I had quite the weekend. At 9PM Friday night I finally came to the decision; I was going to go to Belgium to find some kermesses. There were no races on the weekend for the team, the local crit was full up and staying and training sounded much less fun. You only get where you want by going for it. The train left at 8:30 the next morning. I woke up at ten after 8 after an hour of sleeping through the sound of the alarm. Sweet. It was a sprint but I made the train (full on 10 minute interval with a bag on my back actually). Then when I got to Rotterdam Centraal,got my ticket to Belgium and asked for the platform to Antwerp; No Worries. Except it was the Thalys (highspeed) train that showed up, I was at the wrong track and you can’t bring a bike on that one. In the mean time, the other (normal) train that I was supposed to be on had left. Shit. One hour behind schedule. The next train arrived and it was standing room only, the cars full of holidayers heading south. Somehow, I convinced them to let me on with my bike and spent the next hour and a half standing in a cramped compartment, trying not bump people with my bike and joking with all the old people on the train. Next proceeded precisely 4 different train transfers and a good bit of time watching the hands on my watch tick around as the 3PM start inched ever closer and laughing at my predicament. Finally I made it to Izegem, an old Flemish official greeted me at the station and informed me that coming to a race by train was not profi, I had to laugh “no shit”, but at least I was getting to do the race. Saturdays kermesse was pretty wicked, I felt suprisingly great but got way to trigger happy, firing bullets all over the place and finished 18th or something. After the race I had to ride around a good bit asking people where to find the hotel. Finally I found it, it was a relief to lay in bed! I went out for dinner that night and to wind down had one of those brilliant Belgian beers you’ve never heard of before and can only find in these little towns and then crashed hard. Next day; I slept in, enjoyed brekkie then watched TMF in bed all day before heading down to get my numbers and chat to the old Belgian folks who were very excited to have a Canadian at the race. It is so cool how into bike racing the Flemish are. The race on Sunday was 23 laps or something on a circuit with more corners than I thought possible in 5km, it was fun and pretty intense but my legs were a bit pooched from the day before and I rode more conservatively, I made the front group again and suffered a bit at the end but came 16th. I had a quick shower at the place of a welcoming family, then sprinted to catch the 7pm train and not have to wait ‘til 8. I made it, transfered at Kortrijk and then was off to Antwerp with my Ipod for company. In Antwerp I had 4 minutes to catch the transfer to Amsterdam, I ran across the terminal and made it, but the lady was grumpy and wouldn’t let me on because they didn’t have the special bike car that time. Shit. I had an hour to kill in Antwerp so Iwent out of the station and got some chicken nuggets and an ijs at McDo for dinner. Gave a bum some change for good fortune (and got hustled) and caught the 10PM train to Rotterdam. Finally got home at midnight. Good times, today Im doing nothing.
Yesterday I did the Breendonk Puurs in Belgie. It was a top race; 160km, wicked fast and aggressive all day. It felt good to be out battling in a classic again; I was riding well and in the thick of it at the front. A bit of holiday does one good. The pack splintered and things were looking good for a bit; towards the final circuits I put in some good digs but inevitably it all came back together for a bunch sprint. It was pretty psycho in the finale, with 3km to go I lost position avoiding some falling riders and rolled in mid pack. I can’t go without mentioning that extra excitement surrounding these bigger races in Belgium, awesome. Oh, we finished in the home of Duvel.
Since returning to Europe, I had a bit of a holiday. I rode a little in the mornings and spent the rest of the days doing some of things that I’d been missing out on in here in Holland. Wonderful hospitality and time spent with my visiting family provided a needed break from it all.
I got back into the game with a couple kermesses this past weekend in Belgium. I headed down with a buddy from the team and had fun getting back into the intensity of Belgian racing. The legs were suprisingly good. The first day started out really well. It was a little circuit with a few significant cobbled sections and I was in the front the whole time. An hour and a bit in I was off the front with 3 others when I broke my wheel. Game over.
The second day I ended up thirteenth in a race that exploded from the start with tiny roads and lots of crosswinds. I was in the leading break with a few laps to go but missed a couple bottles and was cramping when the group split up and couldn’t follow the attacks to make the front. 35 degree heat makes bike racing hard!
Yesterday morning, I indulged a private fantasy with an illicit pre ride of the prologue course that will be used in Rotterdam’s Grand Depart of the Tour de France . With officials giving way and the fully cordoned off course all to myself, I examined the intricacies, considered the elements, and dreamed. Coming into the iconic finishing theatre was enough to give you goosebumps. There is too much cynicism in cycling, here at the Tour de France you can see how big and special and exciting the sport can be. All of this on the day before the big day. Today is the prologue and I am going to cheer for cycling.