Team Cyclingnews.com - Down Under - 2004
The good and the bad: Nokere Koerse & GP Rudy Dhaenens
Our first 1.3 for the year at Nokere Koerse couldn't have been run in better conditions, especially after the recent weather. The arm warmers got a start but only lasted 2km; it was just shorts and jersey (cant say knicks as it means nothing in Flemish), but still, it wasn't that warm. There was little wind and although the average speed was around 45km/hr, it wasn't a tough day. The majority of the course is run on the 10 finish laps of 15km; it's a challenging little lap with a bit of everything.
Attacks where usually on or before the Nokere berg, but the headwind following that section usually brought it all back together. With three laps to go, Cameron showed his consistent good form and made a crucial split of around 30 riders. All the division 1 and 2 teams where represented and looked like that was it, but MVH [Max van Heeswijk-Ed] had other plans and brought it back for a bunch kick.
As our inform sprinter Hiltz was sidelined for today because of paperwork that should have been completed on the other side of the world (sent off/lost/whatever), I gave it one last push in the final 5km to get in position for the sprint. Over the top of the small climb out of the suicidal roundabout, I popped off the wheel (sorry Cam) and I was pedaling in squares; my form at the moment only allows 150km of control before I have the word "passenger" stamped across my forehead.
Cam cruised in first just behind the bunch kick, then Tom, Cody and myself dragged ourselves up the cobbled finish to a well deserved can of Pepsi. Phil's day wasn't so spectacular after having his front wheel taken out in the feed, but was still able to get back on and complete the majority of the race after some aggressive riding earlier on.
... and the bad!
Next up, GP Rudy Dhaenens: a race I did well in last year and was keen to put in a good result. Unfortunately it was cold and cyclonic; I didn't get an official wind reading for the day, but it was around the 40-50 km/hr mark with stronger gusts. Everyone in the bunch knew what was going to happen as soon as we turned side on to the monster and there was a lot of pushing and shoving to get or keep position.
After 30km we where doing under 30km/hr bunched up on a narrow road (last 2km of Nokere four days before) then it split into multiple echelons. Alain, our director, commented that he had never seen so many riders crawling out of the ditch of the road. Some weren't that lucky and had a hospital to visit. 15 riders got clear and then most of the groups came back together with Vlaanderen taking up the chase.
Hilton and myself decided to give the boys in yellow a hand in the chase - it was easier then fighting for position behind them. The bunch kept splintering behind in the wind, and as we made our way up to the series of climbs, the bunch was strung out in the gutter at 55km/hr. A small group broke clear on the Cote de Truie. The next group had Phil, Cameron, Hilton and myself. Cameron and especially Phil did a good bit of work to haul back the group over the next two climbs, but the 15 out front had gone out to two minutes.
On the second last climb of the day, Phil and I rode tempo on the front leading to and up the climb. As we turned off the climb into the cross wind, the attacks started again and I was perfectly positioned. The following split was the final one and a 35 rider group broke clear in pursuit of the leaders. We hovered at 2'30 till we hit the finish circuits at 150km and a little later, 24 riders were left in the group.
Coming in over 10 minutes down, the main bunch retired on the finish circuits to a welcome shower. My job, however, wasn't finished: the legs were far from good in the last two laps and I had to dig deep just to stay in contact with the group. (Real deep!) 34th was not quite as good as last year, but I was very pleased with my ride, especially in these conditions.
Hopefully the weather will start to improve, and the next two weeks before our next big race can be spent putting the k's in the legs so I can leave the passenger tag at home in the end of races and start clocking up P&P's (points and prizemoney).
David "Harro" Harrigan