Gent Wevelgem

There was a time when I spelled Gent with an ‘h’ in the middle. Having spent three days in Flanders  and trying to look like I know what I’m doing, the time has come to do what my mother would have described as ‘common’, and drop an h.

Driving from Calais to Oudenaarde is a tour of the sort of places you hear about on Eurosport, which is very exciting until you realise that Wevelgem on Holy Saturday is like Long Eaton on a Sunday night – everywhere either is closed, or just looks it.

On to the racing and Sunday morning started in Ieper to see the United Healthcare women’s team who I’m doing some work with over the next couple of weeks.

The highest concentration of English accents in the city this morning was probably around the team van, as British TT champion Hayley Simmonds, DS Rachel Heal and I sorted ourselves out for the day’s crosswinds. Van is the correct word – as Boels and Wiggle occupied enough parking space to accommodate half the Sky team, we had two cars and a large van for the gear. But then what more do you need.

Sign-on complete it was time for the chase. With seven races taking place in an area the size of Rutland (claim not verified) the roads were going to be pretty jammed up. So I sacrificed an early windmill shot for going straight to Kemmelberg, which the race would pass through twice. Windmills would be nice, but have you really shot Gent Wevelgem if you didn’t get anything from its main attraction? “Oh I went to New York but didn’t look at the Empire State Building”. Yeah.

Standing in one place with two cameras meant I could get two very different shots – into the sun with some flash is always nice as you can expose the ‘ambient’ for the blue sky but also light up the foreground.

This bit’s about a 20% gradient. Looks flat to me though.

First passage done and I had to get closer to my car (parked on the Wevelgem side of the hill of course) so it was a run down the muddy path to Kemmel village for the second approach to the climb.

This was a “find whatever you can” location but the flowers and church fitted into the same frame as the leading thirty riders came through.

The dash from Kemmel to Wevelgem didn’t quite match my drive up to Kelso in last year’s Tour of Britain… but the speed limit signs referred to 90 units and I have an English car, so no harm done.

Being away from home means not having a printer, so my media parking permit wasn’t accessible. So the car was ditched somewhere in Wevelgem about a mile from the finish line and probably blocking someone’s garage. Now I can run a mile in 4:24, but not with two cameras on a harness, and made it to the line in time to hear that Chantal Blaak was away on her own with 5km to go. Sounds like a lot of breathing room but arriving somewhere with 6/7 minutes to spare always feels a bit tight.

I wasn’t allowed in the finish zone (boo) so had to shoot a side-on finish from over the barriers. Not the best shot by any stretch, but here it is:

My first edit of this was in blaak and white, just so that I could make a crap joke.

I didn’t get to see the UHC team after the race as the team parking was about a mile from the finish in the opposite direction, and by the time I got there any dirt would have been wiped off faces and I’d got what I needed from the day.

On to Flanders, via De Panne… some exciting things coming up on this trip.

Andy