Words have a hard time explaining the craziness of a Belgium junior road race. With a 147 starters, small roads and strong winds, crazy is expected.
Today’s race was in eastern Belgium north or Liege, in Flanders (Dutch speaking). I went to the race with my friend Romain and his father. It was an hours drive, but time passed fast with anticipation for my first race. We arrived and did the normal routine; register, prepare bikes, get dressed, and do a little warm up. Then they allowed us to start lining up at the start, which is always a nut house over here, everyone trying to get the best position, as though it matters for a 50 mile race.
The course was relatively flat with some very small rollers. A very strong wind was present and the roads were dry. The race started with one large 62km loop, then fallowed by four 5km laps that passed through the start/finish area. Out on course we road several cobblestone sections, but generally in Belgium the road conditions are not very good, and that proved true again today.
147 starters (the largest field I’ve ever started with) waited at the line for the gun to fire, and when it did there was no time to enjoy the view, as everyone was instantly in their 52x14 (going fast). This is where everything just gets crazy. Riders are jumping up on the curbs, pushing each other, cutting the corners through grass fields, is so crazy you have to be there to understand. I saw a kid jump up on the curb, ride through a grass field for 75 meters, the through some gravel, to cut the corner to move up to the front. It sounds crazy and it is, but that’s what it takes to get to the front of the pack.
I started near the front row, but was quickly dropping back as I watch rider after rider jump onto the sidewalk trying to move up. I drifted pretty far back before I realized that I needed to start working my way to the front. Its no easy task working your way to the front in a group of 147, but with time it can be done. I eventually saw the front of the race, and saw a few people try to attack so I went along. We were quickly brought back. I went back into the middle of the field and recovered there for awhile. I went to the front again and tried an attack with an another group, but was pulled back again.
We then were into the smaller loops, and I found myself again near the back. I was very slowly moving up, but the small roads and fast speed made it hard to reach the front. Going into the last loop the group was still altogether so I knew that things would start getting dicey for the finish. On the last lap I swear in almost every corner a rider went down. I had no chance of getting to the front, so I just played it safe and held my position in the back. Before I knew it we were at 200 meters to go, and I was grabbing my brakes. There had been a crash at the front and Romain was involved. I slowly picked my way through the carnage and rolled across the line. I have no idea as to where I finished, but somewhere near the back.
Romain landed hard on his wrist and was in a lot of pain after the race, so we packed up the bikes and headed home. They dropped me off at my house and the went to the hospital to get an x-ray. It turned out that he broke his wrist and will be in a cast for the next six weeks. I really feel sorry for him, he had a knee problem last year that kept him out for two months and this year this. But he’s a warrior and will be back.
I don’t know when my next race will be because I normally go with Romain, but hope it will be soon. My goal for the next race it to stay in the front, and never find myself in the back.
All in all it was a; fast, hard and dangerous race, covering over 50 miles in 2 hours. Our average speed was above 25m.p.h.
Till next time
Keep it real