Saturday, March 07, 2009

Birth, omloop and injury

Stop press: My sister has finally produced an offspring, a boy named Sam. Born on the same day as Pete, which should save on presents. Very exciting for us Joneses and Boyds! That makes me an uncle. Luckily she didn't have a girl or I would have been an aunt, a maiden one at that.

Het Omloop

Het Volk
© Jeff Jones

This year's Het Volk (now renamed to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, grr) visit was for a whole week. Longer than the usual weekend because I'm still trying to use up my 2008 holiday.

It afforded the chance to bring my bike over in order to do the Schelde ride again as well as revisit some of my old training routes and mates. It was the first time since 2006 and I now realise why I got such a shock when I first moved to the UK. For one, Belgium is flat. Really flat. Even the hilly rides are flat. Secondly, the road surfaces are better. It's so much easier to roll along at a decent clip when you're on smooth asphalt rather than coarse aggregate.

I did a one hour out and back effort at a bit over 80% of max on the first day. 37.5km for my pains, which ain't bad on the road bike, especially as it was only 4 degrees. My record a few years ago was closer to 40km, but that was when it was actually warm and I was probably a bit fitter.

I caught up with the Sunderland clan on the first day, visiting a dinosaur museum in Brussels. I still find dinosaurs amazing - they were around for hundreds of millions of years and never even blogged about it. Then they went and got themselves wiped out by some climactic event. Not that that could ever happen again.

This exhib in Brussels was apparently the largest in Europe. The most impressive was a display of the 30 Iguanodons that had been dug up in a Belgian coal mine. Eight of their skeletons had all been reconstructed in upright positions, as it was first thought they were mostly bipedal. But it's now considered more likely that they spent most of their lives on all fours. Their very well developed 'arms' are a clue.

A triceratops looking starved
© Jeff Jones

A tyrannosaurus looking starved and mean
© Jeff Jones

That's a big leg bone
© Jeff Jones

Checkin' out the Grand Place
© Jeff Jones

Van Gogh lives!
© Jeff Jones

The well known manneken pis
© Jeff Jones

The little known Jeanneke pis
© Jeff Jones

I also managed a couple of rides with Scott during the rest of the week. He's still fit for someone who doesn't ride that much. Alas, while following him up a hill I made the mistake of looking behind me for a bit too long. When I turned around, I'd overlapped his wheel, overbalanced and down I came on my right side. I was barely hurt and thought nothing of it until I got home and found walking was rather painful. Turns out I think I tore my lower calf muscle, which is a bit of a bugger. More of that later.

I saw several of the Schelde riders, notably De Witte, but also Henk, Lucien and Jules. Unfortunately there have been a couple of (non-cycling related) deaths among the group in the last few years, but at least three births to balance them. Such is the way of the world.

On the pie shop front, Reiny and Gwen are doing well, even in these times of the credit crunch(tm). They're still working hard but the business is steadily picking up. 'Twas nice to stay with them again and remain at moderately sober for the entire week, despite them having acquired a crate of Jupiler that almost literally fell off the back of a truck. Luckily I don't like Jupiler that much. Promising news: Cafe Igor has now been gutted and is being turned into a microbrewery. I tried some of the beer and it was good. This bodes well.

Future beer!
© Jeff Jones

We met up with Gregg and Holly Germer at Pane & Vino one evening. They are top value: Holly works at one of the Irish pubs while Gregg has moved from there to doing a factory job. He was a bike rider and did ride as a pro for at least one year before getting a job that paid a bit better. He's in the process of allocating a chunk of his and Holly's large house in Oudenaarde to bike riders as a base for the season, with a view to turning it into a proper business venture.

The Omloop itself was quite pleasant. I moseyed around the start in Sint Pietersplein, taking the odd pic before catching up with Aussies Andrew Torney and Karl Becker and their kids for 'n koffietje. They are well settled in Belgium although the call back home is still there. Apparently the winter in Belgium was a lot colder than what we had in the UK: it got down to -22 somewhere, and it was even -12 in Gent. So all the lakes and canals were frozen and many were skateable. Not great riding weather and not surprisingly, I heard there were a few crashes in the bunch.

Unlike previous years, the Omloop night out was not a big affair. We caught up with Reiny's ex-shop helper at a passable French restaurant in the Patershol, but didn't extend the evening beyond that. It ain't easy to recover when you're working flat out six days out of seven.

Cycling can be cras at times
© Jeff Jones

More volk
© Jeff Jones

Andrew Torney and son
© Jeff Jones

Return: injury confirmed

I got back to Bath on Sunday but it took me until Friday before I got to a physio to figure out what the problem with my ankle was. It also involved a walk up (and down) Lansdown Road, which probably wasn't ideal! The upshot was that I've probably torn my soleus (lower calf) but I need to get an ultrasound next week to make sure. I think the rehab will take several weeks and a few hundred quid - also not ideal. But it's got to be done. I also might be able to do something about my comparatively weak left side, which has given me problems in the past.

The good thing is that I can still keep riding. Even riding to work is better than walking, so I'll do that. I'm also allowed to race, provided I don't sprint hard or push too much if it's painful (painkillers are definitely out of the question too), because there is a small chance I could rupture the tendon. That would be bad.

So tomorrow I'll do the Chippenham hilly, but not with any particular ambition other than maybe to sneak in for the team prize. Pity because up until the crash I was going well. No point in buggering up the rest of the season though, so it'll be steady as she goes.

Tomorrow's results

Better than I thought. Much better. I won in 54'10 in a new course record on what could be described as a 'blustery' day. And yep, we won the team prize with Ben and Rob Gough.

My leg didn't give me too much gyp so I could push it as hard as I needed to. Actually it probably helped me not go out too hard. As a result, my pacing was spot on. I averaged 325W - about 10W lower than my best power over that distance last summer - and each leg was pretty consistent (hur hur). I started halfway down the field and did cop a little bit of rain in the last 10 minutes, but not nearly as bad as the guys who started behind me...

Now, two weeks off racing before the Bath hilly. Hopefully my injury will be right by then. I can't imagine it'll get worse as I've now got a physio and am doing the right things to fix it (Ice ice baby. Maybe I should just stand outside in the sleet).

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