Belgium, April 28, 2007
Hel van het Mergelland
The last time I wrote was after Cholet and that did not go well. I had been pretty crook and I lined up nowhere near where I should/know I can be. So, with a little more time healing up and training up, I was about as ready as I was going to be for Hel van Het Mergelland. It was a race I targeted somewhat at the start of the year and one I have done well in in the past along with Hamish. But when negative things happen to you that are out of your control, you just have to make do. The legs fell off some 40km from home on one of the last tough climbs that littered the route. I rolled in with a group to watch the front group sprint by at the beginning of their last local lap. Nevermind, there were a couple of positive things to take away from the day.
A day break with a trip to Cologne, Germany for Rund um Koln. I timed the car trip well and rocked up to the hotel with 30km to go in Tour of Flanders. A few cheers went up around the hotel when Ballan sprinted to victory and a few Belgium heads in hands from the number of Belgium teams at the hotel.
Rund um Koln
Good weather greeted us again for the race which is strangely becoming the norm here. It was a tough course with a number of climbs - not as tough as Mergelland but with the bigger teams and smooth fast roads, it was still going to be quick and tough. My legs were still not great after about four hours of racing but I was able to hang in there over the last couple of hills and make it to the fast flat run in into Cologne. I dodged a couple of nasty crashes on the finish laps and got to the finish. Good job done by Harro and Evan, who had good sprints.
"Cameron...do you want to race Gent-Wevelgem on Wednesday? I am one rider short," were the words that greeted me at the end of Cologne on Monday. "Sure Eric, if you want me to," was my reply. So off to Gent I went.
Gent-Wevelgem was arguably the team's biggest start of the year. A Pro Tour race with the infamous Kemmelberg, which was set to claim a few more victims today. We were one of the wild card selections for it. Nico was the reason behind this wild card selection; he was traveling well and motivated for the race he won just two years previous. Nico was a bit disappointed that the race wasn't being held in bad conditions and said that it was not a real Gent-Wevelgem. 20 odd degrees, sun and no wind. Forgive me for saying so mate, but it was real enough for me.
My role for the race was to stick by Nico for the first 100km. Eric was not 100 percent sure of my condition and, after my recent illness and races, he thought I would be a little tired. I was Nico's back pocket 'til the hill zone and off he went to do his thing. I got up and over but did get gapped a little. It was probably lucky that I did get gapped as carnage ensued on the decent.
I was on the brakes all the way down, dodging the riders on the ground and I regained the peloton after a bit of a chase. But I was beginning to feel it. I got dropped on the climb before the Kemmelberg, dodged the second crash on the decent, found a group or a group found me, and rode to the finish. I finished 11 min down but hey, I did the job that Eric and Nico wanted from me and they were happy so I was content. Nico meanwhile got delayed due to the second crash down the Kemmelberg and could not get back to the front. I finished a couple minutes back along with Dan Lloyd, who had another good day. A couple of easy days followed, I watched Pairs-Roubaix at the team house with the boys and witnessed Stuart O'Grady take the win. Next race was for me was Scheldeprijs.
Scheldeprijs here in Belgium with its start in the centre of Antwerp and finishing in Schoten. With another great day greeting us along with some big teams and a pan flat course, it was going to be a quick day. The team rode well. We did, however, miss the early break but along with Barloworld began to chase and eventually caught the break after an hour of racing. A few other attacks along the way until a strong group of three got away with 60km to go containing Eekhout, Morenhout and van Impe.
Nico said he was feeling good and wanted to try something on the finish laps so asked for 1-2 guys to work on the front along with the other teams. Robby and I got up and began to work with Predictor Lotto and a few others but then other teams were wanting to get in on the action as well so not much for us to do. The break was caught, Nico attacked along with two others but was caught at the kilometre banner. Meanwhile I rolled in just off the back after doing my bit. Harro had a sniff in the sprint which was taken out by Mark Cavendish over Robbie McEwen.
What's next for me is a bit of a forced rest. Late last year I broke my collarbone racing Oomloop de Houtland, Lichtervelde. The collarbone was plated and I was informed that the plate needed to come out in about 6 months time. Well the time is up and the bone is healed so off to the hospital I went. I couldn't wait for the bit of "tin" to come out as everyday it was giving me grief. A couple of weeks on the sideline away from racing is in the cards but I am back training again on the trainer. Looking forward to having a free-moving shoulder for the remainder of the season.
'Til next time we meet.