The day started off with a train from Amsterdam to Luxembourg. I had to change trains in Brussels and had a small layover there, during which time a Belgian guy hit on me. It was quite interesting because he didn’t speak English, only French, so I had to try and communicate with him using the little Spanish/Norwegian I know. I give the guy props though for his persistence; I would have given up almost immediately. He even asked for my phone number, which I pretended to not understand (I totally understood).
After a few hours, I arrived in Luxembourg City, the capital of Luxembourg. Luxembourg is a small country (population approximately 500,000) between Belgium, France, and Germany. There are three official languages in Luxembourg: French, German, and Luxembourgish.
I know you’re wondering how/why I decided to go to such a small country that many people have never heard of. It all has to do with professional cycling. See, I love professional cycling and watch the Tour de France every year. Two of my favorite professional cyclists, Andy and Frank Schleck, hail from Luxembourg. I decided that I wanted to see the country where they come from, and potentially stalk them while there, even though I knew the chances of actually seeing them in May in Luxembourg would be slim to none.
LITTLE DID I KNOW.
I arrived at the train station and then proceeded to get lost trying to find my hostel (this seems to be a common theme of this trip). I didn’t mind getting lost, however, because Luxembourg City is absolutely beautiful. Every corner I turned brought more and more beautiful buildings and sights.
I ended up running into a tourist information center, so I went in there and asked for directions to the hostel. Luckily I wasn’t too far off, so I walked over there, dropped my stuff off, then started to explore the city.
I first came upon the ruins of an old castle. The Casemates du Bock, the system of underground passages, still exist and can be walked through; however, I did not walk through them since you had to pay and I was concerned that all the information would only be in French or German. Plus I was content enough with the stunning view overlooking the Petrusse Casemates and the city down below.
Next I walked over to the Grand Palace, which was beautiful, just like all the other buildings in Luxembourg. Afterwards I started to walk over to the Notre Dame Cathedral but halted in my tracks when I saw some men unloading professional bikes out of a trailer. I think at that moment my heart skipped a beat. I immediately changed directions and followed the traffic jam to see what was going on. In one of the squares I saw a Trek tent set up, along with the Schleck fan club tent.
At this point I started freaking out. I thought there might be a bike expo or something, so I booked it over to the tourist information center to ask exactly a tourist-helper person there what was going on. This is how our conversation went:
Me: “What event are they setting up for?” (while trying to keep calm so that my hopes won’t be crushed)
Tourist-helper person: “They’re setting up for a cycling competition.”
Me: (so excited that I can’t come up with any appropriate response)
T-HP: “A cycling competition…” (obviously thought I hadn’t understood her)
Me: “When is it?”
T-HP: “Tonight, at 7 PM.”
Me: “ARE THE SCHLECK BROTHERS GOING TO BE THERE?” (on the verge of yelling, trying to try not jump up and down with happiness)
T-HP: “One will; Frank.”
Me: “That’s awesome.” (as I pound the table in excitement with a massive grin on my face)
She thought I was a nutter. I don’t blame her.
I walked downstairs in a haze of happiness and then almost fell down the stairs since I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking. I then proceeded to just wander around Luxembourg in complete bliss, trying to comprehend my rare luck.
By this time it was only 4 PM, so I definitely had time to go wander around other parts of Luxembourg. I didn’t, however, because I was too worried that if I left, Frank Schleck would appear and become best friends with everybody stalking the cycling area. I would never forgive myself if I missed something like that.
So instead I just wandered around part of the course, found the RadioShack-Nissan-Trek (the team that Frank and Andy Schleck are on) bus, stalked the RadioShack-Nissan-Trek bus, bought some ice cream, and then returned to stalking the cycling area. This pattern continued for the next few hours, minus all the ice cream eating (that only happened once).
At one point when I returned to the RadioShack-Nissan-Trek bus, I saw that they had set up warm-up bikes outside and people were standing around. I was on that, immediately. I saw Laurent Didier (another cyclist from Luxembourg) warm-up, but unfortunately not Frank because I didn’t stick around long enough. I figured Frank wouldn’t warm up for a long time because he was one of the last riders in the stage, and I didn’t want to sacrifice a good place near the finish.
I snagged a good spot on the finishing stretch of the course and then proceeded to receive a ton of free stuff. A ton, I tell you. I even got a hat. Good deal–presents on my birthday. A lot of the cyclists passed by, warming up on the course, but Frank didn’t make an appearance. It’s probably a good thing because I don’t know how I would have reacted to seeing him so close while not racing. I might have run after him, I might have cried, I might have passed out. Who knows, but I can tell you I would have been beyond excited.
Anyways, eventually 7 PM rolled around. The stage held that night was the prologue for the Tour de Luxembourg, and it was a time trial. This means that each cyclist rides the course individually, as opposed to riding all together at the same time (which is how most stages are run). It was quite a short stage since it was a prologue–on average, it only took the cyclists 4 1/2 to 5 minutes to complete the course. I still had a long time to wait until Frank came since he was one of the last riders and because there were a lot of riders racing.
Finally, after about two hours, FRANK SCHLECK CAME. I totally geeked out. I was debating trying to follow him off the course, since I was near the finish line, but ultimately I decided this would be excessively creepy so I didn’t do so.
A few more riders came along and then the prologue was done. I wandered back to the RadioShack-Nissan-Trek bus but it was gone which made me quite sad. I didn’t think that Frank would stick around after the prologue for interviews or anything because he hadn’t placed, so I wandered back to the hostel to try and calm down after such an exciting day.
Really though, I can’t express how excited I was. I decided to come to Luxembourg on May 30th just because that’s how my travel plans best worked out, and lo-and-behold Frank Schleck, one of the people I went to Luxembourg because of, was actually there, for a cycling competition nonetheless (which I didn’t know about prior to going to Luxembourg. Even better, Luxembourg itself was like something out of a fairy tale. It was so, so cool. I was especially happy because I won’t have the chance to go to the Tour de France since I’m leaving the day before it starts, so being able to see another cycling event while in Europe was excellent.
By far the best day of my life. Frank Schleck and Jens Voigt, it was great seeing you guys race in person. Andy Schleck, you’re next.