052: Belgium — Part Two: Entry Two.

Everyone offers their own tips when you tell them that you are about to go and ride cobbles. Each person, whether they have ridden them or not offers up some sort of tidbit or insight into what will be experienced when your tires hit the stones.

"Double wrap your handlebars."
Word on the street was that Tom Boonen first wrapped garden hose around his handlebars before taping them. This takes a little prep time though and we heard that it wasn't too bad for Flanders, so no go.

"Always have new cleats."
Hmm, sounds great, but too much work. PBS hooked me up with some brand new cleats in brand new shoes and I chickened out at the last minute. While they are amazingly white and look amazingly good, the prospect of another IT Band issue left me with no choice but to stick to the ones I've been using for the last two years. The plus side is that after the first cobble section I thought I should stop and check my feet because I had the sensation that they were maybe bleeding. They were not.

"Wrap your water bottles in tape so that they don't fly out."
This one was from Piers North. I did not do this and I lost my bottle roughly 14 times. I say roughly because it was probably closer to 38 times.

"Put an extra clamp around the outside of your seat pin (post.)"
Yeah, didn't do that one either. See, I'm riding a Ridley and didn't want to fuck it up too much. They have been very kind and gracious to let me take out a Damacles on cobbles. But on the plus side it rides really great even on cobbles.

This is Alistar, he hitched a ride on the back of this tractor until we told him that it was probably filled with manure. Which it was.

"Wear lots of Embrocation."
Pete Smith provided this and I think he knows what he was talking about. I went with his warm weather summer embrocation, which I thought was perfect on the day. It looked really great when it started to pick up little bits of road grit as well. Next to some of the "Knodders" who were riding (and notice that is in quotes, but it isn't my quote...it is me quoting someone else) I have to say it looked pretty damn tough. The weather here has been unusually warm as well making Boston look like the better part of hell in comparison.

"Keep it in the Big Ring no matter what."
This one actually makes sense. Keep that chain from jumping off. Guy Andrews, one of my riding partners used this little beauty made for him by the Quick Step mechanics. More than a little jealous on that one.

"Always use white bar tape."
Just something good to stick to from my good friend CD. Thanks CD. Because of you I sneer at anyone who has anything but.

I don't think that any of it would have mattered in the end. Because as soon as you hit the stones it all goes to shit. You try to concentrate on all of these little things that people have told you, but really your fillings are rattling in your head so hard that you can't think. You're brain goes to mush in an instant.

Then they're over and you laugh about how hard they were with your friends and talk about the upcoming cobble section and how you're really going to push it over that one. Which you'll be able to tell is coming up shortly because everyone in your group will suddenly go silent when they see that damned Primus sign signaling the start of the climb or the cobbles.

Then, you do it all over again. The shaking, the intense vibrating (I felt like I was going to piss myself every time we were riding them- maybe a side effect of the extreme vibro-action?), the general hanging on for dear life.

It makes the sitting down and re-hashing sessions that inevitably happen at the end of the day worth it. I am now a big fan of this Orval Trappist Ale. My favorite of the abbeys. I am probably getting all of that mixed up, trappist, abbey, monks..either way this is some damn fine beer.

Tomorrow is Gent-Wevelgem. Can't wait.