Liège Bastogne Liège with AG2R La Mondiale
This Sunday, March 22, I have the pleasure of being able to live the Liège Bastogne Liège cycling race from inside, within the AG2R La Mondiale team.
The appointment is fixed with the members of the team at 8:20 outside the city of Liège. With a race of this magnitude, the entire city center is blocked. It will be easier for me to join the team in an official car.
We arrive on the Grand Place of Liege and join the team bus.
The mechanics are already at work to make the last adjustments on the bikes. No detail should be neglected. The team director takes care to appose on each handlebar a summary of the hill that the runners will be brought to climb throughout the race.
The riders get off the bus and get on their bikes to go to the start line. They all wear the Bollé Aeromax glasses. Those of them who have prescriptions lenses have been able to adapt the glasses directly to their sight. For a cyclist who will have to wear them for hours, prescription sunglasses area real comfort.
We get inside the van of the team to go to the first point of refueling. Our mission will be to make sure that the riders receive the water bottles they need to stay hydrated throughout the all race.
Arrived at the first point of supply, the distribution of the bottles is done between the different members of the technical team. There are two kind, those that contain only water and those that contain an isotonic drink. An energy gel is attached to each can to make sure that the riders can also refuel with glucose.
The minutes pass and the first vehicles announcing the imminent arrival of the runners already pass before us. The pressure is rising in the technical team. They can't miss the refuel of a racer ....
All the sudden, the first cyclists detached in a breakaway 4 minutes from the pack arrive. There is no rider from the AG2R La Mondial team. The pressure goes up another notch. Will AG2R La Mondiale riders be well placed in the pack to receive their valuable beverages ?
Suddenly, the pack appears. A dense mass moving at a very high speed. All members of the technical team raise their arms to be spotted by the riders. The riders arrive on us at a vertiginous speed. In a split of a second, the bottles are distributed. The runners catch them without a hitch, mission accomplished. But no time to waste, we now up on the van to go to the next refueling point. The van must insert into the procession of race cars while taking care not to hit a spectator or a racer who dropped the pack.
Arrived at the second point of supply the same ritual is put back in place. The first race information arrives. One of the team riders, not feeling well, had to give up. This means that other riders will have to do the job with a teammate less than the others.
The leader, Romain Bardet seems well placed within the pack. The second supply also goes smoothly. The gap with the peloton remained the same. At the passage of the runners, you can notice the race is really hard. The faces of the riders are already marked by the frantic pace of the race.
But there is no time to linger. After the passage of the racers we leave immediately for the third point of supply.
Once there, the race information begins to be clear, Romain, the leader of the team seems to be in good shape and well placed in the pack. The gap with the fisrt riders was reduced, it's a good sign for him. The entire AG2R La Mondiale team believes in it, the pressure is rising more and more.
At the passage on the supply point, Romain is very well placed for a potential victory. he doesn't seem affected by the last climb.
As soon as the last member of the team has passed us, we jump in the van without even waiting for the end of the pack. Our van slaloms between the riders. The pressure goes up another notch. The all team wants to believe in a victory. Everyone listens to the official radio of the race while watching the images broadcasted on smartphones.
Will Romain manage to keep up the pace and thus conquer his first victory on this legendary race?
The minutes pass and Romain seems to well placed. We can not get closer to the race leader and hang on the tour radio. The pressure is maximum. Jean Baptiste Quiclet, Romain's private trainer holds his breath. A victory would give his rider a very positive sign before the Dauphiné tour and the Tour de France.
Suddenly, the news arrive, Romain is third behind Bob Jungels and Michael Woods. It's an excellent performance and Jean Baptiste screams with joy as he hears the news.
We finally cross the finishing line and immediately join the team bus. Jean Baptiste wants to congratulate his runner. The excitement around the bus is unimaginable. Everyone is happy, the runners are exhausted but proud of their result. The mechanics are already at work to clean the bikes and repackage them. Everyone is active in his role, like a hive in full boiling …
This concludes my extraordinary day ... The head full of wonderful images, the heart still throbbing to have lived so many emotions !
See you soon on the road....