Goddess and I returned from a weekend of being tourists and screaming fans.  Well, I probably did all of the screaming, but that’s OK.  She’s enjoys the show and pageantry.

Sunday started out early as we grabbed some breakfast and then drove the two hours from Trier, Germany to Maastricht, Netherlands.

Why?  Stage 1 of this year’s Tour de France was starting in Liège, Belgium, just south of Maastricht.  But we had to make the side trip to pick up a few people who were going to join us as we criss-crossed eastern Belgium, chasing the peleton as they raced through the Ardennes.

And trust me, trying to keep up with the pro peleton in a car is not an easy task.

Our two fellow cheering fans were Ray Maker and his lovely bride, Bobbie, who had just moved to Paris the previous Tuesday.  They certainly hit the ground running, catching a train from Paris up to Liège on Saturday so they could catch the Prologue, then stayed overnight to catch Stage 1.

I’ve “known” Ray for many years, virtually over the interwebs, mainly through his wildly popular triathlon and gear related website.  Ray introduced us to Bobbie a couple of years ago while they were dating.

And while I’ve met several people in real life that I’ve met through the interwebs, those have all been mostly photography-centric.  Although we certainly had the photography covered.  He was even giving Nikon a test run that day.

Once we picked up Ray and Bobbie, we made our way down to Liège to the start.  Along the way we got caught up in the traffic headed to the race, but so did the team busses.  So we knew we were doing OK.

After a quick walk around the team area, a ring around the block where each team bus was parked and the bikes were set out, ready for their riders, we headed to the start line just a few moments before the start.

The riders queued up and waited.

Which is when I caught a glimpse of George.

Goddess likes George.  And she accuses me of having a man-crush.

I like George.  Always the consummate professional teammate.  A rider who’s been at it for the past 24 years, really mixing it up with the pros since 1994.

This year is his last year in the peleton.  And he’s still schooling the young ‘uns.  During his 17th Tour de France.

I like that.

At 39, George finished the prologue just 20 seconds off the lead, amongst racers a decade or more younger.  On stage 1, he lost two minutes, but that was because he did what he does best, hammering like hell to pull his team captain, this year Cadel Evans, to the front just a few kilometers from the finish.  After which the course got ugly, ramping up with some brutal short, steep climbs, some covered with cobblestones.  He was spent, so he lost a fair chunk of time.

George knew that at the start.

Pensive. George Hincapie, Stage 1, 2012 Tour de France

I do love that Canon EF 200/2.8L.  It can pick through a crowd and focus tightly on the subject.  And provide some creamy out of focus areas.