Last weekend (7/8 April) I went to Belgium this was instead of the original plan of going to the tour of mendips. As that didn't suit timings (with a week in Spain prior) and the climbs looked a little too brutal for a heavy guy like me. Once the car was packed Leo, George and I set off to the Euro tunnel. Leaving a wet and misty UK for 20 degrees and not a cloud in sight in good old Belgium. We arrived at the race in good time and signed on, got the bikes ready and pin numbers ready for the race. Once navigating the circuit for a warm up it was time to race, I started a bit slow with my legs feeling like they were on holiday but slowly got better and better. Attacks as usual went up the road stayed there for a bit and then came back over and over. Me and Leo were working well together to keep it hard at the front of the race.
About 3/4 of the way through the race there were one or two guys about 25 seconds up the road with around 4 laps to go (~25km). Leo attacked to bridge across and from this point in I didn't make any friends in the bunch. I followed every attack and kept right at the pointy end of the bunch slowing it down. This didn't go down well but hopefully it helped grow the gap out front. My speed out the tight corners was not good today, I knew that if I wanted to win the bunch kick behind I would have to go early. Coming into the last km the top 3 were guaranteed with the break away so we were fighting for 4th place. I was further back than I would have wanted it as the bunch pretty much came to a holt with everyone looking at each other. I knew this was the perfect time to go but I had no space, even an attempt on the grass wasn't good enough to work my way to the front at first. Two others had the same idea and stayed away. But by the time I did make it up there it was too late and a attack now would just become a perfect lead out for the lucky guy behind me so I waited and kicked to be first into the last corner and tried to hang on to the line, with two guys going off the front in the last km and 5 guys coming past me in the sprint (cry) I rolled in 11th. This was satisfying only because I knew Leo was up the road doing his thing and I felt I did my best to help his chances and I was very happy for him. We then got our prize money and packed up ready for another race the next day.
Sunday was another warm day which was nice, making everything a lot easier and more relaxed. Roubaix was on a projector at sign on making the queue go at least 10% slower but keeping all the older locals entertained. We got ready, did a lap of the course and got ourselves right at the front for the start. All the British riders set off fast and ensured our place at the front before what we thought would be a important lap with a rough cobbled section 300m from the line but it turns out the commissaries had told us all that this would only be used for the last 7 laps (in flemish) which was helpful. I was so confused but worked it out quickly when a rider came beside me and kept going straight.
I stayed near the front following small moves but trying not to get over excited. My legs felt great today so it was hard to restrict myself at times. With around 8 laps to go I was on the front for a sharp left hand bend, I took it at a fair speed and kicked pretty hard out of it but with no intention of attacking just hurting others behind. Leo however, was behind me at this point and had eased up to let me roll away, I realised this pretty quickly and put more pressure down through the following corners. 4 others had made it across what was only a 10m gap at the time and Leo came with them and we started to build a gap. We worked really hard for a lap extending the gap and 20 mins later it was around 50 seconds. We kept working now going over the cobbles which was hopefully giving us an advantage over the bunch, but with 40km still to go it was always going to be hard. I did my turns but nothing more maybe from time to time pretending like I was out of gas to make others push through and do their fair share. We got to the last lap and I was still feeling fresh, or as fresh as you can feel. Having lost Leo to the worst timed puncture our group was down to 5. I was very stratified that I had confirmed myself a top 5 with a gap of 1:05mins back to the bunch. However none of us new that two were bridging across to us as we played around in the back half of the loop. Once we spotted them people pushed through to make it harder to catch. However I was left on the front as one rider didn't pull through. I may have gotten a little annoyed... so I put in a big turn till about 1.5km to go and flicked my elbow, at this point all 4 of the others attacked leaving me hanging between the two groups. Looking back I don't know how I could have been more daft. knowing that the others had bridged across tiered meant they weren't going to be a massive threat at the finish and with the excitement of winning getting to my head a bit I mucked it all up with a stupidly long turn. Knowing that I wasn't going to catch them myself I sat up and waited for the two chasers when I didn't fall for the same mistake. I opened my sprint to the line and rolled in 6th. Yeah, I came 6th out of a 5 man break away... Very happy to have been involved in the winning break and gutted for Leo to have punctured. Lots learnt and onto the next race.
I have been invited again to race in Cervelo - Goodzo colours in Holland for Borsele UCI 1.1 which will be good fun and more great experience. I will hopefully be fit and healthy unlike my last opportunity with this team.
Go to the results page to see more information from these races (Kermesse weekend)
And again thanks a lot to Pedal Potential for all the help that they have and are providing, it makes a huge difference.