Belgium, August 30, 2006
from memory I last wrote upon my return from a tough and successful trip to China for the Tour of Qinghai Lake. It has been busy since returning with racing and getting ready for our next big objective, the Tour of Britain.
Had a little break upon my return from China just to recharge the mental and physical batteries. Took full advantage and squeezed some shopping in on the final days of the "solden" (sale) season here in Belgium. After this little break it was time to knuckle down again and focus on the races coming up. First up we had a few local kermesse races in the area and they went well, scoring eighth in the first rain sodden race at Linden and fourth at Neerlinter a few days later. We were then heading west, west I say good man to Erfurt for Rund um die Hainleite in Germany.
Rund um die Hainleite
The Rund um die Hainleite is a bit of a shiny race. It was being held this year a few days after the Tour of Germany so many of the stars who completed the Tour were backing up a few days later for this nice 1.1 race. Among the starters were Jens Voigt and Sebastian Lang, two riders at the pointy end of the Tour of Germany, and a man on the comeback after injury, Alessandro Petacchi. With this said we all knew it was going to be a tough day.
The race was a big lap of 145 kilometres with a few obstacles to contend with before returning to Erfurt for five tough finish laps. The finish laps were seven kilometres around with a tough one-kilometre hill and a tricky descent to deal with. A break did get away but the race was being controlled by the teams up for the win and the break was never in danger of getting too far away. About 20 kilometres from the finish laps it started to rain, which life a little difficult in the bunch.
On the first finish lap a heap of riders in the peloton called it a day and got out of the way. I was feeling okay and safe in the bunch. On the next lap, it was the same story and then on the third time up the hill I was a little off the back. I chased and got back on before the first cobbled corner on the descent. I mentioned earlier that it had been raining. Well, a puddle on the apex of the corner had been gradually creeping out due to the lead and follow cars splashing the water. I hit the corner a little faster than previously and clipped a wet cobble and down I went. My pedal disintegrated in the fall, therefore calling an early end to my day at the office. Other than that I was unhurt apart from a nice patch of skin off my hip. Alex had a decent day out and finished in the front. All the other guys finished the race as well. The man of the moment, Jens Voigt, won the day, riding away from the bunch with two laps to go to win by 40 secs.
Heusden Pro Kermesse
After a few days licking wounds I lined up again for the Heusden Pro Kermesse and the pouring rain. I'm just loving the weather in Belgium this year. I wanted to take the day relatively easy after hitting the deck a few days previously and did just that. I was content to muddle through the 170 kilometres today and finish safely in the bunch. With the weather the way it was and the skin off my hip, I did not really feel like taking risks. Mission accomplished, 170 kilometres raced locked in and everybody had a decent day. Time for new brake blocks though.
This time also coincided with Navigator Pro and mate from Rockhampton, Glen Chadwick landing back in Belgium after a successful stint in the US of A. I had a bit of time to catch up with him and put in a decent couple of rides and get ready for Zottegem and Overijse, two 1.1 races back to back. We also had or first opportunity to meet or new Director Eric Vanderaerden. He is an added addition to the team as our current Director Daniel Willem is still with us and will continue to play an important role. Eric is another legend of the world of cycling. Those who know who he is will know what he has done, so I won't not bore you with his palmares. It could take a while suffice to say. I feel lucky and honoured to be to work alongside two guys like Daniel and Eric.
A tough race ridden around the Flemish Ardennes that surround the city of Zottegem. Pretty uneventful day for me personally but the other guys like Harro, Deano, Russ and Matt all had good days with aggressive rides on the finishing circuits. Russ and Matt in particular rode strongly getting into a late move and getting into the top 20. A break was away for most of the day and missed them at the finish by a minute or so. I finished the day in the bunch and did not expend too much energy for the next day.
Druiven Koerse Overijse
A great race down past Leuven where many of training rides head. The race was up and down all day, so no chance to have a break. This race, with its place in the calendar used to be the final selection and tune up race for the pros heading to the World Championships. This was when the date for the Worlds was set in the first week of September so the challenging parcours were set to test the best riders back then, just like they still do today. Three big laps of 35 kilometres with four climbs each lap, then eight local laps with 3 climbs each lap. Do the math and it equals 36 climbs for the race.
First 20 kilometres I made an effort to get in the early breaks but at that stage nothing was let loose. A break went at the end of the first big lap and quickly built a lead approaching two minutes. Fortunately for us a few other teams missed it and with one climb remaining on the big lap the break was caught. Cheers to Harro who did a nice bit of work closing the break down in the last kilometres.
The local laps were pretty special. Here is what they look like. The first hill comes after 1 kilometre with a turn onto a cobbled stretch then left up the first 1 kilometre long hill. When over that, we descended through Overijse past the church and straight up the next 2 kilometre drag. The feed zone was at the top, you grab a bottle and downhill for 3 kilometres then turn right through a town called Tombeek and go up another 2 kilometre climb. A quick descent follows, then another little pinch, take the main road downhill, go through a chicane then there is 300m to the finish.
The first three laps or so were okay and a natural selection took place where no real attacks were made but riders succumbed to the pace and called it a day. At this stage the team was still well placed with Russ, Dean, Alex, Jeremy, Tom, Dave and myself in the group.
On lap four Lamonta attacked up the first hill and after a bit of chase I made it to the front group of 40 along with Alex and Russ. It was like this for a lap then through the feed there was another surge, which dragged a group of 25 clear. Alex was there, but Russ missed it. Somehow, he wrestled himself over the break by himself, a gap of 30 secs and that is where he stayed. I was still with a group of 15 chasing at a minute or so for the rest of the race.
I don't know exactly how the last five kilometres turned out up front apart from the fact that Russ won the bunch sprint from 25 guys against some classy opposition. Good on ya mate. The only way I found out that he won was that when I crossed the line in 35th place I was looking around for Raoul. Little did I know that he was with Russ in the tent getting him ready for the podium. It wasn't until someone congratulated me on my team-mate winning did I find Raoul and my much desired Coke. Big win for Russ and the team. Gave team morale a nice little boost before heading off to the Tour of Britain which starts Tuesday.
Looking forward to that just quietly
Till next time we meet
Ps. A little plug to a brand new band out there in Australia, "Hanimex Stand". Have a look at www.hanimexstand.com and you might just recognise the drummer. Former Australian U/23 champion, podium finisher at the Bank Race, Doctor and brother of yours truly - Warren. If you are up in Cairns and happen to be at The Barrier Reef Hotel, check them out. I think they sound okay.
Ian Weigh Toyota
Quentin Lawrence at Wizard Home Loans
Grant Olman at CQ Crane Hire
Dr. Peter Reaburn and the School of Health and Human Performance
Central Queensland University
Dr. Andrew Russel
Gary and Bridget Ireland at The Rock Pool Water Park
Russel Tucker at Tucker's Cycle Inn