After my final rest day where I did a short ride in the morning and then went on to watch a race in the afternoon, I was ready to get back into the action. The fatigue was definitely beginning to catch up with me, but a 20km ‘commute’ helped to spin most of the soreness out of my legs. My race was at Spiere-Helkijn, which turned out to be quite a punishing course. Rolling down to the start line to spin my legs up I saw that there was a proper cobbled farm track just after the line. I knew instantly that I should have worn my gloves.
The race started off in standard fashion with everyone racing full gas straight onto the cobbles where the race lined up single file on the crown of the cobbles. A couple of expert Belgian riders found the gutter and moved up a couple of places. I decided this really wasn’t worth the risk for the slight reward. Better to fight for position before the cobbles and know that you would be able to maintain it. The rest of the course was pretty standard, with very little wind which made it much less complicated.
About half an hour into the race a break of 5 riders moved up the road, onto the next cobbled section the race went really hard splintering the peloton. I was badly positioned and had no chance of getting to the front that quickly. I had to rely on other riders holding the wheel and the whole group coming back together, it didn’t work as a group of 25 formed up the road. I got to the front of my group as soon as I could as we rolled turns trying to catch back to the front group. They stayed at 20 seconds for a few laps but gradually began to pull away and the race was done. The ’peloton’ shrank to fifteen riders as people dropped off the back, the inevitable came as we were finished 4 laps early. I finished around 35th overall, failing to get my top 20 placing that I wanted to achieve before going home. At this point my head was way out of the game and as I rode home I was determined that I wasn’t going to race again the next day.
After some sleep (and more importantly food) I felt a little less rough and decided I would race again. My aim wasn’t to get through the whole race, I just wanted to go for the early primes and then just hang onto the bunch for as long as I could. With this mindset I got myself towards the front as soon as I could ready to pounce. Most of my opportunities were lost as there were some early moves going which I didn’t have the legs to get into. My best chance came as the group came back together coming into the town and start finish, I went early because the group seemed to be stalling. I figured with the twists and turns of a town center I should be able to hold the group off. Sadly coming into the start/finish there was a rider on my wheel who simply used me as a lead out and rolled me on the line. Demoralised and with nothing in the tank I rolled back into the peloton, soon after a strong group of three riders went up the road, quickly getting a 30 second lead. My race was effectively done as they took the primes and my legs had nothing else to give. I pulled off after an hour and a half and handed my number back, getting my €5 in return.
A tough ending to what was a great experience, I have learnt a lot over 10 days of racing in Belgium. I would love to return next season to test myself once again, the racing out here is second to none and has taught me a lot about how to race my bike. I would never have had this opportunity without the support of Mid Devon CC who made it possible, quite simply one of the best cycling clubs in the UK.