An update from Belgium
Belgium is the home of cycling, every cyclist’s wet dream, somewhere you just have to experience! I wasn’t going to forgo the chance to race out here and jumped at the idea of sampling some Belgian ‘kermis’ racing. Hetty drove me and her out here, ready to see what it was all about! On the first day I threw myself into a U23/Elite race. In at the deep end, I managed to stick with it for two and a bit hours out of a three hour race. Getting pulled out with a few laps to go because the gap to the front of the race was above three minutes. I wasn’t disappointed with this result as it was my first race out here, I had given it all I had. I just didn’t have enough to stay toward the pointy end of the race.
After an easy day where I went to watch Hetty’s first race it was straight back into racing. Another ‘kermis’ but this time at Evergem, a small village just past Ghent. The course was much less technical this time which meant it was set to be a day for the gutter. Everything started off alright, I was placed in the top 20 for most of the first couple of laps. The problem with this was that everyone wanted to attack and it was really hard not to be swamped, and there was nowhere to hide when you were left on the front. At this point a group of seven riders got off the front, never to be seen again! I surfed the wheels, still working hard out of every corner to sprint back up to speed. Gradually this began to take its toll and it became harder and harder to hold the wheel, each corner was a battle. At just over an hour in the elastic really began to snap and I found myself gapped on the headwind section of the course. I battle ensued in which I tried to fight my way back to the wheel of the last rider. I lost. Very shortly afterwards the whole peloton was pulled out of the race, with only ten riders being left to race because the gap had got too big. Disappointed to have had another bad race, I rode the 35km back to our house in Oudenaarde with one burning question. Am I ever gonna get round a race out here?
Enough of the languishing in my own disappointment, straight into another race the next day. The spin home the night before had done me good, my legs felt good. Not fresh, but good enough. Today’s was a much smaller field with only 40 or so riders taking to the start line in Berlare. I felt good for the first hour, even throwing in a few attacks. But I began to not to able to sprint back onto the wheel out of the turns and was having to do hard pulls to get back on which wasted lots of energy. My sprint got worse and I gradually had to do longer efforts to even get back onto the group. After an hour and a bit I cracked. My legs couldn’t sprint full gas AGAIN! Instead I had to settle into a full lap of chasing which was likely to be futile but wasn’t helped by the follow car and ambulance going really slow through the chicanes. Another race, another non finish. I really felt like I needed to crack this whole Belgium puzzle and get it right. My lessons from my first races are;
1) You have to attack to stay in the race
2) Sprint like hell to get onto the wheel
3) Do not hesitate at any point!