Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad &
The official opening of the North - European season was last
weekend in Belgium. I was very excited about these races because
the courses suit me and my form was good enough to be able to show
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday is the harder of the two races
with more and tougher climbs during the race and also a good amount
of cobbled sections as well. I knew the course by heart from other
years and from the two training days we did there in the past week.
I knew where to be in the front and when to save energy, which is
absolutely vital for that race. In the team talk before the race we
agreed that I could take it easy in the start and save energy for
the hilly section of the race where I thought I would be able to
follow the best riders. Other riders of the team tried to be in the
early break and Roy Curvers managed to get in that break.
THE place for me to be in the front was on the Taaienberg and I
started the climb in about 10th position, perfect! On
the top Boonen was a little in front and I was in a group of about
10 riders behind him. We didn't work very well together so our
group started to grow little by little into a bigger group of about
40 riders. Some riders got dropped again on other hills and cobbled
sections but I felt really good still. I tried to attack and went
with some breaks now and then but I never got a big gap. In the
final it was clear that Flecha was going to win, what a great ride
from him but we were still riding for the podium and I just tried
whatever I could to get on that podium. In the last 5 km I attacked
3 times with my last attack just outside the last km. You know when
that doesn't work it's all over for the sprint, I could have waited
for the sprint and taken a top 10 spot but I wanted to get on the
podium. The group reacted quickly on my attack and I didn't get
away and missed a good result. It was worth trying, I'll manage to
get that good result one day!
Roy Curvers and Tom Veelers were both in the first group of about
25 riders as well and Skil-Shimano rode a great race. Hopefully
there's more to come like that!
Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne was a different race, especially
because of the weather. It rained from the start and it didn't stop
raining all day. In the beginning it wasn't cold but when the wind
picked up to gale force winds it was both dangerous and freezing
cold. The course of 'Kuurne' is similar to that of 'Het Nieuwsblad'
but a little easier, less climbs and no flat cobbled sections but
still hard enough to break the bunch even when the weather is nice.
Today was different though. When the wind picked up halfway through
the race I only nearly avoided a crash that was caused by a big
garbage bin blown across the road. The wind was unbelievable, I
have had to take one foot out of my pedal to keep balance in the
crosswinds, branches were falling off the trees everywhere around
us and climb got taken out of the course because a tree had fallen
on the road...
In the hilly section the peloton got shattered and I ended up in
a group of about 25 riders riding for 19th position with
a group of 10 riders only just in front of us. By the time we left
the hills I was incredibly cold. Being a cyclist I have been cold
before but this was terrible, I could take food out of my pockets
anymore, couldn't feel my hands or feet, was shivering on the bike
for hours and when I asked for another rain jacket I couldn't get
it on and my director had to help me put it on. I was just sitting
on the back of my group, all the power left my legs and all I could
do was try to keep as warm as possible. I must have looked terrible
because I got offered a bidon of hot tea by Matthew White, director
of Garmin and when Rudi Kemna, my director, helped me get into my
rainjacket he told me I'd better pull out. I haven't heard him say
that too often.
Just before the first passage of the finishline I had to pull
out and rode straight to the showers where I needed help to take
off my gloves, helmet and shoes. I hope I won't be this cold
anymore for another long while!