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By Jed Schneider
Last week, we left the comfort of the gutter in Belgium to tackle the hills of Luxembourg in the 54th running of the Fleche du Sud.
There were some great moments this weekend, topped off with Mark Fitzgerald winning the second stage and taking the GC on the same day and Mariano Friedrick placing 8th in the first two stages.
I don’t really have a whole lot to say about the race. Yep, it was hard, scary at times (descending mountains in the rain at 50 mph), and yep, I am definitely not a climber right now. What I can say is this: Mark rode in a break for 50 kilometers and then attacked the break on the local laps and rode the last 6km alone.
He really needed a win and I am super glad he got it with style and Viking points. He has been slugging away over here for years (basically forgotten about back home) and waiting for a moment like this. Good for him. He had some bad luck on the third stage, breaking a spoke at the bottom of the last climb. Otherwise I think he would have finished higher in the GC as well. It was definitely cool seeing Mark on the cover of the newspapers on Saturday.
Stage racing is fun, in the sense that you really get to know the riders well. In a one-day race, there is less time to learn names and personalities. Plus, a few of the teams usually stay at the same hotel. Upon first arriving we ran into a few of the Luxembourg riders that I had met last year at the race.
One of those riders, Marc, recognized me immediately and was very excited to see me back. He explained to his teammates, “Look! It is the kliene Amerikan.. That’s pretty funny, there, as my friend Doug Swanson would say.
Several Swiss teams showed up as well, including the Swiss National Team. We found it amusing that on of their main sponsors is a Swiss porn magazine. Perhaps the marketing guys at USA Cycling should take note and move headquarters to Orange County. I bet that move would overflow the VeloNews e-mail box with debate!
Jed Schneider is racing a second year with ABC-Aitos, an Americansquad based in Hertsberge, Belgium( www.cyclingcenter.com). He is a two time collegiate cyclo-cross national champion, and a four time All-American. Schneider holds a Master’s degree in Geography from the University of Kansas, which usually keeps him from being completely lost while riding the roads of Flanders.