2017 La Flèche Wallonne
Wednesday April 19, 2017 | Hainaut
Road to Rad, Exhibits C-D: Crowdsourced Power & Women's Racing
Hainaut (Men), Liège (Women)
204.5km (Men), 120km (Women)
13,153 / 7.2 mile
It’s not important.
Ancient-But-Modern Castle Row House
- Prove that crowds (pans, picnickers, partiers, revellers, randos, etc.) have a huge, undeniable and positive impact on the race.
- Properly use (for the first time) the 3 iPhones loaned to us by Apple. And all the microphones and whatnots we purchased to help us record world class sound.
- See the Women’s race two times.
- Consume sausages.
- Avoid any and all interactions with DEFCON 1-level drunk Belgians.
- Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team, 5:15:37
- Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, +0:01
- Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team, s/t
- Anna Van Der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam, 3:21:06
- Elizabeth Deignan (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam, +0:16
- Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling, +0:25
At 204.5 kilometres, the 81st edition of La Flèche Wallonne takes in nine climbs. The finale is excruciating with Côte de Cherave and the Wall of Huy in the last 7 kilometres. Both are 1.3 kilometres, while the first is averaging 8.1% and the second 9.6%. Summit finish (of course)!
I guess there is a start. Actually, I know there is a start, I was there. It’s great, I love it, lots of hard shadows and epic randos. Then everyone takes a bus, field trip-style, to the base of the Mur and rides up it over and over again for the enjoyment of thousands of fans packed onto a hillside with a church at the top. It’s basically like a hill climb rodeo in the French-speaking part of Belgium not far where the Battle of the Bulge was fought.
Procedure in Belgium is complicated. For example: why is everything south of Brussels French and everything north of Brussels fake-Dutch, i.e. Flemish? I know we’ve talked about this before but seriously it’s bewildering and curious and confusing.
It’s 50 cents to use the bathroom at an Auto Grill on the side of the Freeway. At the time of paying you get a receipt-voucher. If and when you purchase something, you can exchange that receipt-voucher for your 50 cents back.
Carry change. Belgium transit is a change-based environment.
There are lots of turnstiles in Belgium transit buildings and institutions. And there are lots of one-way streets, cul de sacs and recalculations in your average Deli France-Auto Grill-Texaco.
It turns out you CAN get pulled over by actual living human police officers in Belgium. The process goes like this: a police officer parked in a stopped car on the side of the highway will clock your speed (at above the speed limit) and he will then call two police officers on motorcycles also parked on the side of the freeway, but further up the road. They will merge onto the freeway in front of you. They will point a lot, gesticulate a lot, confuse and misdirect you a lot, and eventually scare you a lot. At that point, one will drive on your left and the other on your right. They will then physically escort (herd) you off the freeway and direct you to park (with several other other cars) behind an old POS white van with a shitty old POS satellite dish on top. They will park their bikes next to you. One of the officers will walk over to the driver’s side window and ask for your rental agreement and passport. He will take both over to the white van. Then he and his partner will get back on their motorcycles and drive a way. You will wait five minutes, maybe ten. During that time two other motorcycle police officers will direct a different car-and-driver to park behind you. They will do the same identification and document hit-and-quit-it thing with driver of the car behind you. You will feel like a conventional chicken or stalk of broccoli. You’ve always thought of yourself as more of an organic chicken or stalk of broccoli, even when getting fined by the police. But you were wrong.
- A coffee with soy milk
- Muesli with banana and soy milk
- A gas station brand vegan bar
- Gas station frites
- Beer (mini Jupiler)
- Another vegan bar
- Another vegan bar
- Some beet chips
- Mentos Value Pack (mint flavoured)
- Another coffee
- Gas station coffee
- Yogurt with banana
- Tub of olives with feta
- Some Gouda squares in a rub
- 3/4 dark chocolate Ritter Sport
- Assorted nuts
- Another coffee
- Hairbo gummy cherries (half the bag—Mormon Josh, I’m back on the gummies)
- Lots of dancing water
- (European) Vegan Banana Bread Bar
I Road to Rad, Exhibits C-D: Crowdsourced Power & Women's Racing
Let’s start with Women’s Racing. Have it. Support it. Nurture it. Develop it. Cultivate it. Care about it. Watch it. Sponsor it. Just fucking do it. Go to it. Watch it. Love it.
