Saturday, March 08, 2008

Het Volk

Sun, sand and surf. I sought them in Gent but wasn't successful, being foiled by the fact that it was Belgium.

Still, there are other things to be had in Belgique, namely beer, bike racing and bonhomie. These things coincided with Het Volk, the traditional opening of the Belgian season and one of the best races on the calendar, oi reckon.

They put the recently retired Peter Van Petegem (wot lives on the col de la Trap Op) in charge, and he devised a nice challenging course. Just like in the good old days, it started and finished in Gent instead of outside a BMW dealership in Lokeren. Way more fitting for such an important race. Especially as the final turn was across the tram tracks right outside where I used to live on Martelaarslaan.

Philippe Gilbert, top rider and eventual winner
© Jeff Jones

Check out the plumage
© Jeff Jones

Reiny watches
© Jeff Jones

Het Volk is go
© Jeff Jones

I thought Philippe Gilbert (FDJ) or Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) would win, and after Quick.Step imploded somewhere near Ronse it was up to Gilbert to bridge the three minute gap to the break, which had one of his teammates in it. A nice bit of riding there by FDJ to give Gilbert the perfect springboard for an attack on the cobbles with 20km to go. Race over. Gilbert's a genuinely good rider too. You don't win the King of the Mountains classification in the Tour Down Under without oozing talent.

I watched it from the confines of the Irish pub and then Reiny's shop. It was a most excellent way to spend a Saturday, once I had shaken off the hangover from Friday. I'd gotten into Gent about 9:30 and Reiny, Gab, Gwen and I did not pass go, we immediately went to the Marimain for a few quiet ones.

Watching Gilbert win
© Jeff Jones

Saturday night was rather longer. We didn't quite visit as many cafes as last year (seven), but we did manage three or four. The fourth was the Irish pub where we stayed and chatted to Gwen's colleagues for some time (well after closing). It could have gone pear-shaped as the barman kept bringing out shots of blue and green hue, that I believe were alcoholic in nature. Fortunately by that stage we were more tired than drunk and decided to call it a night at around, erm, 6am.

A visit to Mokabon some hours later was in order.

Ahh, Mokabon
© Jeff Jones


I. Wouter Weylandt was the best placed Quick.Step finisher in Het Volk. It just goes to show how important training langs de Schelde is for the condition.

II. Must bring the bike on the next trip, but only if it's longer than a couple of days.

III. Cafe Igor has gone broke. I'm surprised it took that long. You cannot expect a drinking establishment to do well when the floors are deliberately made to be uneven. The lighting was so cold as well.

IV. Rochefort 10° knocks you around when you've been drinking the watered down stuff they have in England.

V. Despite lack of Schelde training and large amounts of drinking, I knocked another 10sec off the times up the two hills I did around here last week. 410W x 2 for four and a bit minutes, which is OK for this time of year. Also managed 310W for an hour and a bit on Tuesday, not going flat out. Which is also OK.

VI. First race of the season for me tomorrow. I have acquired a disc wheel, so hope I don't puncture it on the way out to Devizes. Or indeed during the race.

Wouter Weylandt (L) and eventual second place getter Nick Nuyens (R) on stage
© Jeff Jones

Igor has gone broke. Quelle shock
© Jeff Jones

Boris and Gab spot a kermis
© Jeff Jones


Anonymous said...

Jeff, quick question - are you still ride the GT with Lightweight wheels you raced at the media race in Italy a few years ago? Or have you upgraded now you seem to be using some form of power meter?

Jeff Jones said...


No, I had to send the Lightweights back, alas. And the GT went to my brother-in-law (not bad for a commuting bike).

I'm now on a Flandria CSS1 for winter, Ridley Noah in summer, and a Planet X Stealth Pro Carbon for time trials. The latter has the power meter (Ergomo). But I can also estimate power fairly well using