I know, I know... more cycling. But of the things in my life that top off my tank, riding is the fuel that keeps me going. Exercise, adventure, escape, meditation, camaraderie, and marvelous machines in a single serving. Of course, there is riding and then there is soul-riding. Riding is the prep work for the soul-rides, it is what you do to develop the strength and endurance required of the soul-ride. A soul-ride was once described as "glory through suffering" and is the unforgettable, indescribable epic that challenges you to dig deep and touch your soul. These are the most rewarding, most uplifting rides. Funny how being so empty can be so filling.
Belgium has an interesting appeal to cyclists. It's the mother land to some of histories greatest cyclists and is a cycling-centric symbol of hardcore riding and general badassery. My latest ride East of Little Rock is was what I imagine a typical ride is like in Belgium. We started in a little fog with ominous skies overhead. In the end there was no rain, but the roads were wet with the evidence of the two previous days of rain. A few puddles spanned the road and the asphalt was just wet enough to lift the fine silt of the road and coat the legs and bike with the sandy water mix that destroys components. The water doesn't taste bad, but has a gritty texture to it so no real joy sitting on someone's wheel. The only thing missing from my make believe Belgium was a steady wind. It must sound awful to a non-cyclist, but these are the rides to be remembered and the reason Belgium holds a place in a cyclist's heart.
The Lion of Flanders is the iconic black lion the Belgian nation flag. If you follow the Tour you have seen the Belgian fans waving enormous yellow flags emblazoned with their mighty lion. No doubt they are fueled by a Belgian beer or three. The exuberance of national pride is clear - beer, chocolate, frites and hard-as-nails cyclists seem to be Belgium's national products - who wouldn't be proud? In our make believe Belgium there are no frites or beer, but we do have chicken on a stick. A delicious chunk of protein from poultry, chicken on a stick is low on carbs, low "GI" and plenty of essential oils cleverly mounted on a convenient handle. Note: don't carry leftovers is your jersey pockets, the grease stain may not come out. We also have our own iconic lion that watches over passing riders, paw raised honoring those who have braved the heat, wind, rain and rugged roads on that day. Or at least that is what I believe about the Lion of Scott.