Belgium, July 11, 2006
last time I wrote we had just come back from Canada and had lined up for a disaster at Halle-Ingooigem with everybody feeling the effects of a long flight the day before. Things have naturally improved since then with two races and some good training. I'm preparing for the Tour of Qinghai Lake starting on July 15 in China. The big summer rock festival, Rock Werchter, has come and gone and the sun is finally out, the leg and arm warmers have been packed away for the time being and the second half of the season beckons.
Our first race of this little block was the International Wieler Trophee at Oetingen, one of the toughest 1.2 races in Belgium. The race in the Flemish Ardennes goes over some nasty Flanders hills and a couple of tough cobbled sections. It was sure to sort the men from the boys. Great weather greeted us for the race and we were all feeling better after a few more days recovery.
A break was established early but never got too far up the road and with the obstacles on the menu and a strong team chasing they were let go a little. After 45 km or so the race hit the first cobbled climb of the Congoberg, then it was on to the Bosberg and the infamous Muur de Gerardsbergen. Over the Muur I was in an okay position; I was fortunate enough to have a good ride up the left before the climb and dodged all then carnage on the right. Truly, it is a nerve-wracking thing racing flat out for the entry to these cobbled walls. Over the top, the race split and I was in the second group just over the top. All the other lads from the team were there. As we approached the cobbles on the finish laps the first split was brought back and the front group had split leavng six out front. 120km covered.
The 15 km finish laps at Oetingen include two two-km cobbled sections and a tough little hill called Bergstraat. The first lot of cobbles finish with only 500 m left to race. At this point Kane and Leigh were doing some good work on the front trying to bring the break back. I was feeling okay, good on the hills but today I was struggling over the cobbles. No matter how hard I tried it wasn't working out for me on the cobbles and I was finding it hard to get a good rhythm. It felt like I was hitting every cobble five times and going nowhere. Nevertheless, I kept plugging away and Kane was still going strong.
After a little dig off the front Kane from Kane two laps out, who had his diesel engine firing, ignited a move and made a strong chase group. They came close to catching the front group but came up short. After a strong day Kane was 11th and I snuck into another move on the last lap and was 30th or so across the line.
A day of rest, then we travelled to Switzerland for the Tour of Jura on Saturday. The drive turned into a bit of an epic but we got there eventually after nine or so hours but we managed to get in a cruisy two hour ride, which rode the drive out of the legs. I awoke the next morning to another warm day which was appreciated by yours truly.
Tour de Jura
This 1.2 race was a big success for the team last year with Glen taking the win and me placing seventh so we were again hoping for a good day. But as we all know, things going well last year does not automatically guarantee a good day the following year. Nevertheless, things went okay.
The first 120 km were uneventful until we reached the third KOM of the day. It was here, after some good work from Kane and Leigh, that the race split over the climb leaving 80 riders. Of our team, Dean, Casper, Harro and myself were present and feeling okay. Attacks were frequent after the climbs but nothing was getting clear and as the finish laps approached the bunch was all together.
The finish laps were seven km long with a tough 2 km climb every lap. On every lap the bunch reduced in size and at the bell there were 50 left. The last time over the climb, though, I didn't have it and had to watch the bunch slide away. Dean was in a similar boat as me but Alex had a strong ride over the hill and was the best of us at the finish. Dean and I came in a minute back on the bunch. I would have loved to been up there again like last year but I had to be content with how things went after my problems early in the year. Each year is different, circumstances are hardly never the same so things can't always be taken on face value. You have to take what you can get. A better trip home and Kane even had a chance to catch up with Robbie at a Q8 servo.
Training Camp at Xhoris
The following Tuesday, with the Qinghai Lake race on the horizon, we headed down to the Ardennes for some good days in the hills. It's good to get away from the same old roads and the on-going road works in our area that stuff up our training rides and seem to be cracking all the old brick houses in our street at the moment. Raoul, our legendary soigneur, found a great hotel at a little town called Xhoris and two good days were had in the hills and the sun. We steered clear of the tour both days and stuck to the quiet hills a little further south. On the first day we headed out for six hours around the localities of Marche, St. Hubert, La Roche Ardenne, Bastogne, Houfallize and Hotton. We had a guest rider on this particular day with Nick Gates tagging along for the day and evening up our bunch. Nick and Kane caught up on old/recent times and generated a few laughs on the day, which was more than welcome. That night we relaxed, checked out a little town called Durbuy, had a game of pool, drink at the bar and watched as the "FIFA World Diving Camps" (Italy) beat Germany in the football.
With the Tour still in Belgium but starting in Huy we were able to head a little further north heading through Manhay, Erezee and then towards Trois-Pont, Stavelot, Spa, Theux, Sprimont, Aywaille for a solid five hours. All the guys seem to be going well and spirits were high for the two days so hopefully the high spirits and condition flow with us as we travel to China on Tuesday. Special thanks must go to Raoul and his family and the team for helping us out this weekend and the staff at Relaxhoris Vacantie Centrum in Xhoris. Thanks again from Cam, Kane, Leigh, Alex and Dean. If you are ever in the Ardennes and need a place to stay and relax, then check this place out.
Til next time we meet.
Ps Special greetings go to Tony 'F-man' Mills and Anouska Edwards who were clipped by a truck training at home in Rockhampton. Tony fractured his wrist and required surgery on a nasty facial injury. My hopes for a speedy recovery guys.
Thanks goes to:
Ian Weigh Toyota
Quentin Lawrence and Wizard Home Loans
Dr. Peter Reaburn and CQU
Tuckers Cycle Inn
Rock Pool Water Park
Dr. Andrew Russel
CQ Crane Hire
Rockhampton Cycling Club