Rockhampton, October 7, 2006
Well, I started writing this the last night in Belgium for the 2006 season, and I am polishing it off now in Rockhampton after arriving home on Wednesday, October 4, a day later than originally planned, but more on that later. The season for me has ended a little earlier than I had planned, due to circumstances out of my control. The team is heading out for the Sun Tour, whereas I am home in the warmer, drier climate of Rockhampton, content with how the year finally turned out, albeit with a broken collarbone.
Since returning home from the Tour of Britain our race program was still ticking along. A few pro kermesse races came and went, and my condition seemed to be good. Koolscamp, our next 1.1 category race, arrived and I performed strongly to arrive at the finish for the sixty- rider bunch sprint. It wasa hard day out there due to the wind and the warm conditions. Jeremy and I kept ourselves out of trouble and, although not being the best of sprinters, did what we could in the finale.
It was not long after Koolscamp that the numbers in the house started to dwindle. Jeremy was the first to head out after his New Zealand national team withdrew from the world champs. Jeremy's head promptly fell off and went home for a romp with his sheep before preparing for the Sun Tour. Bernie was next to go a few days later. Sorry, but I don't know what Tasmanians get up to when they're at home. Our next 1.1 was on the horizon at Lichtervelde, and for me, a bad moon was a rising.
Lichtervelde Oomloop de Houtland
Up early again for another long drive on the E17 west. Bit of a drag, this month of September as all the races, pro kermesse and 1.1, are all past Gent and then some. Warm weather was here to greet us today but unlike last year, a pretty nasty wind was blowing, which was going to make it tough. Lichtervelde is a typical Flemish race with heaps of small, bumpy roads, cobbles, corners and any other obstacle you could think off.
After the first 15km, three crashes had erupted and ended the day for a number of riders prematurely. My old mate, Glen Chadwick, came down hard in one and subsequently tore his right calf muscle. After having dinner with him the other night, he is currently jumping around on crutches and enjoying six to eight weeks off the bike. Get better soon, sticks.
After 30km the wind bore its teeth and the bunch was split into four pieces. I was in the second bunch, but there were a number of big riders that missed the split, so no real need to panic just yet. I just had to suffer through and stay with the bunch. Low and behold, it did come back, and after a few more splits on the second big lap, after 100km a big bunch was present and entering the local laps.
The local laps came and went pretty quickly until five laps to go when a strong group of nine rode clear. All the big team leaders were there so the bunch slowed down a bit, and the group in front quickly built a lead of five minutes. With three laps to go, I jumped into a chase group, while the rest of the bunch had had enough for the day and pulled it up. It was a group of 25 or so which never had a chance of catching the front, but there were still some good places/prizes up for the grabs, so the race was still on.
I had a dig on the last lap which lasted two kilometres or so, but our group came into the final kilometre all together. I put myself in good position for the sprint and ended up 10th in the kick. Immediately after the line the road swerves a little to the right, and it was here that I heard all this yelling behind me and then some rider leaning on my right hip. He ended up hitting the deck, but in the process he pushed me into the left hand barriers and down I went. Initially I felt ok, but as I got up and was sorting out my bike, cursing the fact that I was brought down, I felt my collarbone was a little stiff and sore. I took off my shirt and it wasn't looking the best as the doctor checked me out. Off to hospital I went for some x-rays and, low and behold, I had fractured my collarbone right on the end and I now required surgery.
So, two lovely days were spent in the Holy Heart Hospital at Roeselare, where I had plenty of chats with an old mate in the next bed about cycling and other stuff in general. It turned out he was a member of Nico Mattan's fan club, so we got off on the right foot and had a common interest. I struggled a bit understanding his strong west-Flemish accent/dialect. He probably had trouble understanding my Flemish with a strong Rocky accent, but we got through the two days well. See you later Jack, old mate. Leigh the legend drove two hours from Booischot to pick me up on Friday, and I was back home into the warm, safe nest that is the Booischot house and into the loving arms of Mother Munge.
The next week was pretty cruisy for me as I just floated around the house in a daze and started to pack and tie up some loose ends around the place. I said my goodbyes to Casper, Day Off, Cocky, Fonzy and Barras a couple of days before we were heading off (see you guys next year!). Meanwhile, the other guys were still 'busy as a one-armed bricky' with racing, training, organising the Sun Tour, and generally getting ready for the trip home. And what a trip home it was. It was a return flight home that requires a whole separate diary entry dedicated to it. Nevertheless, here is a quick summary: flight delay in Brussels by six hours. Connecting flights missed. One night in London. Arrived in LA for a 10-hour lay over. Jumped in a taxi, "Star Bucks, Chauffeur!" and arrived at Manhattan Beach for a coffee and a burrito. Landed in Brisbane a day late, minus our senses, three bike bags, and two suitcases. Tank and Munge left me there and I headed for the domestic terminal for another four-hour wait for my flight home. Enough said on that matter.
So, I'm back home and everything is the same, just the way I left it. My Rocky boulder (shoulder) is getting better, but I won't be rushing into things. I've had two weeks off now, so I think another two weeks are on the cards catching up with friends, family and paperwork, and letting my hair down a little. What hair I have left, anyway, after tearing it all out on the way home.
'Til next time we meet
P.S: Cheers to Tank and Munge for the trip home, and for carrying my bags now and again. I couldn't have picked two better guys to have a flight from hell with.
P.P.S: Good luck in the Sun Tour, guys.
Thanks go to:
Ian Weigh at Ian Weigh Toyota
Quentin Lawrence and the team at Wizard Home Loans
Grant Olman at CQ Cranes
Central Queensland University
Dr. Peter Reaburn PhD
Dr. Andrew Russell
Gary Ireland at the Rock Pool Water Parked
Russell Tucker at Tuckers Cycle Inn Avanti Plus