I almost forgot about her, but then I saw her from the corners of my eyes: Germaine. The grandma of the E3-Prijs poster. She had some red lipstick and a layer of make-up. Beside her there were four handsome girls on stage, but I had it coming: the flowers came from her. Just like the kisses. Awesome.
Germaine is one of the examples of what makes winning in Flanders fantastic. When we stepped onto the podium Freire, Eisel and I said the same: you can't compare it with something else on this world. There were 5000 people standing in front of us, super enthusiastic. People who yelled my name, honestly happy I won for the 5th time in Harelbeke. If you see that, it does something to you. Even if it is victory 101. For the first time since my first Tour of Flanders I had goose bumps on the podium. Thank you all for that.
I know, not everybody in Flanders can be my fan. But in Harelbeke I have a special bond with the fans. Most of them were there when I won for the first time in 2004 and are busy with the record since that time. Eventually I had to wait 5 years for it, which makes it really special. It not only brought up emotions by myself, but also with the people in Harelbeke.
Also Lore was there 8 years ago. It was the first time she came to see me at a race. It is her favorite race too, maybe because it is still human. On the contrary to the Ronde you don't drown in stress and chaos. It is also one of the few race Lore visits a lot, for the rest she doesn't like it that much. It was almost one year ago for her visiting a race, at Gent-Wevelgem. Indeed I won there. Does she give me extra motivation? Not at all. I just tell her up front when it is worth to come. 'Come on Friday' I answered when she asked me when she should visit a race. Then she knows I will give it all.
I just realized what I did when I got back to the hotel. To win the E3 Prijs five times is not a small thing. When I participated for the first time in this race, I was hanging between my frame and I was completely satisfied with my 14th position. If you would have said to me I would win this race 5 times I would make a fool out of you. And now the time has come: my first small record. I passed the big Rik van Looy, hopefully the first one of a long series. Normally I don't keep hanging on a win and I move to the next race quickly. But this time I'm thinking: This is a great ride of myself.
This blog is part of the blog series by Het Nieuwsblad