Photo © Robert Kühnen
...is why I still race. The feeling you get when you cross the line having given it everything and you know it's a winning time.
Photo © Robert Kühnen
...is also nice.
That was the story of the 2010 journo worlds in a nutshell. There's a full report here too.
The full story
The slightly longer version starts with a poorly timed visit of the Ridley factory in Belgium on Thursday, the day before the journo world's kicked off. The visit was necessary for work but it didn't help with my last minute preparation. I had no chance to ride during the day and from past experience this always knocks the edge off me the next day (it did this time too). I don't handle rest particularly well.
Somewhat ironically, we were shown Ridley's latest aero developments, including a non-existent wind tunnel (it's coming) and a super dooper aero fork. And two days later, it turned out my closest rival in the TT was riding a Ridley Dean time trial bike. I suspect it was more coincidence than a Belgian plot to unseat me in the TT. It didn't work anyway.
Friday morning, train to Lierde, sign on and meet the rest of 'Team GB' (matching skinsuits, identical to the ones worn by the real British team. Yes I am both British and Orstrayan, wotcher g'day). Robin Coomber and Ian Osborne, who'd driven over in the Mountain Biking UK van the previous night. We thought we'd squeeze in a couple of laps of the course before the team time trial started later, and a wise decision it was.
20 corners in 10.7km. Bumpy concrete roads, potholed asphalt, speed humps and a few small climbs. That was the course and it was a bit of a shock to the system. The first time around it, my left elbow pad slipped on every bump, so I needed to make some modifications to my bar set up. It wasn't as aero as I would have liked but at least I had no surprises.
The second time around it we sort of worked out a formation but it was a tough course to ride as a team. Very few long straights where you could swap over and lots of corners where you could lose a ton of time. So the plan was: I do most of the work, Robin does a third and the more technical sections, Ian hangs on for dear life.
It almost worked.
Fast forward to just before the start. We got lost on our warm up and had just found the way back when Ian punctured. Argh! I had a spare wheel to lend him but it meant we were a little compromised. Worse still, we didn't have a chance to do the final part of our warm up, which involves going at race pace for a short while. This is to remind your legs what they're about to do. Too late for that. We were off.
I started at the front and got us up to speed on the first downhill bit. From 0-60km/h in 30 seconds. Then Robin took over for the first and tightest corner. I followed, checked that we'd still got Ian, left Robin in front for the next two corners and that was the first kilometre.
Then it was my turn again. Bend, corner, corner, 60km/h, sharp corner at 30, back up to 58, bend, another one, too fast come off tri-bars and slow down too much. Less than 3km and Robin takes over, yelling at Ian to drop back but he doesn't and I take last wheel. Bad idea because Robin pushes it hard on the uphill and Ian slowly loses the wheel until I can come round and pull him back, past Robin, who slots into second. 3.5km. We've already lost the race but we don't know it yet.
Time for me to do a longer turn, not hammering but opening up a bit. It's mostly straight with just one bend in 1.6km, so I can crank the speed up gradually without dropping anyone. Slow from 52 to 38 for one bend, then down to 30 for the next one as we reach Deftinge. I did a race here once. Quite some time ago actually. That means this blog is over six years old.
I digress. We're halfway now and Robin gets back on the front, taking us through the next corner out of Deftinge (that didn't take long). We go through the back of town via a few more corners and onto a tiny road next to a cornfield. Memories of racing over roads like this. I shouldn't have been reminiscing though, I should have taken over from Robin on this bit even though we'd previously agreed he'd do the next section because it was downhill and technical.
Bad idea - I'm much fatter than Robin therefore faster on the downhills. I end up freewheeling and sitting up too much as we rattle along at 48-52km/h. That's it. 3km to go and I come through for the duration. Up a sharp hill at 430W, take the next corner fairly well, then assume the position on the longish drag into the headwind. I'm flat out here and hoping that the others are hanging on.
Corner, bend, hammer, another corner and we're into the finishing straight which goes down then up and up some more. It's block headwind here and I can only hit 52 on the descent. The climb to the finish is long enough to really hurt and I am at this point. Robin comes past near the end, I get out of the saddle to try to hold his wheel but I can't quite, and Ian is barely on mine.
We cross the line in 15'05 and I'm blown. The second half was a lot better than the first but not starting hard enough cost too much time and already I can hear that we're one second behind Team Grinta! who have the quickest time so far. That's disappointing as although they knew the course and had decent riders (Frederik Backelandt, won the U30 TT last year, Roel Van Schalen, who beat me in the TT three years ago and Lorenzo Derycke, who is very strong and had been drafted in especially for this team), we thought we could still beat them.
It didn't matter in the end as Team Belgium 1 came home in 15'00 to win. Dieter Roman (TT winner in 2006), Brett Wauters and Rik Lintermans combined extremely well to get around the course quicker than the rest of us. They had the home advantage and made the most of it, but they deserved it.
It also caused me a few worries for the next day as I now knew how good the Belgians were on their home turf. This was going to take a good ride, unlike last year where I did a relatively crap ride and still won by a minute.
Podium ceremony done, we retired to the Berendries B&B run by the wonderfully friendly and generous Christina and Marc. Highly recommended and I've stayed in a lot of B&Bs. Back to Lierde for the post-race pasta party (which was a good idea on paper) and thence to bed for a proper night's sleep.
