Part 3-Coming Home

23May11

I found cycling very late in life. I didn’t start watching The Tour until I was 17. Since then I have fallen in love with the sport. Very early on I started to fall for the monuments and the country that encapsulated cycling. It’s heartland. Belgium and in particular Flanders.

The weather, the races and the riders in this region inspired and spoke to me.

In 2008 I got my first real taste of Belgium and it only deepened my passion for the sport and the country. The Flemish have cycling beating through their veins.

Cartoon of the 2009 Cinelli team on a bar window

In 2009 I was able to race some of the semi classics. In particular Dwars door Vlaanderen and Brabanste Pijl (one of my best races ever in the service of the late VDB). These races are raced and won by riders that have cobble stones for hearts and are only happy when riding in the gutter while ice cold rain stings your eyes and skin.

A country and a season where 8 degrees and rain is “Belgium Sunshine” and the mud (a mixture of dirt, diesel and cow s@!t from the surrounding fields) that’s sprayed into your face and mouth is “Belgium Toothpaste.”

The toothpaste gets on you even if it's dry

Over the past week I race five kermesses in Belgium. For those that don’t know a kermesse is a multiple lap event with lap or ronde between 3 and 20km in length. Typically the laps are 10km long (enough time to drink a beer). Professional Kermesse are between 160 and 190km in length.

All the races were very different and all were very Belgian. All had over 200 starters.

  • Houthalen – Helchteren. Lot’s of left and right and up and down.
  • Verrebroek – Beveren. Straight, big roads hit by cross winds. 50km covered in the first hour. Multiple groups strewn across the course with 10min.

echelons form in a spring race

  • Puivelde. Pancake flat with lots of small badly surfaced roads. Lot’s of left and rights. It’s not often every time you look down at your computer the average has gone up. Finished with over 44km/hr average and a max of 62km/hr.

Puivelde. Moving up.

  • Heist op den Berg. Big roads, cobble stone section and cobbled descent, narrow climb and a power descent. Max speed 69km/hr and an average of 45km/hr.

Video thanks to Pavel and him ignoring the UCI. Note that a lot of the video was taken during the neutral section. Also take a look at the road furniture.

The bunch hits the climb in Heist Pijl

The first two races were my welcome home party. Suffering and humbling. I knew where I was. From there it got better. I have started to participate in the races as I start to relax and use my elbows as well as my legs. I am making friends with my 11-tooth cog and my legs and back are getting stronger. The grimace is set.

I am determined, passionate and motivated.

Cycling Edge

Fetha

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