If you don’t mind, before I begin I’d like to first take this moment to make a brief statement:
This mostly non-fictional account of the Tour of Flanders is Manual for Speed’s first 2016 Race Report. Thank you in advance for your time here today. If you don’t want to read the whole report, here’s all you need to know about the 100th anniversary of the Ronde: while it was foggy and cool in all the right spots and at all the right times, it was otherwise a warm, sunny and remarkably pleasant day. Following the race was a lot like participating in an Idyllic Bucolic Nomadic Picnic-Themed Flash Mob. It reminded me of this book I read once about the Civil War. Apparently thousands of Union-supporting civilians came out to picnic while spectating Bull Run. Which, obviously, that’s gruesome cubed. This on the other hand was a truly beautiful contest. And as if bicycle racing wasn’t difficult enough, cobbled roads. Also, Peter Sagan won. One last thought, the last race we covered in 2015 was the World Championship in Richmond, Virginia. Peter won that too. Manual for Speed is not taking credit for Peter Sagan’s supreme talents and skill, but correlations are correlations, that’s just science.
Does anyone remember the 2003 major motion picture release called Elf, starring Will Ferrell and Bob Newhart? It’s the one about a man raised as an elf. After wreaking havoc in the elf community due to his ungainly size the man (Will Ferrell) leaves the North Pole to go to New York in search of his true identity. Anybody? Anyway, there’s this one scene where you learn that Santa’s sleigh requires what is effectively an electronic assist. So the deal is, because nobody believes in Santa Claus and Christmas anymore, and hasn’t for several generations it would seem, Santa had to install a motor. Apparently the source of Santa’s Reindeer’s power, even Rudolph’s, even with his nose so bright, is our global, collective belief in the spirit of Christmas. Since nobody really believes in Christmas anymore the reindeer can’t fly, and if the reindeer can’t fly, Santa’s sleigh needs a motor. To illustrate the point Santa’s sleigh sports an aftermarket Klausometer which measures our spirit and demonstrates how woefully underpowered his sleigh would be without the motor.
The point is, Flanders was the first race race that Manual for Speed ever covered. We had no idea what we were doing. For example, I don’t think we really registered for credentials. Or maybe we did but they didn’t get approved, which at the time we were like who cares we will figure it out. Also, we didn’t have an AIPS card which is required just to get in the building where you pick up your credentials, assuming you have credentials. We didn’t have (or know about) an AIPS card because why would we, also to get an AIPS card you first need a NSSA card, which also we didn’t have or know about. I know, I know this story is taking forever, but listen bear with me because I think I have a point and it’s pretty good one, I think. Okay so back to that first Flanders, after we bullied our way into the building without an AIPS card, we tried to get those credentials we hadn’t been approved for, and it was rough, real rough. It wasn’t even a language thing. Everyone here speaks English. In fact over and over again they told us in pretty excellent english that we didn’t meet any of the minimum requirements to be approved for media credentials. Like, at all. No AIPS card, no assignment letter, and no website. Thirty minutes into the process, having already spoken with three different dudes and our stone wall beginning to fail, we finally met this one guy, a friendly guy. While he couldn’t get us the whole shebang (side note, wtf IS a shebang anyway?) including the photo vest and all, he was able to surreptitiously sneak us a bag in which were some lanyards, a couple of media passes and a race bible. Then we explained that we didn’t know where we were going or how to follow the race, and asked did he have any thoughts about any of that. He did, he circled a bunch of spots on the map in our race bible and called his “drinking buddy” Ivan to see if he would be interested in driving us. Apparently Ivan was interested. Our friendly guy gave us Ivan’s phone number and told us to meet him in the morning here, at the Press Office, at 8:00 am. And then, after all was organized and we were finally on our way, bag in hand, dude slipped us a car sticker. Just like that, on a whim, we were given the keys to what would be our first taste of Sticker Privilege.
