1. Corrine Hall
Senior A Devil
3. Gavin Mitchell
Central Region 20k Championship
4. Gavin Mitchell
Photo's by Graham Mitchell
Oliver Newlan broke away with Jake Martin (Ingear Development Squad) and opened up a healthy lead over the bunch in wet conditions. Oliver finished second and gained enough points to get his second cat licence.
My final week started on an easy monday after the race in kampenhout where litterally the highlight of the day was watching the start of the european swimming championships!! Tuesday arrived in earnest and my next race, this time in a town called Erondegem west of Brussels near Aalst. Having learnt from previous experience i decided to take the train this time and to avoid the hassle of riding there (45km) yet unfortunately when you are in a different country even the best laid plans often fall apart at the seams. The train i was meant to get did not go to my station anymore, so i had no map (other than a crude paper drawing of a route from said station to the race) and no idea what to do. Yet i asked around and managed to get on the next train to Aalst as i realised that was pretty near, once there i again asked around (multiple times!) and finaly got to the race HQ with about 1/2 an hour to spare. Enough time to meet a few fellow brits on the start line who i had met on previous trips and races abroad and at home, they all seemed in good spirits and it came as a relief to converse with someone in something other than broken english/flemish. The race started with a fairly large field of 81 on a 8km ciruit which we would do 11 times, this included a lovely cobbled climb and a hill finish. This i thought would suit me if it managed to split before the line so was very happy when i made the break of 8 on the second lap over the cobbled climb, i then managed to win two hill primes which made me a further 10€ but unfortunately our little escapade was not to be and we were pulled back with 5 to go. As we were brought back the clouds unfurled a terrific rainstorm which made the corners taken at speed almost like an icerink with the muddy runnoff from a nearby farm not helping matters in the slightest. I did manage to stay upright and watch various attacks go and be brought back as usual in the ever present maul at the front of the bunch. I was feeling better than at previous races so i was picturing a cancellara-esque attck in the last lap on the cobbles, yet in bike racing nothing is ever certain and my attack was swiftly swallowed by the gaping jaws of the peleton. So much for the solo win!
Anyway i rubbed the mud out of my eyes and tried to position myself for the inevitable hill sprint in the lashing rain, i stayed on one of the brits wheel who i thought was a good sprinter yet impressions are easy to put on, he swiftly faded leading me without a wheel and an uphill struggle (excuse the pun) i came in 28th which was good enough for a 5€ prize plus my 10€ in primes left me with enough to let me take the train back! Hurrah i wouldnt have to cycle back on some godforsaken cycle path in the rain. Needless to say i was very releived plus having talked to one of the flemish men at the finish he said that he had a team (isorex or something) which i was welcome to ride for next year when in belgium. All in all a good day with 112 good km's in the legs, just need to get luckier in the breaks/position myself better in the finish.
Wednesday was as monday very non-descript with thursdays ride beign a nice 3.5hr spin to see the course for saturdays race at huldenberg. And the name huldenBERG really did live up to its name with two large (imagine richmond hill) climbs to navigate with one saying 17% on the sign. No prizes to those who predicted a breakaway finish! Anyway the course recee made me nervous for the next couple of days, friday was a nice ride of an hour to ease out the legs before the back to back races on saturday and sunday. Saturday greeted me with a warm if overcast day, i then cycled the short 15km to the race start with plenty of time to spare, the race was to be shorter than usual at 81km due to the hill and general nature of the course. It started as expected although the route actually went down the 17% hill not up (pheww!) which meant a new speed record of 83km/h on my speedo when in the flying bunch, anyway the course was always going to split the field and it was quickened by the all to common major downpour halfway through the race. This made the mud on the road coat us in a film of brown specks like the scenes of a wet paris roubaix. The hill split the field but i didnt have it in the legs to go with the vital move which went on lap 5 initiated by the australian national champion (and eventual winner) i was at my literal maximum of my human capabilities and breathing out of every crevase of my body to try and keep up, i then settled into the second group on the road and tried to pull through as much as necessary just telling myself the longer i stay in the faster it will all be over and the higher my position. I held on to the last and came midway through our group to take my first top twenty of the trip with a 19th place. Which i wasnt to unhappy about.
Sunday was my last and best day of the trip all round, firstly my mum and dad drove out to brussels to pick me up and take me home, albeit with a slight detour to a race near antwerp. This was in a town called Rumst and was the sight of my most succesful, if not most embarrasing race. The race was on a nice 8km circuit done 11 times with one headwind section and multiple corners, yet pretty standard for belgium. The race split pretty early and i managed to get in the top group on the road and was smiling to myself as i saw the gap to the bunch widen and widen added to this I had my mum and dad handing me food and bottles when i needed which helped no end!. Our group of ten worked well together with a great through and off working for nearly all the race. There was the inevitable downpour mid-race which made the corners slippy and caused a crash in our group. We stopped working together with one lap to go annd just played cat and mouse with each other, i felt stong so i attacked on the section with 3 corners thinking my cornering in the wet to be more suicidal than the belgians, i got a gap of 50m but was reeled back when they saw the danger. So i sat in to await the sprint for the line, one guy went early and i followed on 7th wheel, he then sat up with 300m to go but i had the momentum of chasing the line ahead of me so i decided to kick then and there on the far hand side. I put my head down and suffered on every pedal stroke in a tunnel vision sort of nightmare as i gaze at the finish (so near yet so far!) To cut things short i crossed the line ahead of my breakaway companions and celebrated as i beleived i had won!!! Yet it turned out there was already a break of 6 away which we were on route to catch until our last few laps of dithering! I wasnt to embarrased with my mistake as i looked around at these rather strange breed of people wearing socks and sandals to a rainy bike race in literally the most deppressing town in the history of the world. Rumst made Scunthorpe look like paradise. and i am not joking about the sandals. I collected my 30€ prize , it wasnt as big a prize fund :( and we went home glad at last that my parents didnt see me fall into midpack mediocrity (even if in slightly embarrasing circumstances!) And so ended my Belgian escapade, having broken even on the euros front but most importantly having left with an experience i am not likely to forget in a long, long time.
Thanks to everyone for reading and hope you all have a successful end of season.
Stefan Zurakowski will be giving massages every Tuesday Night, there will be a booking sheet on the sign on table, the time slots are 8.30, 8.50, 9.10 and 9.30.
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