So I have recently won my first race since I was a junior! A kermis just south of Oudenaarde, the capital of Flemish cycling. The course was beautiful, a steady 2km climb on a rough road (basically cobbled) was the main feature. The course also included many little ups and downs, cross wind sectors, and essentially nowhere to rest. I was aggressive as always and made it into the first serious move. As a unit we didn’t mesh well and things fell apart, soon enough we were absorbed by the peleton. A counter move came instantly and I put my arm in the air to signal for my teammates to try and make the junction, as I needed some time to recover and was going to be sitting out this move. After around 6 guys had formed a lead of about 20 seconds a rider from Quick Step jumped across solo. Flash back to 1 hour earlier on the start line, my team mate Jens was going off about how strong of a cyclist this Daan Mygneer (now half way to the lead group) of Quick Step is. After reliving that flash back I decided if the U23 Tour of Flanders favourite is in the break I have to be there too. I waited for a little rise and rode across to the move that was still getting it’s wings. We got rolling well and our gap was floating around 30 seconds. One by one riders started shooting out the back on the difficult course. With 40km remaining it was only myself and Daan left at the head of the race with a pack of about 10 chasing us, still 30 seconds in arrears. Our gap stayed like that forever. The commissar car alternating between riding behind us and in front of us. Daan is really fit, and he knows it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Qg3rQfeZv4 Daan’s fitness however would become his hamartia. I was feeling like 1,000,000 bucks but my break companion made the executive decision that he was far stronger. I would pull, holding the speed where it was and he would inexplicably come around me, pull twice as long as me and never wave me through. I’d come around eventually but I mean…..c’mon. We were really close to being caught but safely in the clear as Daan opened the sprint with 300m to go. In the last 200m there were two shallow bends, a speed bump, massive potholes, cobbles, and a cow grate (#onlyinbelgium). The last 80m or so were dead straight and the only chance to pass. I went hard for it and I was carrying a lot more speed. He came over a little bit but I was right beside him before he could really block me. It was risky to not lead into the final corner but I managed to beat him by a bee’s dick (as they say in OZ). Skip to 25:40 to see highlights from the race. Pardon my French, literally, it’s gotten quite terrible since high school. http://www.notele.be/content/view/29728/33/ I was happy to have many congrats and kudos in the cyber world but I had a good laugh at the following comment from a person named Ylenia. I have an overwhelming feeling of discomfort reading that comment, so I haven’t acted upon it. When reading it it instantly reminded me of a certain pop culture incident of a few years back. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFSY4Mda_18 I have raced two kermis’ since my winning day. Both with 250~ riders and high speeds. In the first I was in the break for 80km but it was too hard to stay away and with the previous days hammer festival I couldn’t do much. I decided to sit up and skip the sprint as I was extremely unlikely to factor in it, but more importantly because it was too dangerous. In very few circumstances do you have a 200+ rider bunch sprint on a single lane road (#onlyinbelgium). Of course there was a massive crash and the familiar hysteria of a war zone to be seen. A girl around my age wailing and looking totally distraught, all the metal crash barriers pushed off the road and into the ditch, Ambulance sirens, broken bikes, and broken bodies. My one teammate had to get an ambulance ride but was fine. I was happy with my decision not to partake.
The second kermis was a similar affair but it was an opener for the fans of the Scheldeprijs race that was finishing just after us. I felt great having fully recovered from my last weekend of racing, and as the Belgie’s say, I couldn’t feel the pedals. I did however miss the crucial move of 6 riders and spent the rest of the race trying to get a bridge to form. We caught the leaders with one lap to go. I stayed nestled near the front and went in a 3 man move with 800 to go. We never had more than two seconds really so I went for it solo with 500 but the pack was eager and nearly in my wheel when I went. Of course they all began flying by me in a gear I didn’t have. This was until two riders about 5m in front of me locked up and went down. I did a massive skid and some cyclocross dangles and was the last rider to make it through. I threw down a spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch as I was amazed I didn’t have it worse than a bald patch on my tire from the carnage.
I think I am going to strike up a new personal rule that I will not get involved with bunch sprints in kermis’ where there are more than 100 riders’ (rule still needs some tweaking). Risk certainly does not outweigh reward. This Saturday I am racing a high level race in the Nederlands. 220 starters, an obscene amount of cobbles and cross wind, spread out over 170km. Omloop van Braakman, the supposed Paris Roubaix of the Nederlands.