I don’t have a sleigh but I do own part of a website. And while that website doesn’t feature a Klausometer, it does, at least tacitly, more less run on spirit and that spirit does go up and down, and it could, in theory I suppose, be measured. With an Allezometer. Last year, I’ll be honest, especially towards the end of the year, I was struggling to get my reindeer up. Seriously, boner jokes aside, it was rough. Some of it was just exhaustion. A lot of it was unchecked privileges. But mostly I think it was an near absolute lack of perspective. I’ve since slept. The privileges thing is too big to tackle at this juncture, let’s revisit that some other time, or not. Either way for now let’s move past it. The perspective thing is complicated but here’s the gist: for years now my life has been dominated by bikes. But, over the last six months, I’ve worked on a lot of non-bike related projects. Some of them, like King of the Hammers, are next-level mind-blowingly wonderful spectacles. Worthy of Manual for Speed-degree focus. Others that we’ll just call… Voldermort for now, are not.“You already like cycling and so you already know this, but it turns out that Professional Road Racing is just better. And so it was, with a pretty stoked Allezometer, that Manual for Speed endeavored to cover the 2016 Spring Classics, campaign style.”MFS
It didn’t even matter that Delta Dwayne refused to accept my passport at Portland International Airport, citing a slight tear on the first page as the reason. DD claimed that I would potentially (likely, really) be refused entry into the Netherlands while trying to clear customs. And then what, I would be forced to return home, immediately. I explained to DD that no more than three weeks ago, using the very same passport, I was allowed to take a Delta flight to the country of Colombia which country I was also allowed to enter, no problem. And as if that wasn’t enough, 10 days after that, I was allowed to take yet another Delta flight back to the country of America, which country also allowed me to enter it. DD was not swayed, he handed me a form outlining how and where to get an emergency passport made, he smiled, he was pleasant, he rebooked my flight for the following morning, and wished me luck.
Because it’s not important, and because I didn’t let it fuck with my Allezometer, and because I don’t want to dwell, but for the sake of information, and because we’ve all had one of those days, the kind Calgon bubble bath was made for, and because some of you might find it entertaining, or maybe you just want to feel better about your life and the way you navigate it, here’s a quick list (in roughly chronological order) of some of the things that happened to me over the next 24 hours.SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTCobble Goblins T-Shirts Now Available!
- I spent two hours at PDX saying goodbye to Keiran and Ian, wishing them luck on their flight, which was my flight, but which wasn’t my flight anymore, calling my mom, telling her to simultaneously drive back to the airport to pick me up and to find my birth certificate in that one box with all the papers, dealing with DD, making new flight arrangements, etc.
- I spent forty minutes on the phone with various Passport Hotline customer service representatives.
- I followed no less than 89 prompts over the course of 3 calls to the automated appointment booking Passport Hotline.
- I learned that I would need my appointment confirmation number, my old passport, my original birth certificate, a copy (front and back) of my valid driver license, a letter explaining how and why my passport was damaged, $195.00, proof of travel in the next 36 hours, a DS-11 form printed and filled-out in black ink (BUT NOT SIGNED!!!, the signature process has to be witnessed), and a new passport photo in order to successfully complete my emergency passport request.
- I booked an 8:00am appointment in Seattle at the Emergency Passport office at 300 5th Street Suite 600.
- I failed to find my original birth certificate in that box with all the papers where my mom also failed to find it.
- I thought about crying or giving up. Or like, a combo event.
- I went to Kevin’s house and looked in his garage where I found my original birth certificate. Listen, it’s a long story and it’s not that interesting.
- I went to that place on Broadway and 16th where I got my driver license copied, front and back. I did b/w because it was only ten cents instead of eighty-nine cents, but I considered color. Just cause, you know, color is fun.
- With Kevin’s help I booked a train ticket to Seattle leaving at 2:50pm.
- With Kyle’s help I drove to the train station but turned around right before I got there and drove to the Airport instead.
- I cancelled my train ticket purchase.
- I booked a rental car – cheaper, plus that way I could drive to my appointment and the airport the following morning. This was a much better plan, THANKS KYLE!!!!!!!
- I accidentally left my Driver License at that place on Broadway.
- I stalled-out at the Enterprise rental counter for about forty minutes until Kyle returned to the Airport with my Drivers License, thanks Kyle!!!!!!!
- While I drove to Seattle I texted with Keiran who was in the sky on her way to the Netherlands.
- I slept in the La Quinta next to the Whole Foods in downtown Seattle.
- The next morning I went to my appointment. It’s a Federal Building so you have to go through security, like at the airport. I tried to lose my plane tickets in the x-ray machine. Long story, thanks dude who found them and brought them to me while I waited in line upstairs in Suite 600!!!!
