Team Cyclingnews.com - Down Under - 2004
44th Delta Ronde van Midden-Zeeland - 1.2, Netherlands, September 4, 2004
"What the hell am I doing here?"
By Cody Stevenson
Saturday was Midden Zeeland, a 1.2 in Holland, 200k, sun and a current Olympic Champion on the start list, Paolo Bettini, as well as some well-known Aussie sprinter who sometimes wears the colour green, and a big viking dude from Norway.
I managed to get in a break after 20km; at about kilometre 21, I was thinking, "What the hell am I doing here?"
For the next 70km, nine riders - Nico Eeckhout, the aforementioned big dude Thor Hushovd, Steven De Jongh from Rabobank, Thomas Vaitkus from Landbouwkrediet and the other five of us - rode flat chat, only ever managing to get a gap of 1min 20sec. I was trying to pull through as much as I could, but was really lacking the strength the others possessed, i.e. I find it difficult to ride at 60kph!
We were eventually caught and I was in a bit of trouble. Eeckhout was not - he went on to win the race! So now I know what it is like in the front of a big pro race... really hard! It was the first time I had been successful in getting into an early break - maybe I will think twice next time... nah, I'll give it another go, with a bit of extra strength training!
As I was coming back through the bunch in the crosswinds, I pulled to the side and threw the hand out for the guy behind, that guy happened to be Robbie McEwen. Instead of grabbing my hand, he gave me a little push and some words of encouragement. I managed to stay in the group a little longer because of his gesture. Robbie McEwen is a guy who I used to send emails to when I first started riding about seven years ago. He replied to almost every one of my emails and always encouraged me and gave me advice on racing, training and the life of a cyclist. For a real top rider to give a little of his time was great, and then to still be encouraged during races like today is just fantastic. Thanks Robbie, I really appreciate it.
Lights out and I rode back to the finish, grabbed my bag from the swanny, and hit the douches.
The next day most of the team were off to another big race, GP Leuven; apparently it was really hard... but then again, most races are!
I got to do something a little less strenuous: a pro crit. These are typically held after the Tour and always attract big name riders and a good crowd.
The first thing I noticed was the peloton... or lack there of. Only 25 of us, but this included Robbie McEwen, Andreas Kloden, Thomas Voeckler, Tom Steels, Ludo Dierckxsens and Marc Wauters. We rolled off the line and luckily for me, at not too fast a tempo... my muscles in my butt were very sore from yesterday's swapping off shenanigans.
90km later, the race was over. Voeckler won, it was good for the crowd, my team-mates and partners in crime. Ricey and Leigh were happy and everyone's legs didn't feel too bad... except maybe Andy Cappelle from Chocolade Jacques, who had raced Leuven that morning then the crit that night, a nice 270km day! Ouch!
Stopped at Gent on the way home, as Ricey had not seen the place. Had a beer, watched the world go, then back to home.