Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Burkina Faso does Erpe-Mere

No dramas on Monday, and mission accomplished for my last kermis of the season, and possibly for quite some time, depending on where I end up next year. Strangely enough, I wasn't planning on going full gas for this one, as it takes me some days to recover. Gotta save it for Sunday! But part of the plan was to ride at least 70 km of the race, and that generally involves staying alert and not making any stupid attacks. It also involves riding on the rivet for a bit, unless you sit last wheel and risk getting dropped.

It was about 25 km down there and I had a gentle southerly blowing into my face on the ride down. On the way back it had turned into a gentle noreasterly for some reason. The auspices were definitely not in my favour! I took the main road between Gent and Aalst because it was the most direct, even though it's pretty rough to ride on. I again had the front Zipp on but no punctures - yay. I got there nice and early and signed on as number 44 of a total of 52. That was good, because it meant there was a peloton. Included in the deelnemerslijst was the Lithuanian connection - Strole, Vilcinskas plus national team riders - and even though they all ride for different teams, you can be sure they'll work together a bit. You can also be sure that the race will be over on the first lap because these boys ride hard.

The second contingent of note were the lads from Burkina Faso, who are in Belgium for a few weeks to get some form for the World Championships. As Belgian national coach Jose de Cauwer said, it's all very well for the globalisation of the sport, but having six Burkina riders in the World's and just one from Norway and Luxembourg is a little unfair. Especially as I can almost guarantee that all the Burkina guys will be dropped after a couple of laps like they were today. One dude, Mahamadi Sawadogo, their national champion, did manage to hold on until halfway, but I was behind him a few times and he did not instill me with great confidence. He and the rest of the team need a hell of a lot more practice at riding these races before they should consider the World's!

Oh well, I guess there are less corners in Madrid than in Erpe-Mere.

The circuit was different to the one I remembered from about six or seven years ago, and after the race I realised why: a fairly critical part had been dug up in the name of Belgian road works, a national industry that employs at least half the country's able bodied workers. But still, it was a good course. The start/finish was right at the gates of Erpe-Mere cemetery, which I thought was very fitting. It was a 7.7 km loop with 13 corners, and a fair bit of climbing and descending. The first part of the course climbed over the railway bridge, then we went down and turned left to hit this really rough section that was about 1 km long. It wasn't as bad as cobbles but the only smooth bit of road was in the middle, so it was single file along there through the corn fields. After that it was right and then up a short climb before a 2 km descent to the finish. It was very quick coming down there and there were a few interesting corners, but no mishaps.

As predicted, the break went on the first lap with most of the Lithuanian connection in it. Six went at first - five of them Litouwers. They were chased by another six somewhere along the line, or maybe more - that was hellishly confusing. At the end of two laps they had 46 seconds already, and we were going flat out! No way they were coming back, and the gap gradually opened out to three minutes. I tried to figure out what was going to happen in the peloton, but it was the usual shitfight. So many attacks, but I think only a couple of them stuck when about seven guys went away at halfway chasing the six + six who'd already gone. I'd gone with a few already, but realised that I'd have to go with all of them to guarantee getting in a break, so I just took punts every now and again.

After 10 of 15 laps, we were given the laatse ronde, and there were only about 20 of us left at this stage. On the rough section we could see a small group in front of us, but we weren't really committed into chasing them down and they just stayed away until the end. The official results had them 2 minutes ahead of us but that was erroneous. Actually, I don't trust those official results much. We had to wait ages for them and they weren't certain at all.

On the last hill before the descent of the finish, I decided to half a go, as I still felt decent. On the corner at the top I went wide and hit some kind of hole - I nearly lost it! Anyway, one guy was with me with the rest of the bunch not far enough behind for my liking. We worked on the descent but were gradually caught with about 1 km to go. I went to the back and moved up a bit for the sprint, and for once no-one passed me :-) I was registered as 12th for a glorious 28th place, but I'd done 84 clicks at 41.3 so that was exactly what I wanted.

In the final break of four, there were three Lithuanians: Strole won, Koen de Bosscher was second, Vilcinskas was third, and Simas Kondrotas fourth. Hell, even Marc Baeyens didn't get much of a look in: he was ninth. I had an idea I was closer to 20th than 30th, because after we finished, I only counted 12 left in the race when they came round a few minutes later, and I didn't count that many in front of me in the sprint, even including the . Whatever - that wasn't the object of the exercise, and I wasn't going to argue about it. I was more interested in getting home.

I left to the sounds of Madonna's "Holiday" playing over the loud speakers. Good to know that some things never change.

The ride home was interesting, mainly because I hadn't realised how many "clubs" there were on the main road. By clubs I don't mean places where gentlemen go to smoke cigars and drink spirits, but brothels. I guess it's easier to spot them when it gets darker because they nearly all have blue neon lights advertising their attractions. That leads me to the conclusion that the Moroccan computer shop across the road from me is one of these clubs, because it's certainly lit up like one at night. They really should ditch the blue neon. It's not a good look.

San Marino beckons now. I'll fly there on Friday and get back on Monday, so it should be a good four days away from work. We're nearly at the end of the season but this break will be a good one. I have looked at the course profile and it looks hard: 6.6 km lap with no metre of flat. The main climb is 1.5 km long, with the last km averaging 4 percent. I'm sure it will be harder than that on the road too, as last year we were told it was flat and it definitely wasn't. Also it looks as though the climb is on some cool narrow streets. Can't wait!

The form's about the same as last year so I've definitely got a chance. But much depends on the competition, of course. I'm not sure if two-time defending champ Agostini will be there though. He's pretty much a shoo-in in a sprint, but he might be droppable on a climb. Didn't give any indication of that last year though.

Also, I believe it's going to be wet for the weekend, which will make it interesting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have a nice time in Italy and show them what you have learned in Belgium. Beat the whole bunch. Go for it. But above all stay on your bike. This evening will be discides wheiter or not an operation is necessary for my arm. I don't think so, because the X-rays of today look the same as last week. Greetings, Philippe.