Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The end is nigh

The Olympics, and thus the world as we know it, is coming to an end and I for one will be happy, although the Vuelta starts a week afterwards. As an Aussie, the final day of track was good to watch today, especially after ye olde smear campaign that our Gallant Aussie Lads were subjected to by one French, M. and Coates, Lord J. in the months leading up to the Games. Take that you buggers!

Up until the 2004 Olympics, Australia had won a grand total of six (6) gold medals in Olympic cycling, i.e. in the last 108 years. Or 104, depending on whether you use discrete methods to count Olympiads. In Athens, the Aussies won six (6) gold medals in one bloody Olympics, with the MTB still to come!

For the benefit of Australian cycling in future, it's clear that Lord Sir John Coates, AM, OBE, TM and bar, must stay!! The negative publicity worked a treat and really got the boys and girls fired up. I say there should be more of it.

Good to see Bayley demolish the opposition in the keirin too. Coming from 300m behind with two laps to go, he wound it up to Maximum Velocity and no-one got close. For a very unassuming, KFC eating 22 year old boy from Perth, it was great.

The upcoming fixture

This weekend is the Journo World's in Verona, which will be my last race for a while I reckon. I haven't had the ideal build up for it as one month of racing in August with not much base training in July has left me a bit short of condition. However, I will do my best. At least the opposition should be a bit less than a kermis race. There are 43 starters (or more), including last year's winner Andrea Agostini, 2002 winner Menno Grootjans, and quite a few others. The race is on Sunday and is 7 laps of a fairly flat (but not dead flat) 10 km circuit.

It looks to be a really well organised and fun weekend too. We get to see Rigoletto (a sort of folk ballet written by Joe Green) on Saturday, and that should be a lark. Haven't been to the Opree for a while. Then there's a bit of a partay on Sunday night. At 1:00pm, before the race, there's something called "fastening of leaden seals" which I reckon must be part of a bizarre Verona/Antarctic hunting ritual. The poor seals will fall through the ice, methinks.


I did my final kermis yesterday in Wippelgem and it was hard, because there were only 17 starters, including Andre Tcherviakov (from now on known as "Andre"), Litouwers Mindaugas Goncaras and Saulius Sarkauskas, John Saey's Patrick and Nicky Cocquyt and Christophe Bracke. Ouch. It was the strangest race I've ever done too.

a) Because there were so few of us, one of our number, Jurgen Diependaele, made a Pact with everyone on the first lap that we ride together for 6 laps (the race was 14 x 8.2 km laps). That way we would all get a prime, because they were paying three deep, supposedly.

b) We rolled along at 35 km/h for the first four laps, observing the Pact, and I took the second lap prime with a well timed throw of my bike in a crude attempt to make it look like we were actually racing. However, the rest of the bunch riding on the tops of the handlebars probably destroyed the illusion.

c) It started raining. Not a surprise, as it's rained for 15 out of the last 16 days in August. I have been counting. But then it got harder and harder and harder, and with the strong wind made for a really Fun race. I have ridden in a lot of rain during my time, and this was equivalent to the hardest without it actually hailing. It didn't deter anyone from attacking either.

d) Bracke didn't like the Pact and attacked after 4 laps and it was on for young and old. We chased him down and caught him before the end of lap 5. Then on lap 6, Andre the Giant attacked in the Vicious Crosswind Section. I could see it coming from a mile off and stupidly tried to go with it, but amazingly I didn't have the legs. Sarkauskas, Goncaras and Patrick Cocquyt did, and the four of them rode off into the rain and were never seen again.

e) That left 13 of us, and as the Pact was now broken, it became an attack-fest for the rest of the race. Much pain. Much hurt. Bracke pulled out about halfway after sprinting across the line and turning left into the kleedkamers, which was pretty funny I thought.

f) I felt OK early on and got in most of the breaks, but then I started to feel it a bit and got dropped a few times with some Others. Much chasing. Much more pain. There were 10 of us left with about 3 laps to go, and two guys skipped off the front and they were gone. I was mentally a bit beaten by then, even though the rest were now just as knackered. In the last two km, pretty much everyone attacked and I should have gone with one of them but didn't, and was left to sprint it out for 11th place with three Others. 13th was the result. But I got a 10 euro prime :-)

g) I now have two elderly supporters (actually a couple more than that now), who recognised me at the start and yelled out "Hello Sjefke". Pretty funny, so I had a chat to them. Pity it was me last race for the year here, but maybe I'll renew the acquaintance next year.

h) How did I get this far?

I'll update with more news on Tuesday.

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