It’s Wyman Wednesday again and who knew it would still be summer in Belgium? Well, at least it was until today.
For a person who has lived in Belgium for 12 years you would think there is very little that would surprise me, but yet still the weather does. A few years back I found a book in a second-hand bookshop in Norfolk that was a basic guide to living in Belgium for an American working in Brussels. A kind of self-help book, published in 1970.
In the book it says Belgium weather is like all seasons in one day and advises to never leave the house without a waterproof even if you can’t see a cloud in the sky. Admittedly, my favourite chapter was on technology where it said “they even have refrigerators now.”
I still offer weather advice to people on a daily basis here.
Rain – Regen
Rocking the Automaat
If you’ve ever visited Belgium you have noticed their love for vending machines. This may relate to the unusual opening hours of Belgium shops. Anyone coming to Belgium and expecting to go shopping on a Monday will understand their need for vending machines; basically this place shuts down on a Monday.
There used to be a huge vending machine, the entire size of one floor of a house in Aarschot where you could buy literally all foods, from ready-made meals to dog food. Almost every bakery has a bread machine outside where you can get bread out of hours, and a local bike shop in town even has a small bike parts machine—handy if you puncture. I’ve seen machines for fresh milk, strawberries and vegetables outside farms.
Although the funniest is a machine full of only potatoes, quite possibly the one thing I’ve never run out of/craved outside shop opening hours.
Vending Machine – Automaat
Back to the Future with the EKZ Cross Tour
Belgium is the epicentre of cyclocross—no one can deny that—but I was once told that Switzerland was the Belgium of the 90s. Last weekend I went off to see for myself and did my first ever EKZ Cross Tour race at the UCI Cycling Centre in Aigle.
I’ve raced in Switzerland many times in the past, and the racing there was always good. Traditional, hilly courses that always put riders to the test are the norm, but Aigle has a more American-feeling course, with a much more flat-out feel.
After a race in Belgium on Saturday we drove the “short” eight hours for Sunday’s race. It really was a very well-organized, well-promoted event and a lot of fun to race. It was 25°C, and I did have to enlist everybody I knew on site to douse me in water every lap, but it was still fun and well worth it as I won.
If anyone tells you bike racing is eco-friendly I’m not sure I would agree. 16 hours of driving for a 50-minute bike race does not seem very carbon neutral to me. But I’m genuinely open to information as to how I can become closer to carbon neutral, something I’m going to be investigating.
Welcome to Belg
My Belgian friends always joke that for every road-working job you need three people: one to work, one to watch and one to lean on a random broom or tool. It is no surprise they do not rank in the top 20 most productive countries in the world.
Last week we went to borrow a moped from a friend and found it had run out of insurance, so he said he would go get it that afternoon. Unfortunately, the bank was shut, it turns out they only work mornings. Monday morning came around and he tried again, but of course, Belgium is shut on Monday.
He did get a leaflet to confirm that since he last insured it you now need a new number plate. So off he went to the number plate shop. They told him he needed proof of purchase alongside the ownership document. The moped is seven-years old. Luckily he had kept the receipt and eventually found it. We next need to wait for a number plate to arrive in the post, then, hopefully if it’s not a Monday, we’ll be able to get insured and be on the road.
Welcome to Belg.
Who Says You Can’t Go Home
This block of the season is basically race, recover, race, race, recover, then just when you think you’re at the end, you repeat. Two big ones that are looming in the near future are Koppenberg and European Championships, both coming before I get to go home to France for the first time since the beginning of September.
You won’t believe how excited I am for the races ahead and to go home. I’m 36, and despite the popular misconception, I’m far from the oldest racer out there. But what is true is I still get just as excited about races and training as I did at 26 years old.
Recovery Ride – Losrijden
But right now I’m off to plant a tree to offset my carbon footprint and go get myself some potatoes from a machine, frites for dinner anyone?
Potato – Aardappel
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