was a strong tailwind and the pace was very fast. Then race radio announced a turn into the wind. And then, "waaiers, waaiers," (echelons). I looked at Simon the driver and he looked at me and we both knew mayhem had started.
|A typical Haspengouw farm|
Riders were falling off the pace left and ride and pretty soon, even we (car 29) were zigzagging between dropped riders. Then we found Alistair who was caught behind a crash and had to bridge. We helped him for about 500m until we ran into the US Team car (car 2) on the left, with a mini-pack of riders drafting. All had been involved in the crash or were held up by it. At least 3 US National Team members were behind the car, as well as several others. Here we had to let go of Alistair.
|Our car had live TV and we watched Liege Bastogne Liege on Sunday|
Once we hit the Maas/Meuse river the climbing started. The first climb was very steep, almost like the mur in Huy but a bit shorter. The second one was pretty bad too with lots of exposure at the top. This was followed by some very fast descents, one of which was a totally dark tree-tunnel on a bad road surface. Needless to say, there were more crashes here and many more flats.
A little ways further up the road we saw Erik riding in a small pack with Matt Lipscomb. Many times they would come close to rejoining the main group but it never quite worked for them either.
|Return to Flanders after a stint in Wallonia|
|Pit stop, even the drivers need a break|
Hunter stayed in the pack all the way to finish while the others were pulled at the start of the local circuits. By now, even the best teams had lost riders. Of the 157 that started only 64 finished. Hunter was 43rd. Unfortunately he lost so much time the day before that he ended up last in GC with a gap of 21:16.
|After the finish: Hunter and Erik|