Friday, May 21, 2004


Well due to the fact that it was Hemelvaart (Ascension) today, there were no shops open so I couldn't buy any chocolate ice cream. Instead, being the heathen I am, I decided to race out at Destelbergen, which is 10 km from my place. I did this race last year and finished it ok as it's a fairly fast course (14 x 8.3 km laps) so why not have another go?

Why not indeed, although timing was fairly crucial today as I had to do a lot of work: news this morning plus almost six hours of results/pics posting this evening. And of course a blog update :-) Speaking of pics, scroll down the page to the Ultimate Bike Racing Experience or have a look at it here as I've added some pics from that crazy, freezing, sickness inducing race in the rain in Hooglede. Thanks to CN's occasional Japanese correspondent Miwako of course!

It was a beautifully warm day today with a moderate breeze blowing, so I was surprised that there were only 63 starters. It seemed like more than that but it always does. I think there were 90-odd last year, and that helps make the race a bit quicker and more free flowing. Fewer starters can mean a really tough race at the beginning, and I got sucked into chasing several moves on the first lap, until I forced myself to go to the back because my HR was sitting in the mid-180's (max is about 190). The mind was willing but the flesh was weak. I don't think I could keep that up all day. Even sitting in the bunch I was often in the red zone (averaged 172 for the race = two and three quarter hours), so I'm not quite back to full operational capacity after the dreaded lurgi and/or spon last week.

HRM graph for the race in Destelbergen. Ouch.

So from somewhere near the back (again) I watched the race play out. A group of 12 had gotten away and had 50 seconds lead after about 5 laps, so I thought it was all over, as our bunch didn't look as if it was really up to it. Thus I was surprised when a few guys in yellow and red drove it for about 3 laps to get the leaders back to 15 seconds. A concerted chase rarely happens in a kermesse. It's normally just attack, attack, attack.

When we got close, the bunch blew apart as various riders tried to get across to the front. I was already starting to feel the twinges of cramp - I was a bit dehydrated apart from being out of condition today - so I did what I could and ended up in a third group chasing about 20. Our group didn't work particularly well and that was a source of annoyance to one of the other Aussies in it. Actually there were three of us, all riding for different teams but all cooperating perfectly due to nationality :-) It didn't matter that they had teammates in the break(s)!

So it went on. In the last 40 km I must have gone with 80 percent of the moves and did a lot of work in front, which was good training. But if we had six guys - including the two Aussies - at least two of them would sit on and the break just wouldn't go. It's totally illogical and doesn't get you a top place, but that's how they race here so I have come to accept it in a Zen-like manner. Calm blue ocean.

Attacked on the last lap in pursuit of 4 guys (see flat bit of HRM curve at 180+ near the end - my feet cramped then) but the bunch regrouped in twos and threes. That was bloody hard.

We ended up sprinting for 21st and although I moved up to about 5th wheel with 100m to go before the last corner, I cramped in both legs and couldn't do anything but go backwards. Ended up somewhere between 35th and 40th but I finished, which was the object of the exercise. 116 km in 2:45 @ 42.3 km/h. That's three outta three races so far that I've completed with the bunch so I gotta be happy with that.

No bike problems today. Woo hoo!

Sickness update: sore throat is still extant, but I got some nasal spray which I seem to remember fixed it last year. If your nose is infected it doesn't actually hurt but instead it irritates your throat. Cool, huh? I could be a doctor. Let us first see if this self-diagnosis is on the money.

A bientot,

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