Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Blog of Ages

This will be long, as I have All the Time in the World (cue James Bond theme). I make no apologies. The beer hasn't kicked in yet, but it will. Why am I drinking beer? Because it's 30 degrees, thus Damn Hot. Also I just demolished everything in the fridge/cupboard/secret food hiding places so beer is the last resort. Yes, I done a race today and with the riding there and back it was over 160 km all up. That makes one thirsty in this heat.

But first, this week's moofie. I been waiting all July to see Spiderman II so I took the opportunity to do so. I seen all the ads and music videos on my non-blown up telly, so I was definitely keen. I liked the first one. The second one is much the same, although the villain is different because the Green Goblin, aka Willem Dafoe aka Jørgen Bo Petersen was killed in the last ep.

Instead the new villain is Dr Otto Octavius, who ends up with a whole lotta mechanical arms and a chip controlling his thoughts after he tried the old cold-fusion-in-a-bathtub experiment. But the cool thing is that the Green Goblin's son, aka James Franco looks like Filippo Pozzato. Cool, hey? And I reckon Dolph Lundgren is Raimondas Rumsas, just a bit bigger.

Back to the plot, such as it is. Or isn't. I think Dr Octavius wants to go further with cold fusion, and more power to him I say. But he keeps getting foiled by Spiderman. The other thing that happens is a much overdone love triangle between Spidey, MJ Watson (the love interest) and her husband to be, let's call him Bruce to save confusion. It's very overdone but this is a comic strip so that can be expected. All parties are more or less satisfied in the end. But I suspect there will be a Spiderman III.


The midweek racing fixture of choice was out at Lokeren today. There's a music festival on there at the moment, which means they were playing Madonna's Holiday over the loudspeakers at the start. I done the inaugural edition of this race last year and I remember it was pretty ordinary: 35 degrees, lost one of my bottles on the first cobbled section and had to call it quits after 60 km. This year it wasn't quite 35 degrees but it was over 30, so I set out from Gent with a total of 5.25 litres of water in various bottles. It was a 25 km ride but I had the sun at my back and there was a light breeze blowing from somewhere, which gladdened the heart.

<Rachmaninov interlude>

En route, I was caught up by various and sundry members of Staf Boone's Kingsnorth International Wheelers. AKIRA Wong was there, as was the Welsh Mari Lwyd, whose name is Ian. Funny name for a skeletal grey mare, but I guess you gotta call them something. Also two Pommie guys and Matt Chessum, so it was truly an International mix of Wheelers.

The sign on cafe was on the main road, as were the kleedkamers, so it wasn't too much drama to find. But on getting there, we found that there was an actual queue to sign on! I was surprised, as we ended up with over 80 starters including a delegation from France. It looked a bit like their track team actually. Two guys had rainbow stripes on their sleeves and one of them was Jerome Neuville, who won the world madison and points race champs on the track (I think). It didn't really matter, as these races are always hard no matter who turns up. It was a good quality field and that was fine by me - only way to improve is by racing against those better than you.

Local lad Mario Willems was here too. He is a top rider and is the favourite in any race he enters. He's good enough to turn pro but prefers the amateur lifestyle - he can win lots of races, make a decent amount of money from bonuses, and works for a living. Nice bloke too. We had a chat to him in the kleedkamers.

We rocked up to the start and were all set to go, but there was a problem as the police hadn't cleared the whole parcours and were still out there. This took over half an hour, and was a pain in the arse, not to mention hot. Darren Young and Nathan Clarke (from Tassie) reckoned that they had found a cafe around the back and were checking the quality of its (liquid) wares. The announcer didn't know what had happened. Nor did we.

The race finally started sometime after 15:30 and much to my dismay, there was to be no shortening of the parcours. We had to do 13 laps of 8.6 km, with two cobbled sections a lap. The first was 400m long and was pretty rough, but there was a gutter you could ride in and slowly destroy your wheels by hitting drainage grates and sand. I chose this option, as it was still faster. The second sector was about 800m long and led right up to the start/finish. It wasn't as rough, but there was nowhere to hide. It was also slightly uphill.