The next day was better. I'd rehearsed the course in my head over and over and had a much better idea of which lines I'd take in the corners. Again it was an afternoon start so we had time to get properly ready.
Ian was off first, in the over 40s category. He did a creditable 15'58 for 5th place, but was a little disappointed as he'd initially been told 15'08 which would have been the winning time. The winner was Dutchman Roel Kerkhof in 15'11, who together with his friend was also staying at our B&B. Journo world's regular and top bloke Julian Bray was 2nd in this category, just 6 seconds behind Kerkhof. Sooo close and I bet there was plenty of post-ride analysis of the corners.
Photo © Robert Kühnen
Fred Backelandt rode first in the U40 category and did a really fast time: 14'48! Did the team slow him down yesterday? Luckily neither Robin nor I knew this before we rode, or we would have been worried. In any case I had already decided that I'd need to break 15min to have a good chance.
Robin went 4th last and had a disaster. The bumps made his saddle tilt down about 1km into it and he had to do the rest of it in a very unnatural position. Brilliant ride to finish in 14'58 but it wasn't enough unfortunately. It was worse for Robert Kuehnen, who took some of these photos. He did 16'19 but had to take 30sec out because his rear brake fell off!
I was off last. I saw Guido and Lucien at the start and Grote Jo was somewhere along the parcours too. Excellent to see them and I hope they enjoyed watching.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go! And I'm off again.
Photo © Robert Kühnen
This time the tailwind isn't quite as strong so I have to work to hit 60 on the first downhill. Then it's the sharp, tight right hander and I get around it without running into the wall. The next two corners I'm much quicker than the previous day, 3-4km/h. I'm not holding back and not looking behind.
Whenever I see my computer I'm encouraged by the numbers. This is definitely better than yesterday (final average was 23W up) despite working just as 'hard'.
Up to halfway and I can feel that I've gone faster, the corners flowing much more freely. Of course as soon as I think this I muck one up and it's the one into Deftinge. That's a few km/h off and at least a second. I'm a bit more cautious around the next few although I'm still pushing it on the straights in between. I reach the narrow road next to the cornfield and can see I'm catching my minute man. Hmm, when to pass?
I try to get him out of the next corner but I'm not close enough yet, which means he gets the perfect run on the potholed downhill section. I'm up to 54km/h here and close the gap, having to wait a few pedal strokes before I can get round him. Motorbike in my way too (there's one per rider).
I hit the gas again on the sharp uphill, mess up the next corner (argh!) and tackle the second last drag. Again, it's flat out, albeit not as much of a headwind so I can nearly manage 45. Last few corners, could be better but there's no time for that now. I really wind it up on the last descent: 56km/h and that gives me a great run up to the finish. Out of the saddle again, getting every last drop of power out and hit the line at maximum effort.
Photo © Robert Kühnen
A quick look down: 14'31. Plus 5sec for the start. 14'36. That's good.
It's confirmed by the announcer: "Jeff Jones, nieuwe beste tijd! vierteen minuten, zesendeertig seconden!"
Woo hoo, dunnit!
The satisfaction is huge and I high-five Ian just after the line. It's an unbeatable feeling - as you can see from the very first photo. Congrats from Guido and Lucien and it's in the bag. Podium time.
I felt sorry for Frederik though. He was beaten into third by a few hundredths of a second by his compatriot Jonas Heyerick, who was absolutely over the moon with that. Jonas had trained for the last 9 months specifically for this race, losing nearly 20kg, getting properly set up on his bike and kit with professional training help, and had chronicled it all in a column for P Magazine called 'From donkey to racehorse'. He had a busload of supporters too, who were awesome and loud, despite being a bit annoyed that I'd won.
Robin was annoyed with 4th and who knows how close it would have been had his saddle not slipped? But that's part of it unfortunately.
A rather posher reception followed and Ian got abominably drunk.
The road race the next day was a reminder of the kermises I used to ride in Belgium, but without the relentless attacking. Much easier all round, except for the hill which was ridden pretty hard. Five laps, 12km a lap, fewer corners than the TT and a finish that involved a short steepish climb, a quick descent, three fast corners then the finishing straight.
My vague plan was to try and get away, either alone or with a small group. I knew I had little chance of this as the bunch was over 50 strong, had some useful riders in it and some team tactics. Also the last time I got away alone I won by three minutes so I didn't think I would be allowed much room.
That proved correct, although I did have a few stabs at it. The last one was promising as I took a few riders with me who were prepared to work, but the Belgians were vigilant and chased it down.
Mark Koghee rode a great race as he did manage to get away early. He spent most of the race alone in front until the eventual winner Christophe Moec bridged across to him on the last lap, then rode away. Even though Moec was caught by a small group over the top of the climb, he still beat them in the sprint. Chapeau!
I was OK on the climb, as the following video clip by Jo Vandenheulen shows, but was clearly too far back to be in with a shout. Thus I rolled in at the back of the second group in 14th.
Robin, on the other hand, had been looking after himself the whole race and stayed with the leaders on the climb. He can sprint a bit and managed a fine third. Another well done that man!
Eikenmolen - last lap. Moec leads, Robin in 5th, me in 12th. Video by Jo Vandenheulen
And that wraps it up for another year. A good 'un, by all accounts.
PS: Blenheim Palace went poorly. I punctured halfway. Grr.
PPS: I may even post some pics from our Skye/Edinburgh holiday.