Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Lion

One of the big highlights in this adventure without a doubt will be the day when we meet and ride with Johan Museeuw.  Johan who, some of you may ask?  Well, where do I start?! How about the great "Lion of Flanders," 3-time winner of Paris-Roubaix AND Tour of Flanders among other many great victories during his 16-year career as a professional?!

Yes, Johan Museeuw (mew-say-oh), quickly became one of Belgium's prized possessions - winning the world's greatest races with a style that was considered by many to be saturated with sheer determination and unbelievable power.  His passion and will-power set him apart from the peloton every single time - Museeuw was the standard, the one-to-watch.  His career did not exclusively shine in the spring, either.  He proved himself the Belgian National Champion twice, claimed the World Championship in 1996, and even took two stages of the Tour home with him.

One of Museeuw's most-memorable stories has got to be his incredible comeback following a near-career ending injury in the 1998 Paris-Roubaix - an injury that occurred in the haunting Arenberg Forest about 100 km's from the finish.  The slippery pave brought him down hard, his left kneecap taking the brunt of the fall, shattering into pieces.  If that wasn't demoralizing, the injury almost immediately began to become infected and he was later told that the leg was to be amputated.  Horror to anyone, let alone a professional cyclist.  However, the tide somehow did turn at the eleventh hour and he was spared this horrific circumstance!  He was given, however, the "no more cycling" speech, the same one that goes in one cyclists ear and right out the other.  Johan returned to Roubaix victorious in 2000, against all odds, proving once again, that the true "Lion of Flanders" indeeds calls himself by the name of Museeuw!

This video put out by the good folks at Rapha, in conjunction with Ridley Scott of London, captures the heroic drama of Paris-Roubaix and illustrates how it relates to Museeuw's career.  It's helps to answer why the"Hell of the North?" How can such a place, such an event, each and every year,  over the course of many years past from today to Easter morning this year, have such a profound effect on everyone, cyclists and/or non-cyclists alike?!  It's the moment that the impossible is defeated, once again - sometimes with the discovery of a new hero or perhaps the return of a living legend.  Either way, Paris-Roubaix will try to win and may get the best of most, but it will always loose to one.  And you can bet that it's all too familiar with the name Museeuw.  Allez Museeuw!