The racing here is now in full swing with multiple races to choose from everyday, Belgium is a truly fantastic place for getting to race! I’ve had an up and down few weeks recently so iIll start with the bad luck and get that out of the way first. 2 weeks ago I was to take part in my first stage race of the year the “Ardennes Challenge” and not only would it be 4 days of quality racing it would also be 4 days of racing in the hills which I have sorely missed in the last few months! So it was safe to say that I was pretty keen to get a good result. As luck was to have it it wasn’t going to be my race. The first stage was 130km featuring a rolling parcour, a mere warm up to the stages that would follow. As the peleton was whittled down under the constant pressure and attacks up front I found that I was holding position comfortably and decided I would try and save as much energy as possible. However this turned out to be my downfall as I was soon caught up in a crash with the result being a mangled rear derailleur, forcing me out of the race. Not being like other stage races, every stage was run as a individual race also so you were not required to finish in order start the next day although your place in the overall classification would be gone. This format of racing would also make the racing progressively more difficult for us doing the full 4 days as there was always “fresh” legs signing on every day. Stage 2 was a better day for me even though my bike was barely working. I managed to finish in the chasing group behind teammate and fellow housemate Chris Jory who finished a well deserved 7th from the breakaway group. That night (with quite alot of help) I frantically tried to get my bike in working order for the next day. However during the next stage I had shocking bad luck- returning to the car 3 times to change wheels followed by my rear brake locking full on and then my gears packing in. It was fair to say I’ve had better days! The last stage was incredibly hilly-something Belgium is not well known for but trust me it can be incredibly hilly at times! Again bad luck struck again. I had a front wheel puncture at over 80km/h descending one of the first climbs of the day and after a very slow wheel change from neutral service I had a lung bursting chase back to the group which saw me hitting nearly 80km/h behind the car! After a few kilometers of relentless chasing I finally made it back to the rear end of the convoy…just as we turned onto a massive 6km climb. Having gone so deep into the red chasing back on I had no chance and blew up half way up the climb. All in all a very frustrating end to a disappointing weekend.
Some good news on the kermesse front however. My form is increasing all the time and i’m really managing to get in the thick of the action including a few breakaways with some very strong riders from an post and the New Zealand national time trial champion. I’m really putting pressure on myself now to get a good result as the form seems to be heading in the right direction. However this past week has not been the best with some niggling injury’s forcing me off the bike which again is frustrating as it is a important part of the season for me to get some quality races and training in the legs for targets a little later on. Hopefully I will be fit to race on Sunday..
Upcoming races include the Triptyque Ardennais- a 3 day stage race won in the past by Philippe Gilbert, Ivan Basso, Paolo Tiralongo and Russell Downing. Following this I may be heading home to race the Scottish Road Race Championships then will have a month of solid Belgian racing before completing the first half of my season at the British Road Race Championships in Glasgow on June 23rd.
Untill next time,