Monday, July 16, 2007

Harsh lessons in France

Start list from France.

Me pre-race after sign in. Notice fully dressed in 30 degree heat. Thats
how it rolls in Europe.

Me after the race, and after my training ride with Wout. Tired from a 4.5
hour day in the sun.

So, when you enter a UCI 1.2 Pro race (yes, it was a pro race-we were one of 3 amateur teams) apparently the going gets tough. Real fast. Plus, this was the first hot day yet. I have been here a month, and never sweated as much as yesterday. Like 30 and sunny. And as many of you know, I am not a fan of the heat. It takes me a while to adjust. Incredible race though. 9km start loop, followed by 10 17km laps. All narrow village streets, hundreds of corners and roundabouts, several climbs, and the given open windy sections. Like I said, tough course, and even tougher field to boot. Three amateur teams (including us). Johnathan Page was the only other American, for those of you out of the cycling scene, he was the silver medalist at the cyclo-cross elite world championships this past winter. He is riding for Sunweb Pro-Job on the road right now for training, nice friendly guy - beast on the bike. Also in the race was the Quickstep development team, Palmans Collstrop, South African National team, Murphy & Gunn from Ireland, VC Roubaix, and teams from Holland, Germany, France, Belgium, and others... Some serious guns in attendance. But, anyways, got to the klitcommerce (changing rooms), got ourselves changed up, back to get oiled up by the team vehicles, get our food into our pockets and off to the start line. Best part, after getting changed, we had so go sign in on a stage. With an announcer, who announced our name, team, and country of origin to a huge crowd. Felt like a bloody rock star. Got a good position on the line, near the front, couple guys over from Jonathan Page himself, and pulled away as the gun went off. We held a civilized pace of about 45km/h for exactly 3 minutes and 20 seconds. From that point until I got popped, we were single file above 50km/h. Wow. Position was descent, but would make little mistakes every now and then and then loose a few spots. Every time I had to do anything (move up, close a gap) it would push a little bit further above my red zone. It was incredible. It was like being pulled behind several motorcycles while other motorcycles would attack continuously. And I was the 50cc electric moped holding on for dear life. Eventually, my legs gave out. About 40 minutes after the start to be precise. The heat, the speed, and the work had taken its toll. I was too wasted to even grab onto a car in the caravan, but yes I tried several times. I was simply ridden off the wheel. I was upset at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had learned. A little later on, a Dutch rider rode up to me on the course and I gave him one of my bottles and we got to talking. Apparently I had met the dude last year at the Tour de Beauce while working there. Small world. We finished a few laps together and then agreed to head out for a training ride together until the end of the race. Gotta at least get the miles in when dropped ;). We headed out to our respective team vans to get some bidons (food and water) and then headed out for a few more laps and some exploring. I even managed to flat another tubular while training. No idea how yet, but had to ride like 30 minutes back on a flat tire. Not cool, but what are you going to do. Quite unimpressed with the durability of these Comp 22 tyres. Great grip, but too light for Belgian roads I guess. Ended up learning a huge amount about Euro racing from Wout. He is 24 and has been racing since a Junior, even one several UCI 1.1 and 1.2 races. Great source of information, and very happy to help a new Canadian. Even showed me what the Euro teams eat during races and gave me a sweet sampling. They have these awesome pastries (basically sticky buns with pudding inside) which you can eat in about 3 chews, quite nice while the racing gets tough. Also some cool Euro brand of bars, gels, and cool gummy candies. Sometimes, waffles with jam and other sandwiches too. In the end, still 4.5 hours in the saddle. And I was wasted afterwards. Drank more liters of water than I can count (which should help tremendously with the recovery), and then a recovery session for my legs with the wonderful Compex again. Slept like a baby. Even allowed myself to sleep in until 8 today. We then moved into team meeting mode at 9, and discussed more of what needs to be done to improve and what is coming up race wise for us. And it is a tough session of races coming. Stage races and tough 1 day UCI races. Plus the usual Kermis races.
I had a good meeting with Bernard as well this morning, found out I am on the pre-selection list for the Antwerpen UCI stage race this month, and am listed as a reserve rider for the Pro Tour of Liege stage race coming up. Not likely to race in Liege, which is probably good considering how tough the race is, but is a great boost to my confidence to find how much people seem to believe in me. Shows how hard work can pay off. I have also been asked to potentially stay a little longer here in Belgium to do some big races at the end of the month. Not certain yet, but Bernard will let me know after he finishes up some more meetings and finishes up with Liege, he has a lot going on at this point. But it could be cool to stay a little longer (until the end of August) for some more racing. I do love this life so much! Team is really coming together at this point, everyone is getting to know each other better, and working well together. Few lone wolves, but several people may be asked to leave apparently, not working hard enough and not working as a team. With the weather improving after this morning's thundershowers, I should be trying to bus into Brugges this afternoon with Tex to chillax in a cafe and perhaps some shopping. Nice afternoon away from the bike. Not allowed to touch the bike today ;). Well, I seem to have written quite a lot today. Hope it is enjoyed. Ciao from Belgium...

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