Friday, September 09, 2011

2011 Belgian Kermis Racing - Hulste

Coming straight from the airport, I arrived in Hulste with lots of time to prepare for my first Kermis. It was a six and a half kilometer lap that we would race 18 times. A pretty technical lap with lots of corners, lots of wind, oh, and did I mention the rain!

I built up the bike quickly and luckily noticed something a little scary – the front brake cable had started to snap – it would probably last me the race but that wouldn't be a thing I would chance – I noted a bike shop as I entered Hulste (a high end bike shop in a small village – only in Belgium!) - a quick trip out and the shop owner had me on my way again.

Sign-on was straightforward and before long I was shivering in the rain waiting to start my first Kermis. The race started at 3pm to what was becoming a carnival atmosphere – amusement rides like bumper cars and air rifle stalls filled the square as we pedaled into the mist. From what I gathered, the first last was supposed to be neutral – I don't think everyone heard that as there were minor attacks followed by major shouts of bemusement from the peleton.

After the first (neutral?) lap – there was no doubt that the race was on – attack after attack went off the front but all were brought back – I moved from the middle to the back of the pack as I tried to get to grips with cornering on these wet streets in the rain. I used up a lot of energy fighting back on for wheels but after 3 or 4 laps (without the break having been established) my mojo returned and stuck within 30 centermeters of the wheel in front as we navigated the treacherous corners – life became easier when my cornering skills returned so I went to the front and started to 'play'.

About 40 minutes into the race, I made a huge effort to get away, I was gone with a few other riders but eventually got pulled back – the peleton got onto my wheel and immediately a strong counter attack went. They looked good – crap, I'm gassed from the last effort and these riders look good for it. The peleton stalled and the eight riders had a gap – yeah, that was the race winning move, a counter attack to my move.

After a lap, I made another break to chase – I had two riders for company and we rode flat out trying to make an impression on the break. We got within 30 seconds but as the laps ticked by, we couldn't bridge it. With a few laps to go, one of our group dropped off the pace and we were joined by another six riders attempting to bridge. 70% of the lap was spent working together, 30% was spent attacking each other – it was fun. There was no easy periods in this race!

On the final lap, our group had been whittled down to five riders chasing for ninth. On the back part of the course, I made a huge effort to solo away to claim ninth, but it wasn't to be and I was caught before the line and claimed twelfth position. Pretty happy with that considering it was my first (completely flat) Kermis...

I'll get into it in more detail in the next race post, but the racing here is amazing – there is no 'scrubbing', no 'sandbagging' if you are not working, you are off the back and everyone rides full gas whether you are riding for 1st or 40th. A lot of fun, but very very hard work. Despite the race starting late in the day (usually I find it hard to fall asleep after late races) I had no issues entering dreamland – I was conked – with another race the next day :)

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