Inside the Ronde van Vlaanderen

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Ronde van Vlaanderen

Gent Wevelgem and Ronde van Vlaanderen..  I’d been looking forward to this week on the calendar for many months. Now it’s suddenly behind us.  Time is flying by and more than ever I need to write here in this space just to remember everything that’s happened.

Last week started with the Pajot Hills Classic. I spent the day following the soigneurs, Laura and Kristine, to get a view of the race from their perspective. None of the staff love being on camera, but they were good sports about it. I filmed several of the local laps then we drove out to the feed zone on the Bosberg. Afterwards, a few more local laps through the finish line.

The few photographers that were at the race gathered casually at the finish line, chatting about the curve right before the finish that made it impossible to see the race coming. Then suddenly Nettie hammered it around the corner and won the race. My swanny video turned into a combination of swanny day and Nettie win day. The actual race footage was very short. But Nettie is so animated and exuberant, and her spirit just lit up the video. I’m super happy for her win. It also lifted the team morale after the disappointment at Gent-Wevelgem.

 

 

The team wasted no time. The day after Pajot Hills was course recon for Ronde van Vlaanderen. They rode the last 100km of the course, so essentially all the crucial climbs. There was heavy media focus on Jolien D’hoore during the week, and a local TV channel followed the recon ride.

We did our usual speeding around the course, trying to get to the next photo location ahead of the team. Crowd control barriers and VIP tents were already set up on all the bergs.

I literally ran up the Kapelmuur to get there seconds before the team rode by. My first time on the Muur. It was surreal and way too short. I filmed the team, snapped a photo with my phone, then ran back down to the car.

 

https://twitter.com/mazzok/status/847555843239419904

 

The Kwaremont closed car traffic minutes after we arrived. Men’s teams BMC, Cannondale, and Orica rode past while we waited for Wiggle High5 to come through. The Paterberg was clogged with cyclotourists and I missed the team altogether at the top. It was a frantic day, and this was just course recon. With the hardest training done, the next two days were more low key.

On TV there was constantly something about the race being shown. The clip the TV crew made with Jolien came on air several times during the day. The following day the entire journalist’s ride was televised. This was live TV coverage of journalists riding the Tour of Flanders course.

Imagine the scene if you will.. a room full of professional female cyclists watching on as slow journalists get live television coverage, while these pro women have to struggle and fight for any small bit of live coverage. A few of us joked what kind of viral video we could make if I filmed their reactions while they watched this spectacle on live TV. Mamma mia.. we were close to doing it, but then all agreed it would not be the kind of publicity the team wanted before such an important race.

 

Finally raceday! It was easy to see that Ronde van Vlaanderen was not an ordinary race. Big crowds hung around the camper early in the morning. They snapped photos of the team bikes, and sought autographs and tried to get glimpses of the team as they went in and out of the camper.  Media swarmed. Everyone was carrying around the little yellow lion of Flanders flags. Pubs in Oudenaarde were already buzzing with anticipation at 9:30am.

My own experience of filming on raceday was a bit challenging. A last minute decision was made that I go with the soigneurs out on the course. I didn’t see the race from very interesting points. There were always at least 8 motor bikes hovering right in front of the peloton, making filming from the ground even more difficult. At the finish line, most journalists were not allowed to be on the finish line. We had to watch from a TV monitor 100m behind the line. I was so desperate for footage that I actually filmed the television screen to get the final 300m sprint.

Underwhelming race footage aside, the post-race reactions from the team made up for lack of race content. Claudia with her tired and dusty face, and her frustration at getting stuck behind a crash at a crucial moment. The look of bewilderment and total disappointment on Jolien’s face as she slumped over her handlebars in front of a pack of waiting journalists..

One really beautiful thing I noticed two different times during the weekend was the way Elisa’s eyes light up whenever you discuss her throwing down relentless hard attacks. I saw it first in the team tactics meeting, then again in the post-race interview. Watch the video below, and you’ll see it too.

Elisa –

I hate to be a follower. I like when there’s a bit of fire and pepper in the race. It’s just nice, when you are not hurting like hell of course.

 

 

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