The Stones of Belgium – Part 3

The following is the third and final part of a story I wrote for Embrocation Cycling Journal, the brain-child of Jeremy Dunn. The story appeared in Issue Number 2. (You can buy issues 2 and 3 here. Please support them!) The first and second sections of the story can be found here.

Two kilometers from town, I turn from the main road toward Oud Heverlee. This cobbled strip is just enough for one final burst, one last test of my power and souplesse. I make a right, sweeping down the little hill through dilapidated brick houses, barns, and rotting barbed wire fences. Slipping my chain onto the big ring for one last time, I check my gearing—too little and I could lose my chain as soon as I hit the stones, too big and I won’t be able to maintain my cadence over the entire length of road. Reaching down to see that my bottle is secure, I hit the stones soundly. I’m in it now, my legs pumping, working to maintain and increase the speed. I can hear only the sound of my heart in my ears. I keep my head low for balance, and I can feel my breath on my wrists and hands. No need to consult the heart rate monitor—I know the extent of the effort. My nose runs; I can taste blood on my breath. After twenty-five meters I’m able to get one more gear, another after twenty-five more. I know there is slight dip near the finish that I need to account for in my final burst. I can’t try to stand on the pedals, for the sudden shift of my weight could send me tumbling to the stones; I can only rise slightly from the saddle, keeping myself loose and centered over the bike.

By now, focused only on the end of the road, I can’t feel the pounding of the stones. I can’t hear the slap of my chain or the pops of my spokes twisting under the strain. I can’t feel my heart beating or the burning ache in my legs. There is no time to worry about oncoming cars or stray dogs running into the road. I am not chasing or being chased; I am simply alone in the moment, comfortable with the route I have taken.

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
This entry was posted in Musette and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *