Team Cyclingnews.com - Down Under - 2004

Omloop van de Vlaamse Scheldeboorden (1.3), Kruibeke, Belgium, April 17, 2004, 195km

Busting my chops in Kruibeke

By Nathan "Chookman" Russell

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Trying to smile
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"And in the second round, I took a dive..."
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Let me point out that a race report, as simple as it sounds can be quite an opening for ridicule and slander, especially when you're busting your chops just to finish the race, but this is how I saw the day. I am sure the front group saw it differently. Either way here is my version, hope you enjoy.

The mission for the day was to play in the Kuibeke 1.3 Classic. A standard start to race day is a solid breaky and try to back off the espressos as it can hinder the bodily functions later in the day. We normally head out the door at nine and jump in the three-car convoy for a two hour drive. Today I had the privilege of having a jetlagged Veronica along for her first peek at a real race in Belgium/France.

It's normal to do a few laps of a town until we find the allocated car park for teams and the vibe picks up as you park up next to the Domo, Rabo and Chocolade Jacques buses. With a few hours to spare it was voted that we hook up a brew and fine tune our people-watching skills whilst rambling on about nothing really. It was an Aussie roll call at the café: Roberts, Sweet, Wooldridge and the Cyclingnews crew all sat back and dribbled verbal diarrhea till it was time to kit up.

Kit up is usually performed in a change room or a sport hall set up for all teams. Prime time for a nudie run in between pinning on numbers and lubing up the chamois. Oil is slapped on the legs and radios hooked up. From here it's pretty much all systems go and "before I knew it, it was time to hit the road".

Sign on at big races is tops. A stage for team introduction and non-stop photos taken for fans and media. Some even have team post cards of you they get you to sign. It all makes for a good feel before it's lamb to the slaughter and you live in the gutter - physically not mentally.

There is a certain degree of etiquette in the pro races that you definitely don't get in an amateur kermesse. Here you don't constantly have some sniveling hubbard sticking his bars under you on every corner. The riders seem to be content to simply hold their position till its time for business. The footpath is often the best option if you really want to get up there.

To my surprise I had the pleasure of a 10km piano then it was time to launch it up the road in the hope of getting in the early move. No early move succeeded until we hit the only cobbled section of the day at 36k, 1.5 k long and this little chickadee got bounced around like multi ball on a pinball machine. Made it back on with another group of 20 and I was still up for go. At 120km two riders skipped of the front, a Domo and a Vlaanderen. The door opened on the left and I had a dream run on to the footpath at 55kph and made it across to the two riders. One turn on the front and I glanced over my shoulder to see what the scoop was. Three more riders came across and it had some hope. At this point I felt like saying "you guys should do all the work and drag my sorry ass around till the finish" - make them earn their salaries and all that, but anyway it was cool to be in a move and playing some cards instead of just being a passenger.

The short and sweet of it is that we missed the next major move and found five of us on the front setting tempo and attempting to bring a 1 min gap back with Domo sitting on our wheel. Capabilities and possibilities got mixed up but it was good for morale to get the boys together on the front and do some work. Having one rider in the move makes all the difference, sounds easy heh?

The gallop was for 30th and I was happy to have some gas left after our leg-tearing session on the front. Fifth in the kick seems to be the regular place for me, same as Grand Prix Denain a few days earlier. I had Mark Renshaw's wheel with 100 to go and his chain came off the big ring; I told him that would get sorted at the first service and the cables must have stretched.

Half an hour after crossing the line, I was showered, bikes were on roof and it was time for the scattered and uncomfortable drive home and thoughts of an easy recovery day put a smile on my dial. Veronica had a great day watching the madness and the chime of 'Rodania' still rings strong late in to the night, maybe the Duvals helped that along, either way its bloody bonza having the missus here.

Hope you guys like the tale and one day I will be up for a sprint and that my friends will be a magic day.

"Gotta get up to get down."



PS: Jeff, the bingle was not on race day; surprise, surprise.

[Editor's note: this diary was lost in the ether somewhere between Belgium and Cyclingnews, which is why it's late and out of sequence]

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