Kermesses and cobbles

09Jun08

Since I last wrote a lot of racing has been done and a lot of kilometres have been put into the legs. On Tuesday the 3rd of June we were racing the Gullegem pro Kermesse. This is regarded as the World Championships of Kermesse racing and was going to be fast and hard thanks to the 250odd riders on the start list and the fact that the start list contained names like Robbie Mecwen, Stijn Devolder, Nick Nuyens and many others.

 

I went into the race with a bit of trepidation thanks to two days off the bike in the lead up because of a sore knee (something to do with hitting a metal pole at 35km/hr). As expected the race was fast from the start. My knee was sore but it wasn’t something that was holding me back or from putting the power down. The Cyclingnews Team was riding well with Peter just missing the right move and Matt strong on and off the front of the pack all day.

 

The experience of riding with some of the biggest names of cycling was fantastic, the crowd was massive and added to the surreal time I was having of riding along with Robbie and having a chat with him.

 

Wednesday saw another Kermesse. Not as big or as long as the day before. My knee had held up the day before and I was looking forward to another race. However, with 180km from the day before it was always going to be hard. I forced myself into the break on lap one. The flat but technical course was being taken at full speed with the break and bunch averaging over 50km/hr for the first 1.5hrs before they rejoined. I had been away for long enough to clean up enough sprint points to hold the lead in the sprint classification. By the end of the race I was cramping and wasn’t able to put up much of sprint but had gained enough of a lead to win the sprint classification.

 

It’s not a race win but it is my best result in Europe so far and shows that I am on the right track.

 

Sunday saw the next race, a 1.2 UCI race. The course started with a hilly first 50km that saw a break of 20 guys go up the road after 20km. I was part of the break that formed on the flat exposed section after a steep hill. We worked well and proceeded to gain 2min over the break. Matt came close to joining the break as well but fell agonisingly short thanks to the smooth working of the break. Once we had established a lead we settled into a rhythm. I was feeling really comfortable and was trying to do as little work as possible and force the teams that had more than one rider in the break to do more work.

 

The hills ended after 50km and the transition was marked by a long section of cobbles. This was made easier thanks to not having to fight for position like you would in the pack. We started the 14km finishing laps with over 60km to go and a 1min 34sec lead. The finishing laps included a 1km stretch of cobbles that was always going to play apart in the final result. We started attacking each other straight away. The result of which was to bring the gap down to 33sec. This catalysed us into starting to work again and we were able to push it back out to over 1min again.

 

With two laps to go the attacks really started. I was following a lot of them but was beginning to tire. With just over one lap to go I was off the front with one other rider. It didn’t last long and I wasn’t able to follow the next attack which had 8 riders going up the road. I followed some counter attacks and although I got close a number of times I never got there.

 

With just over 5km to race and just before the cobbles I attacked my group. I was able to push a small gap at the start of the cobbles into a good break by the end. From then on it was head down for the next 4km. 9th in a 1.2 is easily my best result so far. I am most happy with how much stronger I have become over the past 3months and how much smarter I have become. I am starting to feel the race a lot more. Everything has started to click. A good result is probably the best motivation anyone could get and I am really excited about the training and racing to come. Wednesday is another Kermesse followed by a week in Serbia going up and down big mountains.

 

Mitch

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