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Finding Frank
An American in Luxembourg

Finding Frank

by Mike McQuaide 3 min. 27.11.2017 From our online archive
I rode my bike down to Mondorf-les-Bains to check out the Tour de France photo exhibit there. I geek out on pro cycling, and the fact that Mondorf is hosting stage 4 of this year’s Tour de France has me fairly beside myself with anticipation.

Last week, I rode my bike down to Mondorf-les-Bains to check out the Tour de France photo exhibit there. I geek out on pro cycling and that Mondorf is hosting stage 4 of this year’s Tour de France has me fairly beside myself with anticipation.

My Mondorf excursion had a second mission as well; I was looking for Frank Schleck.

My interest in Frank was not arbitrary, however. I need a Spring goal event and the first-ever Schleck Gran Fondo (schleckgranfondo.com) on May 20 seems perfect. It’s a bike race that rolls up, down and throughout the beautiful Mosel region, tickling the toes of the Mullerthal too. Luxembourg is small, and so I hoped that maybe I’d run into Frank out on his bike, reconning the course.

As luck would have it, not far from Mondorf’s renowned spa, I found him. Well, not really Frank, but rather a blown-up photo of him from his 2006 Tour de France win atop iconic Alpe d’Huez. In the photo, his clenched fists are raised overhead in victory and his scrunched-up facial expression is one of super intensity.

“I am the strongest cyclist in all the world, and woe and misfortune await those who dare challenge me!” he seems to be say.

This being 2017, I of course selfied myself with Frank’s poster pic and posted it on Instagram and Facebook.

The next day I woke to the following Instagram comment: “Hi. Great pic. Wanna take you for a ride. Let me know. It will be my pleasure.” It was from Frank.

Booyah! I found him, for realsies! Or at least, Instagramsies.

I responded by rather pushily suggesting we ride the following day, and Frank agreed. He then added with a wink: “Make sure you sharp ‘cause we’ll start out fast, then we speed up, and we finish with all we have!”

OMG--I love this guy! A world-class athlete, winner of some of the biggest races in the world, talking smack to this old, wanna-be bike rider. “Maachen de Geck” as they say in Lëtzebuergesch.

“Dude, I’m always sharp,” I replied, maachen de Geck right back at him. “Hope you don’t cry easily ‘cause I’m gonna put the hurt on you. Big time!”

Suffice it to say that during our ride--tooling around Remich and points east with three of Frank’s friends, including Kim Andersen, the first Danish rider to ever wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France--I didn’t put the hurt on anybody. And Frank, who’s open, accessible and quick to joke, was kind enough not to put me in too many spots of bother either.

For two hours, we pedaled lots, shot the shit and basked in the sunny spring scenery. There’s not much to cycling, really, and that’s its appeal. It’s child’s play, a place where freedom and a feeling of self-propelled flight come together. For a few hours you feel stronger, faster (and in my case, younger) than you do in any other part of your life.

On the bike, Frank is hella-strong, super-smooth and rides like someone who was born to pedal. It’s a wonder to witness. Inspiring too, because even after 13 years as a pro, riding untold miles over countless hours, he’s still passionate about cycling.

“I’m OK if I don’t ride for a day or so,” Frank tells me as we roll along toward Burmerange. “Two days though, I start to get grumpy. Three days without riding, I’m in trouble--I drive everyone around me crazy.”

Near the top of a long rise near Bicherhaff, Frank grins playfully to the rest of us, then picks up the pace to sprint for a road sign at the top of the hill--it’s bike code for ‘Catch me if you can’.

One rider takes off after him but it’s a fool’s errand. Frank reaches the sign first and raises his arms in mock victory, bowing and blowing kisses to an imaginary crowd. A cow in an adjacent field looks up momentarily, then goes back to chewing the grass.

Frank’s sprint move is the same silly nonsense my friends and I do on our rides, and have done forever. The only difference, of course, is that none of us have never done it for realsies at the top of Alpe d’Huez.

Like Frank.