Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011 Belgian Kermis Racing - Ploegsteert

It's funny, a thing I noticed since I arrived here in Belgium is that all the flags seem to be made of cardboard – they form a ridged rectangular shape in the sky. No flutter, no movement, ridged, just like cardboard.

As you may have guessed, the theme of my second Kermis in Ploegsteert, Belgium, was the wind. We had 11 laps of an 11.5 kilometer exposed course. There was a very short climb on the loop but by far the main race shaper was the wind.

The race started with reasonable weather, not the rain of the night before and again, attack after attack went off the front – I was in a few groups but 40 minutes into the race it was still mostly together. Well, the race started with about 75 riders, about 15 had been dropped in the line-outs and cross winds and could be seen grouped together about 30 seconds back. Yes, line-outs, about 90% of the time the peleton (and later smaller groups) was strung out in one long line. Everyone in the cross winds working as hard as the guy next to him – there was no safety in the peleton, no shelter, just everyone banging their chins on the handlebars trying to get that little bit more aero. It was the cross winds and line outs that eventually split the race up. Instead of a large 50-75 rider peleton, the race was split to bits with the maximum riders in a group being around 10 with everyone still working full out.

This is one of the differences in racing that I noticed over here – no matter where you are in the race, the front group or the last group, everyone is working, everyone is racing and everyone is attacking... Close your eyes (well, maybe not while racing) and if you were in the last group in the race, you could easily imagine that you were racing for 1st, not 50th. These guys would love racing the AnPost Ras...

Two groups had gotten away without me present – it is hard to be in everything and with that many moves breaking off and then coming back together it is hard to follow everything that looked good. I also don't know the strong teams or riders so it is still a bit of a lottery for me trying to figure when to go... With a few laps to go, I attacked on the false flat after the climb bringing two riders with me. We worked hard trying to bridge to the main chase group but after several laps didn't make enough of an impact and was brought back into the second chase group. A group sprint into the finish for 23rd position. I finished 31st (I of course tried a flyer with a few kilometers to go).

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