Gent-Wevelgem and the Belgian holy week

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Hello from Oudenaarde and welcome to Belgian holy week! On Thursday I flew to Belgium ahead of Gent-Wevelgem. As a cycling fan I’ve followed these races for years, but have never been here to experience them in person.

My discovery started soon after getting to our house for the week. I learned that the Koppenberg is just 2km up the road from here. I threw my camera over my shoulder, grabbed a bike and headed down the road. Pedalling into the wind, I followed the paved bike path that used to be railroad tracks. On my left I saw the hill of the Koppenberg looming. At a small intersection I turned left onto the cobbles. After passing a few houses, the road went steep quickly.

Carrying a camera on my back and wearing jeans and running shoes, I managed to get about 1/4 way up until I surrendered and started to walk. I laughed to myself and was a bit embarrassed to be walking with a lovely team issue Colnago, but so happy to be there and soak it in. Crowd barricades were already dropped off on the side of the hill. I gazed at the cement posts with rows of barbed wire that line the edges of the fields, and sat on the bench and watched the town below.

Koppenberg

 

I got right down on the cobbles and did some filming at dusk. A few cyclists were out for an evening spin, so I took advantage of the scene.  The result was this little 8-second video. I didn’t at all expect such a response from this tiny clip, but a lot of epic shit has gone down on the Koppenberg, and of course on all the bergs around Oudenaarde. These cobbles, and this place is indeed holy for cyclists. This was something I didn’t truly understand until being here.

 

 

Friday was Gent-Wevelgem course recon day. Rolling through the narrow roads of the Belgian countryside, you also see frequent reminders of the other bigger battles that have taken place here. Cemeteries from WWI with countless rows of small plain white headstones are found all over this region. It does give a bit of perspective next to the sport of bike racing.

The next two days were filming, interviewing, editing. Interviewing Audrey, Elisa and Jolien all together made for fun dialog. It was interesting to see what this week means to each of them in the recon video. This is something I hope to dive into a bit deeper also this week.

Raceday filming was a bit lacking in terms of footage. There were seven races on the same day, so course movement was fairly limited. After filming three of the local laps at the starting town of Ieper, we headed out on course. The Kemmelberg was already closed to traffic ahead of the men’s races, so we went straight to the Monteberg, then back to the finish in Wevelgem. We arrived quite early back to the finish line. But it was better to get back early rather than risk getting stuck out somewhere due to road closures.

Here is the final race video.

 

For my liking, it is too heavy on dialog and doesn’t have enough action or b-roll, but that’s how the day went. I need to find ways to make these videos fresh, and not show the same type of footage at every race. (Yes, a bit self-critical on this one)

The super close photo finish sprint was exciting. There were a few moments at the back of the finish line when no one knew if Jolien had won or not. Elisa was sure that Jolien had won, while Jolien herself was more unsure. In the end, a podium for 2nd place. We could all see her disappointment, though the teamwork was great on the day.

Yesterday I had some time to explore the downtown of Oudenaarde and visit the Ronde van Vlaanderen museum. I was the only person in there, so I got to enjoy the history and linger a while on my own. I have no doubt it will get busier as this week goes on.

 

Up tomorrow is the Pajot Hills Classic, then the biggie, Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday.

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