The Ghosts of Roubaix
The sun barely peaking through the clouds , as I rise out of bed. Its a perfect Belgium morning, cloudy and cool with a hint of rain. I'll feel at home, sitting on a wooden table eating breakfast in a quaint Belgian bed and breakfast in the scenic Flemish countryside. I can barely contain the excitement building inside of me of what the day is going to unfold. As I hold my coffee mug, I make my to the window and peer out to the soft green hills and winding roads. Its quiet, tranquil. I hear farmers tractors in the distance from one direction. In another direction I hear cowbells. I get my gear ready, I make my way outside, I lean towards my Ridley bike. Not a sound near me, other than the zip of my jacket, and the click and clack of my cleats, I set off on the winding roads. As I ride through the Belgian border and enter Northern France, I am filled with excitement knowing the history of this sacred land. I adjust my gear and cadence as I begin to bounce over the cobbles. I hear and feel my bike dancing underneath me. I'm trying to keep a smooth pace and a steady rhythm over the cobbles, while at the same time try to take in the sites and sounds of this wonderful place. In between the pave, I get a break , I can ease up a bit. As I continue to ride, visions of past Paris Roubaix races enter my mind. Then I see it, I finally see it, the Arenberg Forest. I immediately stop, and am overwhelmed in emotion at the thought of being in the same place of past heroes. I get off my bike, set it aside, and place my hands upon the cold cobblestones. I can feel the grit and the dirt and he ruggedness of this brutal road. As I get up and shake my hands and knees of dirt, and prepare to ride across the forest, an older Frenchman with a old driving hat similar to one I wear on occasion, wearing a ratty old sweater , under a sport jacket, stands in the distance watching me. I noticed his wrinkled , course, beaten up hands, as he places his cigar aside. He cries out to me, " we've been waiting for you for a long time ? " I smile and gesture towards him, and say "yes, I know, this is where I belong." As I get click into my pedals, look down the forest, I then turn back to the old man to say something else, but I notice he has gone? disappeared ? Was my mind playing tricks on me ? Was he real ? or a "ghost of Roubaix ? " I wake up knowing one day, this dream may become reality.