So that’s it – most important job of the week done. Fantasy Tour de France Team submitted

There may be lawns to mow, bikes to ride and repair, dog to walk, emails to send.

But the week before the Tour de France the annual challenge has been issued and only one task matters. Building a Tour de France team to beat my brothers and my son.

This is a great way of bringing some extra entertainment to our watching, even if we really want the British riders to do well we can add some spice by hoping for a daily win. Not that I need any incentive, it looks like the most exciting Tour in years.

So here, unveiled for the first time is this year’s I Do Not Despair roster over on www.velogames.com , our chosen platform.

fantasy velogames

On Monday I will be reporting in from the top of the Muy de Huy as the race goes for an exciting stage finish at the top of the climb used for the annual Fleche Wallonne classic race in the spring time. With temperatures over 30 degrees at the moment it might be a long hot ride down there, but I have had this day in my diary all year, so I’m going, cooked or not.

Not much prospect of a Belgian winner on the Mur as Philippe Gilbert is injured, but apparently they are expecting over 100,000 spectators to this little town for the finish in this ampitheatre of sport.

“You are not going out dressed like that”

I strongly appreciate the fact that in Brussels there is a sense that cycling is something that you do in your day clothes, on your way to work, shopping, leisure or wherever your local trips take you.

ECF riding in Brussels

It is a strong contrast to places like the UK or Australia where to my eyes the majority of riders still seem to be in some sort of uniform, be it hipster/fixie or sports clothing. 

However I was reminded today that I must work harder on my appreciation of other people’s “normal”.

As I cycled the last few kilometres of a wonderful ride through the sunny countryside I came up behind a women cycling gently along in a smart dress towards the EU district. But my expert eye told me there was something odd about her bike, because there were some strange attachments to her pedals that kept flashing in the sunlight, even from a distance.

It was only as I went to pass her that I realised that I was seeing the most enormous pair of silver stiletto heels, on a scale that suggested she might be coming home from a night club rather than heading to any office I could imagine.

I am so glad I never had a daughter, I fear I would have been the sort of dreadful dad that barricades the door and shouts “you are not going out dressed like that”.

However after I had passed I spotted my reflection in a shop window and reminded myself exactly what I was wearing. Possibly the brightest, most explosively coloured piece of lycra I possess, paired with bright purple cycling gloves and a mismatched cycling cap.

If I had a daughter she would have said “You are not going out looking like that”

FLCA cycling top

Five smiles to finish Waterloo 200 – things we might not have seen in 1815

Waterloo 2015 Wifi zone Waterloo 2015 characters 11a

When a modern day re-enactment meets the challenge of recreating a 200 year old battle we all have to suspend belief a bit and get in to the mood.

As I said in my previous posts there were some organisational cock-ups that were frustrating and for some people might have ruined their enjoyment.

The travel planning certainly didn’t go according to expectations!

waterloo 2015 travel

But here to close my coverage of our visit are five moments that just appeal to my sense of amusement and make me smile when I look back at my photos.

Walerloo 2015 by bike

Bicycles to be involved of course. Two years after Waterloo Count von Drais invented a two wheeled machine for propelling himself around Mannheim. Perhaps he had other inspiration?

And of course if there is a party going on, anywhere in the world, do you imagine it could go ahead without a few Aussies and Kiwis gatecrashing? Hmm, wonder what to wear as a disguise?

Waterloo 2015 Anzus batallion badge

In terms of the re-enactment itself we were placed close to the recreation of the battle for the farm-chateau of Hougoumont. In reality this sturdy example of Brabaconne architecture stood firm all day, resisting waves of French attacks and the same walls are still there today.

Unfortunately the model reconstruction was not so resilient.

Waterloo 2015 Hougoumont farm reconstruction

Within 5 minutes of the first simulated attack the structures started to collapse like the very worst Do-It-Yourself project. In front of the grandstands we were highly amused by the French and British re-enacters handing each other bits of wood and scratching their heads wondering how they might create an air of invincibility. By day 2 the impregnable brick walls had transformed themselves into the barricades of a street revolution, and everyone clearly had instructions “Don’t lean on the walls”. It wouldn’t have been out of place in a TV comedy.

The actor playing the Duke of Wellington did a fine job looking authoritative and inspecting his troops. What was totally hilarious was the behaviour of the press gallery nearby who couldn’t help themselves and started behaving like the paparazzi on the Hollywood red carpet. “Give us a wave your dukeship”. “Over here, Duke, just a quick look”, “one for the press sir?”

Fortunately for them noblesse did oblige. Celebrity was probably easier in 1815.

Waterloo 2015 Duke of Wellington photocall

Finally of course we have to end with the intrusion of the smartphone.

To be fair the re-enacters were brilliant, when they went in to character all the modern stuff seemed to disappear, we saw no phones and the air was not filled with ringtones and bleeps.

Unfortunately nobody told this on-field steward, who seemed to spend half of both battles engaged in deep conversation. Quite how he carried on a chat with the Battle of Waterloo raging around him I have no idea but he somehow must have felt the smoke made him invisible to the 50,000 spectators behind him.

Waterloo 2015 steward on phone

And one little group of re-enacters did lose their discipline, right at the end. When the Hougoumont farm re-eactment tailed off the “defenders” had probably the best view of the whole audience for the march of the French Imperial Guard. This was by far the most impressive sight of the whole two days as every French re-enacter on site was marched right down the centre of the battlefield. The relaxing actors clearly couldn’t resist a quick snapshot on their phones because it was a great sight. Probably no-one would have noticed, except for the fact that in the near dark those phone screens are a real giveaway.  Waterloo 2015 camera phones

This was not lost on some of the marching French troops who suddenly broke away from the main march and launched what was clearly an unexpected assault. There were phones flying all over the place and complete panic stations as they tried to get back into character!

They are all forgiven for providing us with such entertainment.

21st Century heroes of Waterloo – it takes all sorts!

Gallery

This gallery contains 6 photos.

The real heroes of the bicentenary recreation of the Battle of Waterloo were the 6000 re-enacters that came from all over the world. If I am honest I went along expecting to laugh at least a little bit at the … Continue reading

200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo – photo gallery

Gallery

This gallery contains 9 photos.

To make the most of this post I have added a gallery of my pictures which I hope sum up some of the atmosphere of the battle of Waterloo re-enactments of the last two days. All credit to the organisers … Continue reading

Facing our Waterloo – time for the 200 year birthday party

Gallery

This gallery contains 19 photos.

This week is the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, by far the biggest thing that ever happened round here so the various layers of Belgian local government and the former allies have finally got their act together to … Continue reading