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Getting to know and love Belgium

2011 was my first year in the ‘Elite’ ranks and thus the first time I took part in the ‘Northern classics’ races. I remember my first one well, Omloop het Nieuwsblad; rain, wind and cold.

The day after, same thing. Two days after, same thing again. In the end I had to give up, so I wore my rain jacket and I went out. Not bad, I have to say!

Other times I started my training with the sun and then I hit the rain 10km later. That's the most annoying thing for me! Luckily I had a teammie who taught me the art of 'follow the blue spot’, meaning following the blue part of sky. It works!

Belgium has a multitude of roads. Bigger roads, smaller roads, REALLY small roads, asphalt roads, cement roads. Every kind of road!

It took quite a while for me to be able to get home without hanging around twenty minutes before I found the right way.

You can be sure you’re on the same road you trained on the day before and then you come out in a totally different place.

You think you’re a thousand kilometers from home and in the end you discover you are on the parallel street of your house.

I didn't ride on the bike-paths the first days I was in Belgium but after being stopped by an angry driver who explained to me in a straight way that I should have ridden on them, I decided it was smarter to ride on them than not if I wanted to finish my bike ride alive.

So when you go to Wallonie you must be sure to know the French version of the names on the signs otherwise you will get lost — as I I did several times, of course!

In the end I solved my problem with fantasy, I imagined how could a name change from Dutch to French. I can’t say it worked out immediately, but it did somehow work out — or maybe I just remembered my way home better.

Rain isn't anymore a big problem, I can ride on the bike-paths, getting lost has become a nice way to discover new training routes and I have started to formulate some sentences in Dutch. But will I start to like french-frites and mayo? I don't think so! Tot ziens è!

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