Saturday, September 15, 2012

2012 Belgian Kermis Racing Trip 1 - Part 1

This was my second trip to Belgium for some Kermis racing – last September I travelled over for six days (five races) and had a ball – this year, being healthy, stronger and a hell of a lot more experienced I was looking forward to seeing how I would fair in what is probably the hardest racing that I can do (without being on a big team).

Logistics were simple – the day after the Suir Valley 3 Day finishes, I fly to Belgium and then start racing. I would race 4 days in a row, take an easy day and then race another 3 days. Within that though, I would allow myself to pull the plug early on a race if it wasn't going to plan or if the course and peloton allowed it, simply sit in and see how things panned out for the crucial final 30 minutes.

Race 1: Halen

A big peloton, fast roads and a not so technical course meant this would be a quick one – almost 46kmph for the 127km. I felt like I had 'travel legs' at the start so sat in for the first hour or so – it still isn't easy sitting in, but a lot easier than going off the front all the time. The second hour the peloton started to split up – a few big efforts were made and I was in the front split of about 50 riders. We were doing 16 laps of the course and with a few to go, it was looking like it would be a sprint from this large group. With 3 laps to go I attacked and got clear with another strong rider from one of the stronger teams. We rode hard but only ever got around 30 seconds on the chasing group. Just before the bell lap we were brought back – I still felt pretty good and got away in another few small groups but with a kilometer to go, we were brought back and swallowed up by the front group and a bunch sprint settled the race. Fun.

Race 2: Merelbeke – 7th, 3 primes

Must remember the primes - other laps were €10
28 laps of a 4 kilometer course – man, I was dizzy! One slow corner per lap so I spent the first half of the race sitting in the middle of the bunch. Eventually, boredom got to me – on the descent off a fly over I attacked – 4 riders came with me but they didn't look like they were committed – I attacked them and went off solo – I rode around for 3 laps (getting primes, €60 for my little escape) but as the peloton got close I sat up and went back into rest mode. With 3 laps to go a group of 15 escaped (groups were going and being brought back throughout the race) – with one lap to go I seen a bunch of riders being brought back – I wasn't sure it was the whole group though. With 2.5km to go I attacked from the peloton and held them off to the line – unfortunately, there were still 6 riders up the road and I finished 7th. I was happy how I rode, every bit of energy that I used resulted in something useful.

Race 3: Overijse - 15th

I raced a race here last September and loved it so I was back. The course was different this time around, we climbed a steep short paved climb, another less steep climb with a cobbled top section and then a fast cobbled descent. Unlike last time, it was not raining, but it was HOT! The two bottles on my bike were never going to be enough. 100+ starters and within 30 minutes the front group was around 60 riders – the pace was ballistic! After the fast start, things settled into a more tactical race – guys were still being dropped all the time (indeed, only 30 finished the complete race distance) but I was feeling pretty good. As the kilometers ticked by, dehydration became a bit of an issue – nothing I could do about it so I didn't dwell on it. The final lap came around and our front group was splitting and reforming and splitting again. I missed what turned out to be the winning break of 14. With about 10km to go, I attempted to bridge from the remnants of the peloton – I got close (within 5 seconds) before their sprint opened up – I held on to 15th.

Race 4: Bottelare - 20th

I had not planned on racing today – an easy day was on the cards for me but Michael Lucey (who was traveling with me) was racing so I decided I would start, but if I felt I had to go too hard I would pull out. The course was flat and not very technical so I thought there was a good chance that things would be together towards the end – if so, I'll come out and play then. Like yesterday, it was very hot again.

I spent the first 107km of the 113km doing as I planned – as little as possible – average wattage was around 230W (In Overjise, the Normalized power for the first 45 minutes was closer to 400W). A group of 16 riders had been off the front for around a third of the race but never more than 30 second ahead (starting peloton was around 150 riders). With a few km to go, another group of 15 left the front of the peloton – I quickly bridged across to those guys. We worked together for a couple of kilometers but the cooperation ended as we closed in to the front group. I attacked from this chase group in pursuit of the front – unfortunately, I had 4 passengers from our group. I guess they felt we wouldn't make it across to the front so they were saving themselves for the sprint. I was having fun and the difference between 16th and 20th isn't much to me so I continued. 3 of the guys passed me by the line so I finished 20th. My easiest Kermis to date (I hadn't planed on racing it – it would not have been so easy for the guys out front!) - 125TSS point for the 2:40 long race for the data geeks.

So that was the first batch of races – I was happy enough but my final batch of three races on this trip were much more successful. More on those soon.

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