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J292 - Wednesday, August 4: Pontillas – South of Brussels

78.05km  – 11H01’
Altitude : 148 m
Today, more visits along our route:  first, Stéphane, whom we have known since the Paris-Tokyo and because we went through the town of Jodoigne, where he lives.  Second, from a few members of the Heavenly Runners Association and finally from Gilles Cogneau, press attaché for Garmin in Belgium, who came with Olivier, a journalist, and a colleague from Garmin, Rudy.  The three of them ran for a few kilometers at the end of the stage.
It is a busy day for the team.  Early in the morning Sebastien and Daniel leave for the starting point with Serge; it is 6:45 a.m.  Jean-Yves starts to program his GPRS while Brigitte and Florian are in the kitchen of the RV preparing angel hair noodles and pasta and finely chopping the roast pork.  All that will be used for refueling today and tomorrow.  It is 7:40 and we leave to meet the van (Daniel and Seb).  At km 7, everybody is on the road.  The 4 wheel drive (Jean-Yves and Florian) leave for Jodoigne to prepare sandwiches  for the support crew’s refueling and I apply myself to planning the route that will take us toward Bruges (we have to add kilometers).  So we will crisscross Belgium, before we return to the east to reach the Dutch border.  Once we have passed Jodoigne and km 25, the four wheel drive and the RV (Seb and I) go to the entrance of Brussels on a reconnaissance, then the 4 wheel drive returns to the van to guide Serge and help the van (Brigitte and Daniel) cross the towns between Mont Saint Guilbert and La Hulpe.  The RV then leaves to reconnoiter the city of Brussels for tomorrow morning (Schumann traffic circle, Grande Place and Atomium).  All of this requires precision because the 4 wheel drive must locate the van no later than 1:45 p.m., when Serge will reach Mont Saint Guilbert.  The RV must be back at the end of the stage to pick up Serge as he exits from a detour on the Chaussée de Brussels on the edge of La Hulpe, because it would take too long for the van to make the detour and collect Serge before the following turn.  Managing all the logistics is a bit stressful.  It shows how everything must be orchestrated so that Serge can play his part without a sour note and the entire support crew exerts itself to this end.  And, it is not just today but it has been so for more than 9 months. We have to manage the schedule, anticipate possible problems on the road, make quick decisions when necessary and  strike fast because Serge never stops, never takes time for things and for some weeks  has had a tendency to eat his evening meal rapidly so he can go to bed quickly.  Serge makes me think of a running machine and I envy the people who run with him because they are lucky to be able to talk with him.  For the two of us, the time for communicating is shorter and shorter.  Sometimes I feel that we are together in this Around the European Union Footrace and its final goal but that we are living two parallel adventures.  It’s strange!
To finish today’s log, here is a note we received from Paul in Antwerp: « Belgium is a bilingual country: Dutch (65%) and French (30%) (and 5% German).  1% of the Walloons also speaks Dutch, whereas 90% of the Flemish also speaks French!”  In the end, the Flemish are 90% bilingual, so we can speak French in Flanders, where we will arrive this evening at the end of the stage.  And if this is sometimes not the case, I am certain that we will be able to make ourselves understood by using    Shakespeare’s language.

Town : Uccle (Bruxelles)

GPS : N 50.46’22.3° E 004.24’36.0°