Sunday, August 01, 2004

It is Happening Again

It's not quite Twin Peaks, and I'm not quite that funny looking dude or Kyle or Stan or Bob for that matter. No, it's something udderly mundane: me first race back in Merelbeke. This won't take long.

'twas brilling, and a warmish sort of a day - 30 degrees, sunny with a light wind. The race was very close by but the course was cod ordinary. 25 laps of 3.5 km, with 800m of cobbles per lap, a little hill over the railway after the cobbles, and 8 corners. It wasn't a course where you could sit in and watch the world go by, gently turning over the pedals behind the wheel in front. Oh no, there was none of that. Even the tailwind wasn't much use because it was across the cobbles. Argh.

It was an Open race, which tend to be slightly easier than kermis races because there are less toppers. But we still had guys like big bad Bart Velghe and Tom Vlerick and more besides among the modestly sized field of 32 (ik denk). First lap on the cobbles was ok, as a few of us got on the bike path which was smooth. But then the commissaire waved us off it, saying we had to ride on the cobbles. Bugger and curses.

It took approx. drie ronden for the field to explode as a group of 11 got off the front and waved ta-ta. Being as it was my first race back and in the heat to boot, my two stroke heart/lung engine was not really up to doing much in the way of chasing or attacking. But I knew that with a course like this and the warm weather, it was going to be a race of elimination and the idea was to stay out of trouble.

Once the 11 rode off into the sunset, the rest of us set about making the group a bit smaller. After about 35 km I think we were left with a very sociable eight man group, although with three riders from the same team in there it wasn't that easy.

The group formed again and yet again as endless eons wheeled and passed. I was one of the eons getting wheeled and passed all the time, but I persisted. We got the Word after 14 laps that we had 3 laps to go, which prompted more attacking. I was not in the mood and couldn't do much about it when three guys sorta sidled off the front on the cobbles. They were the strongmen anyway, so Order was maintained instead of Primal Chaos reigning.

On the last lap I thought 'bugger this, I've got buckleys in a sprint on cobbles so I'll try to give the rest the slip'. I went with about 2 km to go, just as a couple of riders had got on the back of our now three man group. That gave me the breathing space to execute my cunning plan and I took off up the back section in pursuit of a Glorious 15th place. Unfortunately I was foiled when one guy took it upon himself to chase after me. Dang. I held him off until 200m to go but he cheated and went onto the footpath for most of the cobbled section/finish straight and thus, my huge prize was somewhat diminished and I finished 16th.

I complained to the commissaires but they just said "No problems" - even though they believed me and probably saw it - so the results stood. Rafferty's rules. Still, I made me point.

So it was an expected result for the first race back. Need to get the turbo extension for my two-stroke, but a few more races and it should kick in.

On Sunday (that would be today) I did the Berchem ride for the first time in aaaaaaaages (> 2 months). Henk, of fietstocht fame, was there also for the first time. We started off slowly but the pace picked up when the Kid decided to do some training in the second half. Damn he's strong. I followed him on one of the last climbs and just got his wheel, but had problems holding it even on the downhill! On the next climb, which I reckon is the hardest, I kept his wheel right to the top before the mind wasn't willing any more and I let him go. HR < 180 which was good - much better than last time when he dropped me on that same climb. There just wasn't that extra bit of fuel in the tank, due to yesterday's race.

I then rode home via some very cool back roads with Henk, who really knows this area of Flanders. I hear that he's planning another fietstocht to the Carrefour de l'Arbre (part of Paris-Roubaix) soonish...that should be a whole lotta fun.

Finally, allez Stuey O'Grady for being the first Aussie to win a World Cup! Way to go dude!

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