- After successfully completing the application process I was told it could be as long as two hours but they couldn’t guarantee it would be done on the same day. At that time it was 8:30 am; my flight was scheduled to depart at 2:00 pm.
- I talked to Hahn Rossman on the phone for mental support. We laughed. I also cried a little. We discussed how this process was a little bit like the DMV Olympics: forms, triplicates, signatures, notaries, certificates, oaths, etc. The whole thing also reminded me a lot of being arrested in Italy. They really know how to do bureaucracy in Europe, let me tell you!!! I mean, as tedious as this was, when it comes to the DMV Olympics, Americans just don’t factor really. We don’t have a strong enough development program.
- I fed the meter. Three times.
- Eventually I got on my plane.
More importantly, none of this matters. Because Raoul picked me up, we drove to Ghent, the most beautiful town in all of Europe—including Paris—I checked into our INSANE Dwell-award-winning townhouse for the next four weeks, we drove to Bruges, which is also pretty and but also reminds me of the movie, which is a GOOD movie, I used my AIPS card to gain entry into the press office, I recognized our friendly guy from five years ago and he recognized me, we got nostalgic, we talked about Ivan, whom he still drinks with, we took a selfie, I got my fully-sanctioned bag with a vest and car stickers and parking passes and all kinds of official legit media shit, I ate frites with mayonnaise. The next morning I woke up and went to the race, which race, it bears repeating, was won, in spectacular form, by Peter Sagan.
Gold shoes are dead. Like, we’ve reached peak bling, or like peak metallic.
MFS wrote to Ted King: Right this minute I’m in a grocery store in gent looking for maple syrup for oatmeal breakfast. I don’t think they have it. Schenkstroop is not it. It’s in the aisle where maple syrup should be.
“What the what?! Belgium is a tough one. Although anglo and therefore a loving country of maple, they are hit or miss. Ideally you’d be in the French side of Belgium. The connection I see is that the French are mildly related to Queebs and Queebs love and produce syrup. You’re looking for Maple Joe. Seriously, check it out. Often in the coffee and/or nutella section of the grocery store. Also often in the breakfast/cereal aisle. Good luck and God speed.”
Addendum: Just pick up some of this before your trip and avoid the problem altogether.
Seeing Emily Maye.
Meeting Emily Maye’s parents.
Seeing Ashley Gruber.
Seeing Jared Gruber.
Not getting arrested in spite of that one security guy who tried to get me arrested.
The whole day.
Learning that Manual for Speed is like a dead rabbit foot in Peter Sagan’s pocket.
Picking up the Cobble Gobbler posters from a bonafide Risograph-machine running artist and pamphleteer working out of an abandoned University building somewhere in Ghent. MORE ON THIS LATER. THEY ARE BEYOND AMAZING. AND WE’RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING WITH THEM. LIKE, um, SELL THEM.
I think I had NO LOW points yesterday. Look, I mean, I know I’m in danger of being cheerful to an unseemly and/or tasteless degree, maybe like I’m trying to be gratuitously optimistic or something but listen I’m not, it’s just, that race, it was perfect.
On a possibly related note, Ian and Joel did sit in some stinging nettles at one point, which caused them a slight irritation.
Also, wait, there was that frites fiasco with Raoul.
- 1 Riton feat. Kah-Lo Rinse & Repeat
- 2 MOUNT & Nicolas Haelg Something Good
- 3 Paolo Conte Bartali
- 4 Cliff Richard & The Shadows In the Country
- 5 Nat King Cole Route 66
- 6 Mike Posner I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Seeb Remix)
- 7 Jonas Blue feat. Dakota Fast Car
- 8 Praga Khan Breakfast in Vegas
- 9 Bring Me the Horizon Throne
- 10 Matt Simons Catch & Release (Deepend Remix)
- 11 Sarah Ferri On My Own
For the next three weeks Manual For Speed is your Spring Classics Virtual Reality. Creating a three-week-long virtual reality requires a lot of support both emotionally, psychologically and financially. Our underwriters provide us with all of three and more. We cherish them because of it; won’t you cherish them too?
with additional support from:
Cobble Goblins art by Benjamin Marra.