I always seem to neglect Louvain-la-Neuve in my blog. Well, there’s no excuse to ignore it this week as it was time for…24 Heures Velo!
As the name implies, it is literally a 24-hour bike race. With beer. Lots of beer. And people.
This year, the race happened on October 26th and 27th. Some sources say that this is the second largest beer event in Europe after Oktoberfest, which surprises me because it’s happening in a small place like Louvain-la-Neuve. In any case, I’m pretty sure it’s the largest beer event of the year in Belgium, and definitely THE festival of the year at Louvain-la-Neuve. Some 40000+ people are said to attend each year, many from cities all over Belgium. Beer and bikes – a good combo or not? You be the judge.
So how does this race thing work? I actually didn’t quite figure it out myself, but I know there are three types of races: normal bikes, “folkloric” bikes, and charity bikes. I think it works like a relay race where teams have racers that rotate amongst each other and go around the circuit x times in y amount of time. I can’t imagine one person biking non-stop for 24 hours – that would take endurance, heck of a lot of endurance.
Aside from the races that take place through circuits designed around the city (I still hesitate using the word “city” to describe Louvain-la-Neuve, but heck, it makes things easier here), there were a plethora of concerts and activities happening concurrently. As far as I know they lasted all night, and yes, there were beer stands. Lots of beer stands for your drinking pleasure.
Let’s see how it went down.
Some colleagues told me that a few people in our lab were racing in the normal circuit, so I decided to join the team…as a spectator, and part of the cheering squad! Here’s Remi in blue, heading off for his turn. It was my first time trying to shoot fast moving action with Mr.Nikon, and I really have to practise more and learn how to do it properly, especially in the dark! A tripod would probably help, but with 40000 people in a crowded place, I felt in danger even with Mr.Nikon around my neck that day, not to mention a tripod…
By “folkloric” bikes, they mean uniquely designed bikes in all kinds of sizes and shapes. Some of them are quite creative, actually! In order from left to right, top to bottom (click to enlarge), we have the helicopter with broken propellers, Lightning McQueen, a Rubik’s Cube and a sexy woman, an “I ❤ MSC" bike (I doubt MSC means mesenchymal stem cells…), a chicken’s cage, and a bottle of…I think it’s wine, who knows. Rather amusing stuff!
Of course, here’s my favourite folkloric bike…AN EPPENDORF PIPETTE! Yes, call me nerdy, but come on, it’s neat and awesome! Now, where’s the pipette tip???
After all of the participating members of our lab have had their turn on the race, we decided to wander around the city a bit and see the festivities. Anyone want some beer? I certainly do!
This scene actually reminds me of St.Catherine’s street in Bordeaux during the last weekend of the yearly French sales. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Louvain-la-Neuve so crowded before, and really, I wonder how many people came from nearby cities. I’m assuming a lot of them came from Namur and Liege as there were special trains running all night between Louvain-la-Neuve and these cities.
What is this…big brother is watching you???
I’m not exactly sure what was in these little plastic cups, but I doubt it was juice. I’d say it was either bitter poison or some kind of alcoholic shot. The red ones looked a little bit safer but the blue ones? Hmm…I would think twice before trying it 😛
Dietmar, Tabasum, and Amir, three of the four racers from our lab!
Annie and Florence, who was leaving the lab. Miss you, Florence 😦
Fangfang, Annie, and Dietmar, chilling before the race.
Dietmar, Tabasum, Annie, Camille, and Audrey.
Just to prove that I DID hang out with colleagues that night, here were are! Mouseover the pictures for their description. My dad is starting to complain that my blog has very few pictures of me, so here I am dad. I have lovely colleagues in Louvain-la-Neuve and it’s great fun spending time with this goofy bunch. Viva la IMCN?
One of the final shots before battery died for the night, a concert held in the Grand Place at around 10pm. Many people were drunk by then as we witnessed fights, collisions, and a lot of rowdiness. I fail to understand why some people insist on drinking so much until they’re drunk, and consider it as “fun”…it may be something I will never comprehend.
To conclude, I enjoyed my first 24 Heures Velo thanks to my adorable colleagues. It’s actually a coincidence that I was able to attend this year, since I’m not often in Belgium, but alas, at least now I know what the hype was all about. I wonder when the smell of beer will fade from the streets…