The weekend started off with the drive down to the euro tunnel, getting on the euro tunnel, then getting off the euro tunnel and arriving in France. Yes, it was as fun as it sounds.
We arrived at the race (Lierde) at around 1pm in the afternoon with plenty of time to get ready. The beast from the east had just left Europe and the feeling of sun and 7 degrees was like being back in summer. We signed on, got changed and went for a lap of the course (around 30mins from the start). The lap was pretty flat but the last km involved very short sharp climb followed by a quick decent before turning onto home straight. The race had around 115 riders as races had been cancelled elsewhere due to the weather, this brought people that wanted to race to Lierde increasing the field size. I was quite far back on the start line but once the race started I made my way to the front where I sat 20 riders back out of the wind. Because of the amount of riders I was worried about large splits but it stayed together on the whole. I didn't find the pace challenging but the amount of effort it takes to stay in the front half made up for it. I was quite far back with 1/2 a lap to go with 6 or so guys up the road (including Theo Model). I knew that if I wanted to get any sort of result I need to get myself to the front pretty quick, I pushed out to the side of the road to find some space and kicked up the side of the bunch. Not going to lie I got a little excited and continued my surge into an attack that would try and go up the last climb. This didn't work and never would have, so I ended up getting swamped and rolled in 26th. I took a lot of confidence that I wasn't off the pace but I might need to re think my tactics for the future.
After the race we packed up quickly and got changed, ready to head back to the hostel in Kortrijk. The hostel was nice, modern and very functional which wasn't really what I was expecting. Dinner was simple spaghetti Bolognese, this filled me up before heading up to our rooms for some sleep.
Sunday's race wasn't till 3:15pm so we had all morning to kill time. We got breakfast at 9am and then packed up to head to Ypres for some lunch. I had some pasta that I had brung so I tagged along with the others whilst they found a decent cafe and got a toasty myself so I didn't feel left out.
After this it was about time to head to the race, on our way over it started to rain, it wasn't heavy yet but it was enough to feel sorry for my bike on the roof. We signed on first and got changed in what looked like a church hall. but it was warm and dry and thats all I really cared about. The debates started while we were changing about what to wear and it finished with me, Leo (Hayter) and Jack (Barton) going for shorts and oil instead of leg warmers. This seemed like the daft option at first but to be honest worked out perfectly.
We went out for a lap in the rain contemplating weather our clothing choice was in fact the right one. And of course looking at what the roads were like. After this only and short wee was on the schedule before lining up on the start line. I lined up in the second row on the start line giving me one less thing to worry about today. Theo (Model) and Jacob (Vaughan) got a shout out on the start line from there 4th and 1st places last year. Jacob going from lap one and staying away for the rest of the race.
The race started and I got myself into a good position for the first few laps. Theo attacked alone and was perfectly set to do a repeat of Jacobs performance last year. He stayed in sight as the bunch decided what it was going to do. One guy bridged the gap to Theo making it much more dangerous and so the bunch started to work together a bit better eventually bringing it back with about 5 laps to go. A larger split happened shortly after with about 10 guys up the road which I really needed to be in so managed to bridge the gap with another rider thinking similarly. But on arriving at the rear of the front group they slowed right down and I freewheeled up to the front with everyone looking at each other. A minuet of this and the bunch was right behind. This was a little demoralising seeing as I had gone deep in the red to get this advantage but the race went on and I recovered fairly well.
We road as a bunch until the last lap with the usual constant suicide attacks being brung back pretty quickly. On the approach to the last lap a small group got a gap and people made there efforts to bridge across and many were successful. I was sitting behind Theo as he kicked on to follow other up to the group out front but I couldn't hold the wheel. Sitting behind him going full gas and I was still getting dropped. My only option was to let a few guys from behind to roll around and to sit on them for a bit while I caught my breath. That break of 7 lasted the full lap and the winner came from that group. I waited for the sprint where I came in 3rd meaning I placed 10th in the end. Big respect for Theo who came in 7th, however this result doesn't show his strength spending over half the race off the front and still making the winning break at the end.
I will be back in Belgium this weekend (10/11 March) so hopefully use some of t
he things that I learnt this weekend to get some results.
Thank you to John Barclay for the opportunity and the Portsmouths for the lift and company.