Team Cyclingnews.com - Down Under - 2004
Molenbeek - Wersbeek Kermesse - My first win for the team
112km - 16 laps of 7km circuit, 128 starters
The course is basically a rectangular course with a long, dragging climb just under a kilometre long, and a similar descent. Both hill sections were crosswind, with headwind on top section, tailwind finish. First lap out and I stayed at the front. A few guys tried jumping away, but not for long. Next lap, 5 riders away, attacked up the drag in the gutter, and caught the leaders, and we were soon joined by several others to form a group of 9. Half a lap later Tom made it over in a group of 11.
Third lap - Everyone in the break rolled through reasonably well, all sharing the work. I quickly built a time gap on the main peloton.
Next few laps - The same thing continued, and we extended our lead to approx 2 min. I wasn't real keen to have a group of 20 riders going all the way to the finish, so I started to plan when it could be worthwhile trying to split the group.
Lap 9 - Had a quick word with Tom, and Michael Simms (fellow Aussie, but on another team) and said I planned to attack on the long drag, in the crosswind, with just less then 4 laps to go. Got to lap 12 pretty quickly, the group was still together, and decided to stick to plan.
Lap 12 - I attacked in the crosswinds as soon as the road started going upward. I wanted to get as good a gap as possible, as there was the length of the course into the headwind to have to hold the bunch off, before getting onto the next section of course that I'd be better able to make some time. Had one other rider come with me, but he wasn't fully committed, and we got brought back before the descent.
Lap 13 - Rolled through no harder than anyone else, watching for the strong guys.
Lap 14 - The time gap to the main peloton is down to 40 seconds. The majority of the break was working together, to try and hold the time advantage. With the tail wind along the finish straight we pound along the road at 53 to 54kmh.
Lap 15 - Michael (the Aussie on the other team) says he'll try attacking at the top of the short climb on the final lap if we haven't been caught by the main peloton by that stage. A few gaps develop in the group, as a lot of the riders start to get tired. Little groups form at times, but everything remains together to complete the lap. Near the end of the lap I tell Michael that I'd attack, and have him on my wheel going up the climb for the final time. (To set him up for where he planned to attack)
Lap 16 - I get Michael on my wheel approaching the hill. We head to the gutter, where no one will get to sit in our draft. The crosswinds make the apparent breeze change, and put the ideal drafting position off centre. So riding on the leeward side of the road forces everyone to sit in the wind, and not gain a drafting advantage. Three quarters of the way up the hill the group is strung out, but Michael says he's struggling to keep going, and not to wait for him. Over the top I end up in a leading group of 5 riders, and start gaining a small lead, as the chasers recover from the hill climb, before they started chasing again. With around 5 kilometres remaining we've got to work well together to maintain our lead, not only from the group we just attacked, but also the chasing peloton, who would have had us in sight on the previous hill.
The days darkening clouds encroach the course, and we start to get some drops of rain. There's only two major corners left to contend with, and we get through them successfully. I led our group of 5 out of the final corner, with approx 2 km remaining. Two more riders come through for a turn at the front, but the other two riders remain at the back, refusing to assist, rather wanting to save their legs for a finish that's quickly going to become a sprint between the 5 of us. Glancing over our shoulder we can see the next group closing the gap, as our cooperation fails, and we prepare to try and beat each other whilst we gamble that the next riders won't catch us in the closing meters.
Less than a kilometre to go, and the two guys who had been sitting on the back attack down the side of the road, trying to gain an advantage to hold to the finish. One of the riders in front of me jumps after them, and I roll through to help close the gap. We get to around 500m to go, and we're in a formation similar to that of the '5' side of the dice, with me in the middle, and risking possibly being boxed in. Simultaneously the two riders in front of me turn their heads to check the whole scenario, not forgetting the group of chasing riders behind us!
As they return to looking forward there's a small enough gap between them to squeeze through. With their attention not having returned to 100 percent I took the chance to attack, not particularly wanting to have a sprint finish. The tailwind on the straight helps in getting up to speed, and ensures that we approach the line quickly, leaving anyone with a slight lead a better chance than normal of staying away. My attack gave me a 30 to 40 metre lead, thanks to a bit of hesitation from the other riders. Pushing over a big enough gear carries me to the line at almost 60kph, and was what was needed to take the win!
Tom came in with the next group of 8 riders, and placed 9th. So, there's a bit of news to write home about!
Oh yeah, thanks Trav for your race instructions whilst I'm over here - "Just kick some Belgie arse!" Simple and easy advice; Thanks mate!