Saturday, August 05, 2006

The return of the native

Finally, I can race again. Got my licence this week and it goes without saying that after five weeks of sunshine and 30 degrees, the weather turned to utter crap on the same day. I tried to race in Aalst on Thursday, but my wonderful *cough* new FSA cranks came loose again. I didn't have an allen key with me to tighten them, and although I tried a bike shop en route to Aalst, they refused to touch it on the grounds that they'd had a few problems with these cranks (XCO compact). I've heard that the spindles are sometimes too thin. Maybe Superglue or Loctite would help with the fitting.

I rode home, despised and rejected in the rain, and tightened up the crank as much as possible, vowing to have another go on Saturday. And seeing as the Schelde has now become a police-state, I opted not to join the wielerterrorists on their morning constitutional.

That takes us up to the real-time present, so to speak. The race was at Knesselare, which is about 28 km from here into a headwind, or 40 km if you go the way I did. I had planned to stick to the canal, but because I was running late I turned right at the Aalter bridge to take a shorter route into Knesselare. The problem was that the race actually started on the canal, so if I'd ridden 2 km more...

After piss-farting around in town for a while looking for a non-existent bike race, I thought I'd head back down to the canal anyway and start riding home, as I'd given up on the idea of starting and was thus not very gruntled. Fortunately, a car drove past and a guy waved out the window "andere kant" (other side), so I turned around, found a side road which was actually part of the course, and eventually found the sign on cafe with exactly eight minutes to spare. They allowed me to start, and I got changed very quickly, inhaled a powergel, and rolled up to the start line facing the wrong way.

The whistle blew only 2 minutes behind time, and we were away, with me now facing the right way! Because it was really windy, I decided I didn't want to be anywhere near the front, so worked my way stealthily back to about last wheel. At least you don't have to fight for your position there, and you get to see all the crashes and other stupid things that happen in the bunch.

The course was pretty straightforward: along the canal into the headwind, then left and right over a bridge and along a crosswind bit (mind the bollards on the bridge!), then weaving along a tailwind bit past a horse jumping expo, then right into another crosswind bit that was also the finish straight. 18 laps of 5.88 km for 106 km, with 62 starters.

After I worked out where the holes were, I just settled into last wheel and watched numerous attacks go with little interest. They all came back, although some took longer than others to haul in. I was surprised, as usually the winning break goes in the first three laps. And we were only averaging 42-43 km/h.

After an hour or so I got hungry, but had to delay eating for a lap after some idiot took a waterbottle in front of me, and in doing so, dropped completely off the back. It took me a bit too long to register that he wasn't in fact going to even try to get back on, so I chased for a couple of km and regained the bunch just before the bridge/crosswind. Fortunately, it wasn't flat out then and I could recover my composure.

I searched in my pocketses for the testosterone massage cream that I bought in a Phonak fire sale off eBay this week, but in my haste, I must have forgotten it. Verdomme!! Instead, I only had bloody powergels. They taste like crap and come in lurid grape and apple flavours. I suppose they work.

In the race, nothing much was getting away, which was good, I guess. A few more people were getting dropped and I began to reconsider my position in the bunch, which was perhaps not ideal. But I couldn't be arsed moving up yet. After about an hour and a half, I started to feel it in the legs. Coincidentally, my left crank had come loose again, and I was getting a 5 degrees freeplay that is so good for the knees.

This annoyed me, so I decided to channel any pent up frustration into my right leg and practice one-legged sprinting out of corners. I thought I could still finish the race, because I've ridden with this thing loose for a few weeks now (thought it was the pedal), which could also explain why it's totally ruined.

For some reason that I have yet to fathom, I moved up with about four laps to go and got amongst the attacks. The cooperation wasn't particularly good, which explains why nothing had gotten away so far. But then I realised I didn't actually have the legs to do much, so I returned to the rear. The winning move of 20 finally went with some three laps to go, and that was that sorted. The crank was getting a little looser, and my one-legged sprinting was getting a little better.

Coming into one lap to go and suddenly everyone looked very tired. We weren't going to pull back the guys in front, so the battle was for the very minor scraps. I followed some jongens off the front coming up to the line, looked back and saw that the bunch was close but not too interested, so I persisted. Two guys managed to get a gap on us that we couldn't pull back, so that was 21st and 22nd sorted. The rest of our group numbered six at the end, and I managed third for a glorious 25th place. None of us were really doing anything remotely resembling sprinting at that stage, so I don't think the loose crank made one iota of difference. But it was goddamn annoying!

I'd like to race on Tuesday, but I'll have to get my old cranks put on first. Otherwise my right leg will get huge and I wouldn't want that.

The end.

No comments: