April 29, 2013

Planes, Trains and.... a Canal?

Last Saturday it was back to Holland for a 4th time this year at yet another 200km, dead flat, hurricane wind, UCI Europe tour bought of suffering. I am really beginning to understand how racing amongst these wooden shoed northerners is a whole different type of cycling. I want to make this brief. Such as was my race. As always the story begins with 200 people fighting through the pack in the neutral zone like it's Wal-Mart on the eve of Dec 21st, 2012. The only difference between racing in Holland and the Mayan Apocalypse is that in Dutch races the Doomsday Prepers end up being right. I managed to make it to the top 40 which I figured was pretty decent. Once the green flag dropped I was comfy in the pack and I started thinking maybe this one would be different. Soon enough a front grouped formed of 17 and I was too far back, not long after the hammer really dropped and I was far enough up to be sheltered. Then riders slowly sprinted up through the wind and I eventually found myself too far back to be sheltered and I was forced into the gutter. Suffering, endless suffering.

As the story goes the wind and gutter demanded me to expel my 1 minute pace for 5 minutes, an impossible task and I was exiled to the next group. Having completely wasted myself trying to stay in the top 50 the next 30 traveling at the same speed just 30 seconds back did not give me sufficient time to recover and I ended up in more or less the same position. I was soon in the laughing group of about 80 or so and we completed the first circuit of 70km and headed to the showers. Holland toughens you up thats for sure. Watching the final kilometres on TV I noticed in the lead group there was 3 belgians and like 25 dutch. Most of whom where quite older than me, notably Niko Eckhout a 40 something Belgian guy who makes nails look like marshmallows. One thing I saw that gave me a little hope, or at least soften the blow of getting pwnd was a rider who was dropped before I was. According to Wiki (an always credible source) Glenn O'Shea is current omnium world champ and has a few Olympic medals to his name.

Who knows though maybe he came the 70,000,000 miles from the land Down Under for >20km of motor pacing. After the waiting for the race to finish our director Kurt told us he wasn't please with our results and expected better of us. More than understandable. He then pulled me aside and said it is hard being a first year in such races and because of this I will no longer be racing Azerbaijan. In Hockey terms I had become, a healthy scratch, cut, or even benched.

I spent the rest of the day thinking about my life in Europe. I decided that I was alright with this and I can get plenty of good racing in kermis courses. My current shaky morale probably would have collapsed had I gone to Azerbaijan and got crushed on day 1 and forced to abandon. It was a good decision to exclude me. When the selections came out and I was the only rider not selected for any team race that was a little hard to bare but I had been preparing all winter mentally for things like this. I keep reminding myself that I am doing everything as well as I can. I go to the races focused and ready to suffer, do my training 100%, rest when it's time to rest, get my 8 hours, 2 meat and 3 veg etc etc. This past Friday I got the call that I will be doing Carpathia Couriers Paths in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is a UCI 2.2 U23 with a 2km ITT and 4 relatively hilly road stages of about 130km. This is definitely more suitable to me. So far with the team I have only been in Holland although I was picked by Lotto due to results at hillier races, this will be my opportunity to really represent what I have as a rider. Flying in a PLANE to Krakow on Tuesday! Man, I'm pumped for this chance.        

Putting the disappointments of Pays-Bas behind me was something I looked forward to as I would race a kermis the next day. Neil was a flat race with 200 starters and limited opportunities to get away I was in a bunch of breaks, most notably with a few kilometres to go one rider and I had 10 seconds but we were both cracked and the peleton weren't chasing just all sitting there hesitant. When they reacted they brought us back in a matter of seconds. I got as far forward as I could with momentum as the peleton bunched up and I blasted a shaky line through a corner and a guy in front of me almost crashed. It probably wasn't worth it as all it did was allow me to coast across the line for 50th or so, outside of the money anyways. One funny thing happened mid-race was a TRAIN crossed the course and we all had to stop for minute or so to wait for it to pass, a surreal Belgian  racing experience.

This saturday I raced at another flat rough kermis and with tonnes of racers, corners, gravel pits and road furniture. I don't know who eats a half a gel after 500m of racing but a guy a few wheels in front of me did and when I ran over is it flew up and got on my top tube, legs and handlebars. The worst part was that it was an iso gel (I recognized the packaging), these are a little more viscous and you can eat them without water. When it comes to the stickiness of said gels the added water within the gel harbours the same effects as if you were dumping water to a grease fire.

A swell way to kick of a race. I decided to relax for a little while as on the quick course no one would get away while 200 fresh riders wanted to attack. Soon though I had another surreal Belgian racing experience as racing was suspended because a boat had go under the canal. I joked about jumping in Fast and Furious style, maybe next time.

After about 45 minutes I got  to the front and started getting involved. I followed a move and we were going balls out then a broken strung out peleton clawed back up to us. No one wanted to keep it going so I shake n' baked a super tall Irish dude and went for it. I was expecting help but not a soul followed me. After maybe 30 seconds solo 6 guys came up to me and we started to build up a nice lead. At one of the criss crossy sections I saw a group of 4 was about 30 seconds back and I had two teammates amongst them so I just relaxed and waited for them. When then came up no one wanted to work and another group came up and we were 30 or so up front. My teammate Kenneth went for it and 2 other riders went with him. Constantly marking attacks and bridge efforts was starting to tire me out. Two guy went and I was unable to follow. Then the big Irish guy went for it and got in his draft and worked with him and we soon caught the 2 up ahead. So as it stands there are three up the road with a teammate and 4 chasers (including ben) and a group of 25 or so trailing behind. I helped keep the rythm but didn't work too hard as I knew I would feel bad if I worked hard to get to the leaders and then Kenneth lost the sprint. Simple math says 1 vs 2 is better than 2 vs 5. We got within 5 seconds in the last kilometre and I didn't close the gap. The big fella went and I didn't have the legs. Then the frenchman in our quartet went and I followed and came around him before the line but the other guy passed me at about the same time. Kenneth won the race and we embraced after the line (no homo) and he thanked me for being a good teammate but no one was happier about the win than his mom. 6th out of 200 is a result I can be happy with, it shows my form is good heading into Poland.                

In non cycling news I have been watching some Duck Dynasty and subsequently stopped shaving.

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