Nevertheless, I've managed to race twice and spend a nice arvo with Christina and Briony, who passed through Gent during their in-depth three day tour of Belgium this week. I haven't seen either of them for ages, mainly because I live in Belgium/Australia, Christina lives in Boston, and Briony lives in Paris. I guess I did go to Paris for a day this year, but that was for another reason, alas.
Anyway, we hooked up at 3pm outside Sint Baaf's Cathedral and fortunately, they had already seen Het Lam Gods so I didn't have to do it again. Not that it's a bad drawing by any means, but I seen it already last week with Pa so I didn't have to seen it again. The photo reproduction is remarkably good though.
It wasn't raining at this stage of the afternoon so we could spend some quality time soaking up the great outdoors, as we did a circuit of the Gravensteen castle and took a few snaps at appropriate times. Each time I do this, I see a bit of Gent that I haven't seen before, or haven't noticed at any rate. So it's all good!
We settled at a cafe on Jan Breydelstraat, near the Korenlei, and had a warming hot chocolate and shared a cake between the three of us. Yes, it was that sort of a cake. Then some more touristy walking via an antique boot shop near the Vridagmarkt because Briony had to have those boots. Then it started to rain of course. But we didn't get too wet en route back to Gent Sint Pieters and I bid C+B farewell.
Christina and Briony on a bridge, near the Gravensteen. Note Panos sandwich.
Having hot choccy. Try to spot Panos sandwich.
RadsportThe weather was unkind again last week, with Friday and Saturday just over week ago being incredibly wet. "Violent rain showers" was the prediction, and it wasn't far wrong. This is actually fairly rare in Belgium, where normally it rains a lot, off and on, but not so hard. Anyway, on Friday I went on the Schelde ride and once the first drops of rain started to fall, everyone else piked and I was left with three others. We still did the full lap out to Oudenaarde and back and ended up going pretty quick. Coming back in the thunderstorm we were sitting on 40-43 km/h and it was strangely easy, even though there wasn't much wind. We didn't get struck by lightning, so that was a plus, I reckon.
On Saturday I didn't go out at 9 because it was raining, so instead waited until 12. That was enough time for it to stop raining and start again. Gentle at first, when I left, but then after about 2 km it was belting down. I thought I'd head northwest along the canal towards Brugge. I'd never been that far along it, and it was a lot different to what I expected. The whole route was lined with tall trees, which provided surprisingly little shelter from the storm. Could have been worse though. I got to km 45 and turned around and had a tailwind home. It eventually stopped raining with about 20 km to go.
On Monday I rocked up to Balegem to race. I think I've done it once before, or one like it. 13 x 9 km laps, with two hills per lap, including one past the start/finish, and 11 corners, some of which were absolute shockahs: cobbles, holes, mud, sand, narrow roads, etc. It took me until halfway through the race until I got the hang of all of them, but it wasn't good.
There were 52 starters and I knew it would be an elimination race, but I almost eliminated myself on lap 3 when I got dropped with a group of others. There were about 30 ahead, and we weren't coming back, so I followed another guy's move, and we bridged up to them in about 1.5 laps. We were the only ones to get across. That cost a bit of gas, so I tried to conserve it by sitting back as much as possible, but after about halfway, a break went on the flat and others gradually reacted, but I didn't. It was more a mental thing rather than physical, because I did have the legs to go. I ended up in a group of 10, but there were now 20 ahead and we didn't see them again.
We ended up doing 10 laps (90 km) before we were pulled out, and on the last lap there were a few attacks, including a couple by me. I went hard over the start/finish hill and got a gap, then Alexander Kareev from Flanders caught me on the next hill. I looked back and saw the group not too far off, so I sat up. I should have gone with him, because I ended up doing most of the work to chase him down! Then with about 4 km to go, he went again with a couple of others, and they started to catch another four who were dropped from the front. So I took off at 1.5 km to go and just got on the back of them as they hit the hill before the sprint. The others had chased back to me, but only two got past so I was a glorious 24th. It was actually a lot better than I expected, because I wasn't concentrating well. Legs were OK, and I wasn't close to blowing up this time (I think).
Goncaras won. Now there's a surprise.
I took it easy on Tuesday and Wednesday and rocked up at the Cafe Flora on Thursday for the Wondelgem World's. The forecast had been for rain and when I was at home, it bucketed down for a bit at 1:30pm, which prompted me into changing wheels back to the "normal" Ksyriums. Also, the rear Zipp was goddamn flat! Bloody singles, I hate replacing them. Other than that, the Zipps are the best wheels I've ever ridden on. Anyway, I was late, but had enough time to sign on as the 31st and last rider. Amazingly, the roads were dry and it didn't rain until after the race.
It was a different circuit to normal, going in the reverse direction to what I'm used to and taking in some different streets. 21 x 5.5 km laps, with 14 corners, 2 sets of tram tracks and about 10 speed humps per lap. Not really my fave course, but it's a bit like Heffron in that I know bits of it fairly well. I had new shoes too, which weren't quite adjusted properly, so they felt wrong when I got out of the saddle. Incentive to corner better, which I did!
There was a team from Luxembourg there (UC Dippach), that had rolled up in a team van, with full matching kit and bikes, looking very pro, but who turned out to be a bit slow. That, combined with the mob of Kingsnorth International Wheelers, who practically live on the parcours, comprised nearly half of the bunch.
Tactics were fairly obvious. Fairly early on in the piece, a group of about four got away with two Kingsnorth guys in it (eventual winner Tomas Tareilis and Justin Kerr), Didier De Lannoy and Tomas Mice. We never saw them again. There were a lot of attacks in our little group with the Russian greyhound Andrei (Tcherviakov) being involved in most of them, as well as a token Luxembourgian and/or Kingsnorth. Somehow, every attack came back, and I still don't really know why. Afterwards, I asked Andrei how it was, and his simple reply was "Shit".
About halfway, Alexander Kareev just rode off the front and stayed there. He's strong when he wants to be. He caught one of the front guys and ended up fourth!
With about 5-6 laps left, I followed one of the Luxembourg riders through the corners, and we got a fairly decent gap. We just worked steadily and stayed away for a lap and a half until Andrei brought a few guys back to us. That was a bit of a relief, but then we were joined by a few more so we had 12, going for 6th spot. I was quite happy with the situation. They gave us the laatste ronde with 2 to go, and despite Peter Schoonjans attacking us a few times up the back, it was a group sprint.
Well it would have been except for a Luxembourg rider who attacked with about 1 km to go. I chased, but too late and instead of getting a great position for the (headwind) sprint, I ended up having to lead it out. Schoonjans won. I didn't have any power out of the saddle anyway, so I rolled in last of the group for 18th. Reasonably satisfied though, and I've since fixed the shoes.
Friday was going to be easy and I joined up with the Schelde bunch on the second lap. But for some reason everyone was attacking. I should have dropped off but I didn't, and paid the price on Saturday when my legs were still shot for the normal group ride. And Sunday, where I pretty much avoided the group ride and just did a slow 60 km to Oudenaarde and back. Same tomorrow, then race again on Tuesday in Zottegem-Erwetegem.
The increased activity on the racing front is because the Journo World's are in two weeks! They're in San Marino this year and, like last year, I have a decent chance to win. Possibly even better because I've heard that Agostini won't be there...
I'm flying to Italy this year.