Conditions were beautiful yesterday for the Grote Omloop van Veenkolonien; sunny skies and calm, while pleasant to ride in, unfortunately did not encourage a selective race and the finale was a massasprint. I saved myself until the last 40km and then went on the attack, trying to force breakaway attempts clear several times, however these efforts came to nought. I intended to position myself at the fore for the bunch kick but at 3km to go chose the wrong side of a round about and ended up in the middle of the peloton.
I’m going well; sooner or later aggression is going to pay off.
Yesterday, I won a bike race in Westerklief. I had a point to prove after a very frustrating day in Haarlemerliede on Saturday, where I got caught in a mass pile up and missed out on most of the race. The format was a lot like a kermesse really; with a small, rolling circuit out in the farmland and 100 or so starters in the elite category. I knew it would be a bit chaotic on the little roads and, with less depth in the field, a group of the strongest riders were going to separate early. I wanted to be certain that I would be in that group so took the initiative and attacked on the first lap and got away by myself; I decided that the energy spent away solo was worth the guarantee of being in the front selection. I was away for nearly 20km before a group came across and we were the breakaway for the day. With 15km left, I attacked solo; I didn’t like my chances in a group sprint and was banking on disorganization amongst the others. On the last lap 2 came across; I let them work for a bit, then played them against each other, leaving a gap and forcing one to close it then as he started to fade jumping him and leaving us as 2. My opponent lead out the uphill sprint all the way and I kicked past him with 150m to go. Coming across the line with my arms in the air was a special feeling; now I’ve got to do it in a classic. Suzanna was happy with the flowers.
It is the Monday after a double klassieker weekend.
Saturday was the Ronde van Gronigen, your typical Dutch waaier race spent scrapping in the cross winds and dodging traffic furniture on tiny roads. I was on a good day but was too conservative in the final finishing back in 38th as the last kilometre came up on me before expected. Crossing the finish line I had nearly 190km in my legs after riding from the kleedkamer to the start with Pim. It was a long drive down to Utrecht where I spent the night before getting up at 6 to travel to Belgium.
Sunday was really disappointing. Deinze-Ieper is an awesome, awesome race, taking in the Kemmelberg twice with a really high quality field. I had executed my plan to perfection, staying calm for the first 80km then moving forward in Ypres and up to the front line as we entered the crux, the hilly circuit to be completed twice including the Kemmel and several other bergs. In perfect position and feeling good, I hit a pot hole and felt my tire go flat. Shit! I got it changed, but now we were in the hills and I was way, way back. I fought tooth and nail to get forward and managed to get up into the first third, but really had to fight on the small roads to get to an acceptable place. On the Monteberg I felt those efforts and went backwards but came over the top, recovered and moved back into a manageable place in the pack. Then a few kilometers before the Kemmel I had to stop behind a big crash and found myself back; not where I had to be. The pack split in a cross wind section leading towards the hill and I was behind it. We chased but it was futile and my race was done after 130km. Bloody hell, I wish I could do it over again.
WIth no classics on the calendar this past weekend, Pim and I headed down to Belgium to race a couple of kermesses in the land of smoky cafes, frite stands and beer. Saturday we were in Molenbeek- Wesbeek and Sunday in Vollezelle.
The roads for the first race were intimately familiar as it was right beside the town where I stayed last spring with the Canadian National team. It is too bad that they didn’t use our Tielt-Winge world championship route however as the course was relatively unselective and lead to an inevitable bunch sprint. Being the only race in Belgie on the day there was a strong field with close to 200 starters. I rode aggressively, spending several laps in a three man breakaway which was reeled in then attacking again solo with a couple kms left to try and to try and get ahead of the sprint but to no avail.
We stayed Saturday night in Leuven, one of my favourite cities, at a great youth hostel. Seriously, this place put most hotels to shame.
Sunday’s race was much harder. The parcours was more technical,with the approximately 1km and cobbled Congoberg (from the Ronde van Vlaanderen) followed almost immediately by another ascent of similar length through Vollezelle, where the finish was located. It was a 12.5km circuit that we would complete nine times. In the early laps a break of 10 or so riders went clear; recognizing the danger I went across with another group the next time up the Congoberg, absolutely smashing the ascent in the big ring. From there, we were the break for the day; twenty riders ahead of the pack and bound to go to the line. The effort was smooth and I was relaxed, conserving energy and feeling good. With two laps to go, I stupidly went on the attack to try and break the group apart. It did split in two for a bit but all came back together and I wasted a valuable bullet. The final time up the Congoberg, with less than 2km to the finish line, I blew it; at full gas I was in good position but halfway up shifted and accidentally went an extra cog easier than I intended and found myself spinning vainly and going backwards. By the time I found the right gear again, I struggled to get on top of it and was gapped with a few others. We nearly caught back before the uphill sprint but I was way back and finished 15th. It feels like a wasted opportunity. That said, I see now my condition is good for this time of year. I’m already back where I was at the end of 2010, I need more punch for the final kilometres but it is the start of March and with racing and more specific work I intend to make big gains.