So I’ve finally started racing and getting stuck in as best as I can. First impressions of the racing are :
1: Its fast and hard
2: Its fast and hard
3: Did I mention how fast and hard it was?
My first race was on the 17th of February in Bottelare, initially dubbed as a “practice race” with the idea that the field would ride behind a car for 5 laps and then there would be 5 laps of racing. However it was decided this would be too dangerous as the roads that were used were narrow farm roads so the decision was made that it would be a normal race over a short distance of 100km. The week before I had scouted the parcours with the team and it mainly consisted of narrow winding farm roads and a town center start finish line that we would pass through every lap with the added excitement of having to negotiate our way around some small traffic islands in the middle of the road. There was a also a sharp short hill that in training we had used the little ring but that was not going to count for much during the actual race. After doing 2 hours training before hand I was ready to race at half past two and it felt great to be pinning on the numbers once again. We set off and after a short neutrilised section the racing began. The field instantly stretched out into one long line and it became clear that to be at the right end of he splits you would have to be positioned up toward the front especially on the narrow roads. I managed to get myself there (by using my first bunny hop onto the pavement belgie style of the season) and instantly I found myself attacking off the front. I was joined by several others including an an post rider (the eventual winner) as well as a a lotto development and Dolcini Flanders riders. On paper this looked like the move to be in and I immediately began to try and push on desperate to make the first move stick. We were soon joined, however by another group off the front that had split away from the rest of the field. The climb that had proven steep in training was merely a pimple in the race as we big ringed up it every lap turning over the top into a crosswind sector that had the group lined out gutter sniping. Having pushed a little too hard in the beginning I began to suffer having never had a chance to recover. Every lap the hill seemed to be getting longer and steeper and the crosswind stronger. Eventually the group began to splinter and I attempted to make the move across the gap. I got to within 10 meters of the last wheel but then there was a sharp corner followed by a cobbled section and the wheels zoomed away from me as if they were on fast forward! Race over I was caught by the chasing group and I suffered round in the gutter for the remaining few laps. Race number one done and I was happy to finish the first one and get in some of the action, maybe I just needed to use my head more in the opening few laps!
The week after the race I enjoyed a good recovery Monday which involved watching a few movies and cycling on the laptop. On the Tuesday I had a good training ride to the Roubaix Velodrome and it proved quite inspirational turning the corners into the entrance where so many epic editions of Paris Roubaix have been won and lost.
The week went by and I clocked up more valuable training kilometers on my own and with the team (team training usually consists of a smash fest so it is good training for during the week, with the added bonus of having a following car with spare wheels, food and bottles, so it all feels pretty professional!) as well as seeing a fair few pros out and about training for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Soon it was time to race again this time in Tournai or Doornik as it was known it the French speaking part of Belgium. The morning of the race I woke up to this scene:
It turned out that this was enough to cancel every race in Belgium including the Kuurne Brussels Kuurne…apart from the race in Doornik. Being too cold and snowy to ride to the race we all drove to the race which was around 35km away. Snow was falling and I was dressed in full winter kit on the start line as were most of all the other riders asides from a few brave enough who were wearing shorts!! This race contrasted to my first race in using a few wide open roads exposed to the strong Belgium winds. There was a few smaller roads with a particular tough drag upwards into a crosswind that proved the hardest area of the whole race. After one lap the race had split in the crosswinds and I found myself in the second group on the road of around 12 riders. It took around half a lap to get the group organised and soon we set about setting a fast pace to catch the group ahead. 15kms of chasing and we made contact but two riders had already nipped off the front and they would end up staying away for the rest of the race. With one lap to go I started to feel the pace and when the gaps starting to open in the crosswind sector I couldn’t respond and soon blew up. Not long after I was sick probably due to the combination of cold, effort and a large quantity of caramel waffles I scoffed before the start. Race over I was so done in that I couldn’t even jump on the wheels when I was passed by the next groups on the road and had a lonely ride to the finish! Hopefully with a few more races in the legs i’ll have the speed to still be in contention at the final.
I’m racing again this Sunday and after riding the parcours on Wednesday we are in for a tough race! In other news I now have some English speaking company in the flat with Dan Whelan and Tommy Murray now staying here. I also have my new team bike which feels super fast so hopefully will have some good results on board it this season.
Some Pictures from the races so far:
Untill Next Time