Yesterday, the whole of Belgium went to the streets. It wasn't political unrest, it wasn't an eco-demo, it was more than that... the Tour de France, one of the world's biggest sporting events, had it's second stage of the 2010 edition finishing in Brussels. And being a bike-crazy nation, they all went to the streets to live this moment :)
Over 2,5 million people gathered along the course which took the riders from Rotterdam to Brussels. We too went to see it, although I'm not a big fan of big masses. Nowadays so many sporting events are seen so much better on TV... but to pay respect to these riders, their effort and the event in itself, we went.
We decided to stay somewhere close to the finish line, to witness the drama of the final sprint. Well, that's what half of the population of Brussels seemed to want, so there were tons of people everywhere. The only chance to actually see something was to be invited to a VIP area or have someone's shoulders to climb to.
I think everyone who goes to see such a bike race for the first time in his life doesn't realize how quickly everything's over. The peloton races past you with around 40km/h, that's not even a whole minute for you to enjoy the view. And towards the finish, they of course go way faster, but then again the pack is stretched out and you get to see a bit more of it.
From a photographic point of view, our standing point was of course useless. I don't even like it to try to take photos at big events covered by pros who take positions hours before, on accredited locations and so on. For me, it's either smaller events, where I stand a smallest chance, or bigger events but then with an accreditation. And the possibility to learn a lot :)
Yesterday though was another example of "take your camera everywhere with you". I had my girlfriend up on my shoulders and she was telling me what was going on, since all I could see were some necks. And then, after a first small group rushes by, I see a head with a helmet slowly going past us... "Hon, what's this guy doing?". "He...seems to have crashed. And lost his bike." Only later (on tv) were we to find out about the many crashes that had taken place. Luckily no one was seriously injured. And here in front of us we had Lloyd Mondory, from AG2R La Mondiale, walking towards the finish line. We felt sorry him, as for the other fallen riders, and today, as I'm writing this, there were some more crashes on the second etappe from Brussels to Spa.
So what do we learn? Yeah, always keep your camera with you, find a spot "above" the rest if possible (or at least with a good view) and... see what happens. It's not a great pic, of course, but it captures a moment, a situation, which has a relation to the beginning of this year's tour. Ok for now.
After that we went for a drink with our friend Marius "The-Bio-Racer", who'll start his own Tour of Europe later this month, driving from Belgium to Romania. Big up, mate!