About crowdsourced Power and Parties—Dear UCI and race promoters and race organizations et al., let’s talk about fans. You NEED them, for two main reasons. A) They’re your eyeballs and eyeballs = $$$$$$$$$. If nobody cares, well, then nobody cares. But you already know that, kinda. B) Crowds animate the race, they increase the quality and quantity of the competition. It’s a fact, we researched it. We worked with Steve Hockett, our resident physicist, to diagram11See below. the effects enthusiasm and crowd size have on the race. We commissioned ourselves to make a comprehensive photographic study of the intersection between crowds and racing. And we recorded hours and hours of video interviews on the world-renowned Mur de Huy, annually one of cycling’s most densely crowded hill tops, about the subject of crowdsourced power; it’s nature, it’s importance, and whether or not it really exists.
Because we respect science, let’s be clear about our process: our hypothesis is that crowdsourced power exists and is vital to the future of cycling because it quantitatively and qualitatively improves the race. We did a 3-pronged study. The 3-pronged study proves our hypothesis. And finally, we’re publishing our findings (proof) here on Manual for Speed as well as in several other Scientific Journals. That evidence is:
- A diagram drawn by a physicist.
- A short documentary film.
- A bunch of photographics.
Additionally, we are publishing anecdotal evidence to support our Crowdsourced Power findings in the form of our Field Notes presented verbatim and in list form. Again, these are Field Notes and should be read as such. In some cases they may appear random, incoherent, irrelevant, tangential, misleading and bizarre. But that’s just because they are our field notes. If you don’t understand or feel comfortable with Field Notes it may be better to skip this section.
- Miniature Jupilers.
- House Music. POUNDING. BPB.
- Number of sausage vendors per person is remarkable. Email Fabrice, see if he has the actual number.
- Belgians drink too much maybe?
- Yeah, Belgians drink a lot.
- Quick internet search suggests that Belgians drink less than Estonians.
- Cigarettes don’t give you cancer in Europe? Or has the research and data on cigarettes not been published here? Look into this.
- Bring a chair. Real fans bring chairs. Even if that chair is a cardboard box.
- Bring a hat. Real fans bring hats. Even if that hat is a carboard box.
- Face paint.
- Mur hurts to walk down more than it hurts to walk up.
- Sometimes I get the feeling that World War II only just ended in the Ardennes. It’s something about people’s faces and their expressions. And horsefoot.
- So much beer.
- More sausage.
- Jib arms.
- Flags and flags and flags and flags and stickers, and flags.
- Mur is two corners and ditch for 1.5k @213%
- Dogs are fans too.
- RVs. Festooned RVs. RVs with flags and dog-fans.
- Flag capes
- Crowds so close the riders can feel it. They respond. They make eye contact. They go faster. The more somebody yells the more other people yell. It’s like the rarely discussed/witnessed flipside of mob mentality which is otherwise terrifying and sucks. But in this case, this flipside deal, it’s more like the time Art Bell host of Coast to Coast with the help of several million listeners made it rain in a desert using Mass Focus Intention Demonstration.
II The Physics of Crowds
This above two-dimensional diagram illustrates two phenomenon:
- The positive effects (internal and external) cheering has on the peleton; namely, an increase animation and vigor which directly impacts the quality and competition of the race.
- How increased levels of cheering (more vigorous, increased strength, louder, greater volume, etc) directly correlate to increased power. Delivering even more animation and speed to the race, which, again, directly impacts the quality and competition of the race.
Steve Hockett, Manual for Speed’s resident Physicist, has a BA in Physicism and Art from Leeds University. He currently lives in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, UFO Triangle UK.