After last year's experience, I took an extra 500mL bidon in my back pocket, even though one of the Kingsnorth begeleiders (the kiddie) offered to give me a bottle. But I declined, remembering Andrew Benson's experience a couple of months back. This turned out to be a good option, as both of them stood on the bottom half of the course which was the fastest section. At a minimum we were lined out doing 50 km/h along there; at a maximum I hit 57.5 km/h. It wasn't downhill either. So these two goons were standing there every lap, holding out bottles, while they could see that it was flat stick in the peloton and everyone was glued to the wheel in front at eyeball popping speed. I remarked to Ian, the Welsh Mari Lwyd, and AKIRA, that they could be better served by having the begeleiders stand after the start/finish, where the speed was never much over 40 km/h. They both agreed, but it was Too Late Now.

I'd better get on with this race report.

After 1 km of warmup at 28 km/h, we then started going at a heinous speed for several laps. On the smooth bits of the course, no matter where we were, the speed was always 48-50 km/h. It was a bit slower on the cobbles and the corners, three of which were cobbled out of spite (I thought). We averaged nearly 44 km/h for the first hour, which I guess is standard for this quality field, and there were some breakaways. Don't ask for names.

My aim was merely to stay out of trouble and complete the distance. I felt OK so I thought if there was still a chance in the last four laps, I'd get involved in the action. I was navigating the cobbles and corners pretty well, and felt 10% better than last Saturday. Well, that's a qualitative engineering-type 10% anyway.

We did manage to bring back the early break(s) after about 5-6 laps, probably because they were too big and no-one wanted to work. I snuck up to the front to see what was happening and after a couple of laps managed to get away in a nice group of about 20-25. I rolled through for a couple of turns but people were more interested in looking behind rather than actually working so it collapsed/imploded into the kermis breakaway black hole. So much energy for such a non-result.

We slowed down markedly after 7 laps as people started to get tired of going at heinous speeds in the heat. But even when we slowed down to what felt like a crawl, the bunch was strung out nearly all the time. Of course, with about 5 laps to go a break of what I think was 28 riders did get away and stayed away. Mario Willems won (I think) and good on him. I honestly didn't notice that many riders go off the front, but I did notice that the peloton had suddenly got small, thin and weedy. I hoped it was merely attrition and that we were in with a shout of a top 15, but it was not to be.

I spent the next few laps trying to get in a move but didn't really have the sustainable legs. Getting there though, and a couple more races I should be back to where I was before I wasn't. Had a go on the last lap too, but folks started to speed up for some reason. Dunno why. I got into a decent posi for the "sprint" on the cobbles, but I couldn't really give it the works because my big chainring is worn out and would skip at inopportune times (getting a new crankset tomorrow, I hope). Actually the real reason was that I was basically knackered. I think I ended up about 40th, well out of the money today but pretty happy with the way things went, as the objet d'exercise was to get a goodly number of kilometres in at race speed. I had an average of 42 km/h at the finish too.

Unfortunately, when I got back into the kleedkamers, I couldn't find my licence! I turned my bag out but no dice. I figured I must have left it at the sign on, so when I went back to hand my number in I asked the officials for it. I got the impression that they had found my licence, and they told me to ask down at the bar for it. I did this, but the bar manager said 'nope' and told me to ask the officials upstairs. I did this, but the officials said 'nope' and told me to ask the bar manager downstairs. I did this, but the bar manager said 'nope' and told me to ask the officials upstairs. I did this (are you sure you don't have it?), but the officials said 'nope' and gave me a number to phone to get a replacement.

I was not plussed but I couldn't do anything so I set off home. After a few kms, one of the officials pulled up beside me and said that they've found my licence (upstairs...) and will send it to me post-haste. Fine. I hope I can get it back to race in Bottelare on 't weekend.

It was quite a pleasant ride home in the evening heat and I actually felt quite good. Journo World Championships are at the end of August near Verona, Italy, so I'm hoping I'll have the necessary form to do well. Of course, after the 2002 debacle, even getting to the start line will be a victory for me! Oh god, the scars...I have yet to do a Journo World's, so hopefully this'll be the first!

Wow, this post took more than two complete Rachmaninov Piano Concerti to write. The beer still hasn't kicked in at all, but that's probably a good thing.

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