Team Cyclingnews.com - Down Under - 2004
Willebroek Kermesse - 1.6, Belgium, July 4, 2004
A win in Willebroek!
By Phil Thuaux
Here we go again, another update on the European work placement!
After coming back from an ordinary trip to Spain, the legs hadn't been feeling the greatest, so an easy week was on the agenda. By the end of the week the legs were showing some signs of return, and thus I pinned on some race numbers for today's Willebroek race. I'd planned a day of no early attacks and not putting myself into any small groups, but rather, getting through the day with no pressure, and seeing what might eventuate towards the finish. The peloton had 191 riders to play a hiding game with over the 180km course.
Well, after my first breakfast of Weet-Bix in a few months (courtesy of a parcel sent from home via Gav's parents (some of you'll know who they are, also inclusive of BBQ sauce!), how couldn't I have a good day?! Sven got himself in the early move, representing the team well. The bunch didn't let it stay though. Plenty of activity kept the pace high, and after a few cobble sections several kilometres long, the peloton still remained as one. We'd passed the halfway mark, and still, no clear leaders.
Moving back towards the front of the bunch around the 110km mark, I was on a position to jump across to four riders just up the road. We weren't away for long and were joined by another group, to form 14. Our time gap grew to 55 seconds, but always looked susceptible to failure with riders missing turns, or just not rolling through. Somehow though, it all happened, and we got to the final local circuits (three laps of 7.5km each) with the same narrow margin still. As we saw the three laps to go board, two riders from the Beveren 2000 team attacked, with no one chasing them.
A few more corners, and I was on my way to join them, along with two more riders close behind me. The other nine riders mustn't have been too keen, as we opened a reasonable gap immediately. Our group of five completed the next lap, and with just the final lap to go (7.5km) we held a narrow 35 second lead from the peloton, which had swallowed up the other nine riders who had been away with us. To win was going to mean playing my cards against a team that had two riders in our break, as well as the Belgian national amateur champ, as well as the fourth guy who I didn't know much about, other than he was missing a lot of turns in between bombing through.
Attacking too early would only let the two Beveren team-mates work together to bring me back. Leaving it too late might only let them lead each other out, as well as letting it be a sprint, which is not my best asset. So, with a kilometre to go there had been a few dummy attacks from some of the guys, but finally, one of the Beveren riders attacked, with the national champ right on his wheel. Oh well, the other Beveren rider wasn't going to chase his team-mate, and the fourth guy was looking tired, so it was up to me to keep myself in contention. 800m left, and I had a gap on two of the last-mentioned guys, and was closing towards to two leaders. The final corner was nice and open, and I closed the majority of the remaining gap just as we came into the final straight.
All I was waiting for now was a moment's hesitation from someone, and I'd play my cards. Well, the moment came, as the two guys sat up, realising our group of five was likely to reunite. As they did so however, I added to my momentum, and put in everything there was to try and get the gap. And hey, it worked! The last 400m was short enough to hold the lead to the line, with just enough time for a victory salute!
The bunch not too far behind was racing for sixth place, but not everyone made it to the line. I'm still not aware of exactly what happened, but Harro got caught in a crash with at least two other riders. I haven't seen Harro since, but he's in hospital overnight, nursing not just a broken shoulder, but a broken 7th vertebra as well. We're told he could possibly be home tomorrow, so thankfully the vertebra damage isn't as bad as it could be, but I think Harro's got a bit of time to do on the lounge whilst The Tour's on.
As well as that, I'll say good luck to Alain and Luc, two of our staff members who have moved on, and thank them for their time that they've put into the team.
Well, keep in touch, and look after yourselves,