Thursday, July 5, 2007

Long day in the saddle

Recon ride today. Some celebrations last night. Fun times. Went out with a few of the boys and took some of the cruiser bikes into Oostkamp and headed to a local drinking establishment to partake in a few local brews. Celebrate Independence Day/Canada Day Belgian styles. With the exception that several of us had a big ride today, so not too many beers. Tried this sweet one called Westmalle, which is Brewed in an abbey by Trappist monks. Delicious, and a pretty cool heritage! Woke up this morning to the usual Belgie weather, so we packed our pockets with food, and tossed several dozen water bottles into the team car with our rain jackets and Bernard. Bernard drove with us on the ride to direct us around the 100km loop for the course. The course is going to be incredible difficult. It is basically an out and back route with 5 local laps of 9km each afterwards. The out and back consists of riding out to 4 Tour of Flanders climbs and then back to town. Ouch. And the roads are tough too, either wide open roads with some serious cross winds (therefore crazy echeloning) or super narrow and twisty farm roads. We start the climbs off with a long, fast and narrow run in to the Oude Kwaremont (2200m of cobbled climb, and seriously rough cobbles), then a long descent (making it more difficult still to close any gaps. The field WILL shatter here and if you are not in a front group, you will not see the front again in all likelihood. After a much too short and hard rolling section, the Steenberg (?) is next on the list. Pretty long, not cobbled, but ridiculously steep and flippin narrow. About the width of maybe 3 cyclists. After managing to climb the final pitch, you again descend and roll until you hit the Paterberg. At only 400m, it is still ridiculously hard AVERAGING 14%. And I promise you it is much steeper than that at the top. From there you have another slightly longer rolling section until you hit another slightly easier (only by comparison) cobbled climb which I have forgotten the name of. Then back into Pittem for the usually hard local laps. Like I said, a hard day, only to get harder when we actually race it on Saturday. Should be quite the incredible experience. We will even have a full Canadian contingent in attendance: both Steffan Elzinga and myself. Steffan has actually been living and racing in Europe here for a number of years, but his passport still Canadian. In the end, we ended up with 5 hours ride time. Tough, yet fun day in the saddle like I said. All that's left is the pre-race day tomorrow and then go time on Saturday. On Sunday I will be making my way to Gent most likely to watch the stage of the Tour and should be heading to a Tour feed zone with Bernard and Ann on one of the 2 Belgian days to check it out. They seem to have scored us some passes to get into the feed zone. Try and score myself some free schwag! Ciao for now, I'm pretty good and knackered...
Good luck to the boys and girls racing Nationals and Martinique this week.

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