Team Cyclingnews.com - Down Under - 2004

March 29, 2004: Charmed

Aalst-St.Truiden (1.6)

By Cameron Jennings

Hi all,

Lucky charms or specific pre-race rituals are common place in the cycling and sporting world. Homer's "Wonder Bat" and Carl's "Enchanted Jock Strap" from the Simpsons or more famously Steve Waugh's famous red hanky, are examples of objects that the holder clearly believe bring good fortune in their chosen domain. In the cycling world, stories abound of riders wanting brand new handlebar tape before a big race, a favourite pair of socks that sit just in the correct spot, or simply a mandatory morning coffee. Italians go a step further and never pass salt at the dinner table to avoid bad luck and habitually touch their testicles when talking about crashes they have had.

Why is this? Simply because a good race has followed when some new tape has been rolled on or when those favourite socks have been pulled up. The testicle thing, I won't even go there. Does it really make a difference or is it all just a big coincidence? Whatever it is, if the rider/athlete is at ease, then generally good things follow.

Our team is not exempt to the odd lucky charm or pre-race ritual. Our teams recurring lucky charm, is our stand-in DS and full-time mechanic, Eddie de Weerdt. Whenever he hands over the cone spanner and pump and gets behind the driving wheel we have a good result. Aalst-St.Truiden (UCI 1.6) was no exception. On the family side of things, there is another good luck ritual that takes place in teamcyclingnews.com, but more on that later.

It was a great day. A change in the seasons is finally in the air and the motivation levels of the guys, me included, seem to soar as the skies clear and the temperature climbs. We fielded a strong team with Hilton, Sven, Matt Rice, myself, new recruit Josh Fleming, and for his first outing outside the local kermis scene, Robbie Williams. Team orders over the lumpy terrain were, to be active, but if it was all together once we hit the finish circuits, then it was our job to keep it together for Hilton.

Before we rolled out, Sven received his good luck pat on the bum from his mother, Monique. It was then that I gave myself a chuckle and joked along with the pat that I have seen many times before. It wasn't long though before Monique had planted her lucky mit onto my unsuspecting rear as I was readying myself for the day ahead.

Felt good/lively on this particular day and in fact every other day we have raced in the Limburg region. Maybe this is my lucky charm. I was very active after the 50km point, jumping into a few breaks and trying numerous others by myself, but on a perfect day, with little to no wind, it was a big ask for anything to stay away. Hilton was also jumping around and surfing the front with Matt and Sven doing their share of covering as well. Robbie was a little apprehensive, being his first big race, but he equipped himself well. Josh, however, had a mechanical and was forced to retire. Although trying in vain, it was all together at the finishing circuits apart from three guys that managed to get 30 seconds a few kilometres previous.

The circuits had a bit of everything. A stretch of cobbles and a sharp hill every lap and a twisty technical finish. It was here that myself and the team relished in the job at hand. Knowing we had a guy like Hilton in our team, who on his day can beat the best in a sprint (just ask Robbie), made doing our job all that easier. Leading him over the cobbles, chasing attacks up the climb and protecting him from the wind was honestly, a lot of fun. It felt as though all I needed was a mullet flowing out the back of my helmet and the picture would have looked all too familiar to a lot of people. We got Hilton into a good spot with 1km to go and he did not let us down, placing second in the bunch sprint.

So, do lucky charms work? Homer Simpson went ok with his "Wonder bat" and Steve Waugh, well, you can't exactly say he failed with that red rag in his pocket. Who knows, but next time Eddy is DS and Monique is at the race, I won't be steering away from her right hand.

Till next time,
Cameron Jennings

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