As a relative newcomer to road cycling, I really didn’t know anything more about professional cycling than the Tour de France takes place in July and I didn’t get a lot of work done during last summer’s Tour. When Mallory and I decided to go to Germany, I checked to see if there were any spring road races we might be able to attend. Sure enough, a spring classic–La Fleche Wallone–was going to take place during our time there. I knew nothing about it until John Trotter gave me link to video of the finish on the iconic Mur de Huy. The mur is a bitch of a hill and the riders ride up this 1300 meter incline three times during the 200 km race, finishing on the Mur de Huy’s summit. If you take the outside on the curves, the grade is 23%. The inside of the curves is a mere 19%.
Teresa, Mallory and I grabbed a train from Eutin, Germany to Huy, Belgium. After about 8 hours and a bunch of transfers, we were there. It was amazing to see thousands of people line the Mur de Huy for 5 hours. On the riders’ three passes, you get to see the riders for maybe 10 minutes total. Between passes, it’s a huge street party. You can buy sausages from people selling them out of their homes lining the mur. And beer, too. Belgian pride is evident every where. Folks are wrapped in Belgian flags to cheer on their countrymen in the race. People bring their dogs, their bikes, and many other things to the race. Anything to kill the time while waiting for the riders. Kind of like a Belgian version of the Kentucky Derby. Instead of mint julips, you downed Belgian beers. If you were lucky enough to make it to the top before the police closed the sidewalks to the top, you could view the race on a huge TV. Otherwise, you got race updates in French from a public announcer. I only know about 20 French words and can order in a restaurant, so I had no idea what was going on until I found a gracious Belgian race fan who spoke impeccable English. We chatted for more than an hour about cycling (especially doping) and he kept me informed about who was leading, etc.
It was a unique experience and I hope this won’t be my last spring classic. It was certainly worth the trip to see the race and the spectacle, eat a fine sausage and drink a Belgian beer, and share in the Belgians’ joy when their countryman, Phillipe Gilbert, won the race. I include a few of my images from both the mens’ and women’s 2011 La Fleche Wallone. I’m certainly not Graham Watson, but I like my images nonetheless. I hope you enjoy my look at the 2011 La Fleche Wallone. Maybe the Tour of Flanders or Liege-Bastogne-Liege next year.
Every time I go on an extended shooting trip, I always return home somewhat disappointed with what I’ve shot. I’m sure some of it is fatigue, while some of it is genuine disappointment that what I pre-visualized didn’t exist, or didn’t exist in reality the way I saw it in my mind. I’ve begun the process of editing my pictures from Germany and Belgium. I’m starting to find things I like. It is an ongoing process. I know then when I look at what I shot in a week or two, I’ll likely feel differently. I am finding a few little gems that I like and I will play with them and reinterpret them as time goes by. Here’s a still life from the house of the famous German author Thomas Mann. It was shot in Luebeck. I hope you enjoy it and check back soon for more images and stories.
We got back from Germany early this morning after more than 24 hours of traveling (planes, trains and automobiles). I have a lot of editing to do. I’ll have much to post in coming days. However, until then, I’ll leave you with an image from the 2011 La Fleche Wallonne in Huy, Belgium. Phillppe Gilbert, front, works his way up the Mur de Huy for the final time to win the 2011 race. This is about 250 meters from the finish. He’s on fire as he went on to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege four days later. It was my first time to witness a spring classic race. Not sure I made great pictures, but I had a great time. I’ll definitely go back.
Mallory finished medical school in late February. Her residency doesn’t start until late June. She has a bucket list of things she wants to accomplish before she cedes total control of her life for the next six years. One of the things on that list was to run a marathon. Even though she swore at the end of every half marathon she ever ran that she’d never run a marathon, she changed her mind and signed up for the St. Louis Marathon.
She’s a seasoned runner. She was one of the best cross country runners in Kansas during high school, earning medals at both state cross country and state track meets. She ran for the KU Track team for year. There, she was one of their top varsity cross country runners. All the while, having a perfect 4.0 GPA. She went back for her second season, but decided to give up running for KU when she was told by one of her coaches, in no uncertain terms, that there was no excuse for missing a practice, including class. That’s when she said, enough is enough, and left the team. She had her sights set on medical school and she wasn’t going to let a pig-headed coach get in her way.
She continues to run regularly, much as she has since the seventh grade, competing in the occasional road race in Kansas City or Lawrence. She and her husband Alan are a fixtures in Prairie Village and in Lawrence, where they are seen by many on their runs. When Mallory and I rode the Lizard Under the Skillet last summer, she was recognized by a person from KC who often sees her on her runs. For her, running is her way of staying in shape and dealing with the stress of medical school.
Yesterday dawned warm, humid and windy. These are not the conditions a marathon runner wants, especially when they’ve not been running in such conditions and have no acclimation to such conditions. It should give any distance runner pause on race day. I never sensed that Mallory was overly concerned by the conditions. She was hoping for much cooler, but had no control over the weather.
After going out too fast–as usual–she ran her first, last and only (she claims) marathon in 3:11:38. She was the 6th female finisher out of 648 and the 41st overall marathon finisher overall. 1910 runners competed in the marathon. I’d say that’s an amazing first marathon. She’s incredibly tough and when she sets her mind to something, she does it. But, I bet she’s sore today. Great job, Mallory.
Teresa and I spent Saturday evening babysitting Henry so his parents could enjoy dinner and a movie out of the house. He’s more expressive and is becoming much more social as he nears four months of age. He also got a snoot full of a raging Kansas window on his patio on Sunday morning. He wasn’t quite sure what to think or how to react. By this time next year, he’ll be a pro.