I've just finished packing my bikes and wheels, and as soon as the dryer is finished, I'll have my clothes packed as well. Today was my final race of this year's Belgian campaign, and my 3rd whoopin' (race) in 4 days. I'm heading to the airport tomorrow morning at 6:45am and will be back eating a pizza in Bloomington by probably 7pm, Indiana time. I'm ready to be home, but I'm also not really ready to be done here. I'm not sure where to start catching you up on the developments of the last few days, but I'll try.
The 3 races since my last post were: a World Cup in Zolder, a GVA in Loenhout, and just a regular old bike race in Bredene today, all 3 of which I did last year.
Zolder is one of my favorite courses and the fact that the race takes place on an F1 track makes for a generally awesome scene. Awesome like, garage bays that would normally house Formula 1 cars are now Frite shops. As you know, hard field, hard course, hard conditions, blah blah blah...
Strangely enough, I actually felt like I was participating in a bike race. I was in a decent sized group for most of the race, but one bad lap that included a few, maybe a bakers dozen, crashes. In the world in which I'm racing over here, there just isn't room to make many or any mistakes and expect a decent outcome. I did come away from the race feeling pretty ok about my technical skills, especially dealing with those massive drops where everyone congregates to laugh at your expense. My legs also started to feel a little recovered from the flu earlier in the week.
Loenhout was my worst race of the trip last year, and I would probably say the same for this year too. The course is just muddy and a total power course. It feels like doing leg-press at the gym for about an hour. This year we were treated to a 200m or so run on the flats, directly after long tractor pull like section. Torture. Time gaps were bigger at this course than most because of the difficulty. Huge crowds, but, no amount of encouragement could have gotten me on the lead lap on this day. I finished with a group of Americans and American types (Craig Ritchey). Agenda for next year: learn how to make watts.
Finally, today was a race by the coast in Bredene. Being near the coast, the soil is sandy and thus there's not too much mud to be found. Thank you, 8lb 6oz tiny infant Jesus. Since the race wasn't part of the GVA, Superprestige, or World Cup series, the field wasn't quite as big, but still had Stybar, Niels Albert, and a bunch of their meanest friends. (Editors note: my roommate Jake Wells just sent my a message on Twitter telling me to stop punching my keyboard. Good thing I'm moving out tomorrow, or Ryan Knapp might have to choke a bro.) With my semi-inflated status due to my American racing calendar, I got the very last call-up in the second row, right behind Niels Albert and Stybar. The guys with the cameras were trying to get some great photos of me, but those two a-holes were getting in all the shots... I decided to not say anything at the time and just lets my legs do the talking, or crying. Minus one minor detail of hitting a spectator with one lap to go, the race was a smashing success. But, since that did actually happen, I was denied my first official finish on the lead lap with a legitimate field, and instead rewarded with a smooth DNF next to my name. However, the guy that walked out in front of me was unbelievably nice and apologetic. He actually found me on Facebook and send me another apology message.
So now the trip is over and even though it was full of 5 course meals consisting of only Humble Pie, I'm glad that I decided to come back for another round, because there is really no limit to the number of things you can learn from dealing with the challenges of racing your bike here. Once again, thanks for following along and supporting me throughout the process. Luckily, I'm dumber than a box of rocks, because otherwise, trips like this could be a bit demoralizing...
|BMC Service Course|
|"SAMSONITE! I was WAY off!"|
|It wasn't even that nice on the inside...|
|Lots of not Zipp wheels.|