Team Cyclingnews.com - Down Under - 2004
Triptyque Ardennais, Belgium, May 21-23, 2004
By Nathan "Chookman" Russell
Geez Louise! Anyone for a shot of reality on some climbs in deepest darkest Belgium?
Triptyque Ardennais is a three day, 2.6 tour that has a reputation like an ex-crim in 'Home & Away'. I was warned that it may be the hardest three days I will do all year and they were on the money with that hit prediction. The cold had crept in for the start and the field consisted of the Italian national team, South Africans, USA, Rabobank, Cyclingnews and then some. On one hand, it was nice to be doing a real road race and not a kermesse, on the other it hurt me like hell on the climbs. It was obvious very quickly I wasn't in with a show on the hilly finishing laps. I made some impressive beeping sounds on the climb... much like a Diahatsu dual cab reversing. This wonderful beeping followed me around quite a lot over the next few days and if it keeps occurring in my dreams I will need to visit the friendly shrink... again. I don't really like writing about the negative ugliness of my racing, so I tend to focus on the upside. In this case I have these points to highlight.
Descending: I had a blast on some very technical descents, usually with the same crazy cats that beeped a lot like myself, one of whom looked like a skinny Jeff Hopkins... an absolute nutter!! It came down to hand slings at 90kph with a select few in the hooped group. When it's over, it's over and I like to come away with a moment and unfortunately all I had left to play with here is a downhill dabble. It was probably a good thing that the La Redoute stage wasn't a bunch finish as I freewheeled 85kph into the last long right-hander 100m before the finish. It would have been messy in a bunch kick. Phil Thuaux was third on GC after the first day and it was hats off to Funky Phil who is on track for a great tour in Spain in a month.
Italians: If you think that they use their hands a lot when they communicate normally, imagine what they must be like in the bunch. If only I had enough HP (horsepower) to drive it hard enough to stop them from whinging and carrying on. 'nuff said.
Aussie mates: Names pop up and float around in conversation a lot with bike riders. At coffee stops and training rides, everyone has heard everyone else's name at some stage. Mark Rowland was a past occupant of the apartment we currently live in and as I don't ever recall racing with Mark, it was time for an introduction. Once the standard "So you're the Chookman" was done and the "Do you know Brooksy" questions were out of the way, it was time for some idle chit chat.
"How many times have you told your wife 'One more year?" he blasted out with a thunderous laugh before I muttered, "Since 2000!"
On that note I plan to make like a shephard and get the flock out of here...
... and ponder coming back next year.