It’s been a while since a wrote a blog post, now the season is over it seems like the right time for my last one of the year. Last weekend I went out to Belgium with John Barclay for some Kermesses. The last races of the year, just for a bit of fun and some hard efforts in an attempt to win a race.
We left on Saturday morning (the morning of the race) with enough time to spare to comfortably make the race start (4pm). However due problems at the tunnel there were 3 hours + delays. This would have left us over an hour late for the race start let alone changing into kit, signing on and maybe a short spin before the start. John being John wasn’t fazed, he had brought along his stash of letter hangers allowing us to get onto the tunnel with the delayed time of a much earlier train.
This meant we were still over an hour behind schedule but more at less in with a chance with making it to the start of the race. We made it through the barcode scan during the train journey with the classic “I don’t know where it has gone” tactic and headed for Lichtervelde.
We arrived, signed on, got changed in the area outside the men’s/women’s toilet in a small pub before rushing back to sort out our bikes and pin on numbers. We arrived at the start line with less than a minute to the start feeling very unprepared.
The race started in the dry, it had been raining quite a lot but had stopped just in time making life a lot easier before the race. Tom (Gloag) being used to arriving late to the start of a race was driving the bunch from the gun and causing some splits behind. I on the other hand was feeling slightly odd, having been in the car 15mins before the start I didn’t feel like I was in a race at all.
Leo set off up the road with one other on the second lap with the bunch very aware of the possibility of it staying away due to the speed they disappeared up the road. I didn’t want Leo to come back but on the other hand I wasn’t satisfied just sitting in the bunch waiting for something to happen. Having found my legs and just about found my racing head I set off to try and bridge the gap.
I brought a few riders with me but a group of four formed pretty quickly. The bunch wasn’t too happy about this group getting away as they stayed close behind for at least a lap before the elastic broke. By this point my legs were feeling really good. We were just catching sight of Leo and Mathew up the road as we accelerated out of corners, giving us extra motivation to push on.
We caught up with them 5 or 6 laps in. And from there it was just a case of rolling through and keeping the pace high. I went for 2 primes and tried way too hard for one that I didn’t end up getting but seeing as it was €10 per lap I thought it would be worth some effort.
We came into the sprint having watched each other closely for the last lap, me and Leo hadn’t made any plans for the finish apart from Leo eyeing out an attack from the 2nd to last corner which I would happily let go if it happened. I wanted to be first or second going into the last corner as it was only 200m from the line and with a wet surface and some drain covers the first rider can take it at a greater speed. I took the corner first and looked to my left before opening my sprint. Vito (A Belgian rider and the eventual winner) went up the inside and rode away from me with ease, with Leo just behind me leaving us 2nd and 3rd, not what we wanted but good enough, with the knowledge that we could try again tomorrow.
The next day the weather was awful, we spent the morning in the car before getting some lunch and then hiding from the rain again. As classic British people brought up with British racing we all wondered if the race would go forward as there was a lot of standing water, and it was WET. But we were in Belgium and it takes a lot for them to cancel a race.
We managed to leave it quite tight when getting changed even though we had arrived hours in advance, but we had enough time for a spin before lining up much to Johns amusement.
The race started fast as normal. The course was quite twisty making it hard to get the power out before hitting another corner meaning people had a lot of energy due to the pace not being very high. This made it hard to get away. Tom (Gloag) went up the road with one other in the first half of the race before the rain started picking up again. The bunch behind started to fracture and people were working more in an attempt to bring the race back together. Me and Leo sat back to allowing Tom to hold his gap and used it as an excuse not to work. With about 35km to go Thomas was caught and the race exploded. The rain was so heavy, stinging your skin and spraying your eyes until you couldn’t see a thing.
Me and Leo once again manged to make the front split, with 9 of us up the road. We worked together for the remaining laps. Attacks kicked off with 1 to go, a Fortè rider pushed on and with a team mate in the group, he got a gap quite quickly before Leo also kicked on. Both me and the other Fortè rider controlled the group behind before I decided to give a kick a go to try and secure 3rd or bridge to Leo in an attempt to win. I went and was followed by another, we worked together riding hard, slowly watching Leo come closer. However, the bunch behind wasn’t having the top 4 places ride away and Leo was riding very strongly up the road holding us all off so we were brought back before sitting up for a group sprint. Leo was chasing the Fortè rider up the road slowly getting closer and closer in what looked like a grim effort. Behind I was just catching my breath for the sprint where I ended up coming 6th. Not what I was looking for but happy that I went for the win rather than sitting in a relying on a decent finish from the group that I was already in.
So that ends the 2018 season, I have had a great year. Doing much better than I could have ever had imagined coming into the year. That is thanks to Epic coaching who have coached me all year keeping me on top form for my main goals and hopefully will continue helping me towards some susses next year. John Barclay, along with Dave and Iain for providing so many opportunities this year in Belgium which has really made this year a success and has given me the experience that I need if I want to be on the top step at some big races next year. And also, Pedal Potential who have provided monetary support allowing all this to happen!
On to some training…