Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Lovendegem redux

As I suspected, my knee was fine to ride on, and the bruising had gone down a lot courtesy of severe treatment with frozen prawns and Arnica.

I picked a great day for my first race: wind strength 4, overcast, with occasional showers. Yet another typical Belgian day. I found the little path along the little canal, so it was only 13.7 km out to the start at Lovendegem, instead of 15 km. So I rode down to the end of the road and back to the sign on cafe for good measure.

Caught up with Don, who got his new bike today and probably didn't have it quite adjusted right. It caused some pain later, I reckon. Kleedkamers were in the footy field and I was even asked by a young lass, who appeared to be filming an entire kermis koers, where they were. Dunno if she found them, but she was spotted during the race interviewing one of the elderly spectators. Can't wait to see the doco.

We had 38 starters, a few good guys as usual, and a whole squadron of Kingsnorth boys. 10 laps of 10.6 km (or 11 km according to the organiser). Set off at 55 km/h in the tailwind as usual, and I think the eventual winner Christophe Devos made the first attack. I decided to stay at the back for as long as possible, as I was just trying to get an hour of racing in. It wasn't too bad, although I had to work a bit harder in the narrow 2 km cross/headwind section at the back. First lap we started at 46 km/h and held that for a while until everyone blew up and dropped to 30 km/h. Then the attacks started of course.

I wasn't really keeping track of what was going on up front, just trying to hold my position down the back. On the second lap, we pretty much did the whole cross/headwind section at 46, and that was hard. Had to keep going round people who couldn't hold the wheel in front. After that, I had Don on my wheel and he was yelling loudly. Not at me, but at himself, and it didn't sound good. He dropped off at the end of the lap.

The third lap was harder, and although we hit the cross/headwind at 46, a group still managed to split off the front and we chased them all the way along that bit. Eventually got them when we turned right into the headwind, and it slowed down for a bit before the winning move went clear.

At the start of lap 4, three guys from our group jumped away and went in pursuit of the leading 13(?). I saw them go and was caught in two minds, because I knew that was the place to be. But although I was feeling ok in the bunch, it's a different matter when you have to work. So, like a fool, I waited until the three had gone, then set off on my own. I managed to hold them steady as they closed in on the leaders, but I knew the gap was too big.

I got caught by the group behind just before the cobbled corner that I hate: it has two rows of plastic bollards and you really have to be careful with your line. I rode it like a total hubbard and one of my bidons fell out. Being somewhat delirious and a moron, I stopped to pick it up. Basically, I went from being off the front of my group to being out the arse in about 200 metres. Oh well, I didn't lose the bidon. I wouldn't have needed it though - it was too bloody cold!

Chased and held them at 10 seconds for a while, but I knew I wouldn't get them unless they slowed down. My saddle had tilted back too, so it was like pedaling in squares. Rode an extra lap to get halfway, and then spent the rest of the race sitting in the gutter, chatting to Don, and shivering a lot. I guess it was worth the wait, as once the results were posted I found that I still finished 26th, so would have been in with a shout of a top 20 had I not been an idiot.

Still, it was enjoyable. It's just the whole atmosphere of a race, seeing some familiar faces and saying g'day.

It's 11:30 now and there's no way I'm getting to sleep.

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