Fighting the elements on a light bike while wearing a skinsuit over five hours can seem awful, but a victory in a semi-Classic like Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne makes up for much of that terrible experience. But what about for the rider that is the runner up? Rick Flens, who came up one place short of a victory in the sprint at the end of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, wasn't deterred by the wet and cold conditions that discouraged many. He finished second to Vacansoleil's Bobbie Traksel.
"In the sprint Traksel's on a different level than me," Flens said of his defeat. The 26-year-old Dutchman captured his last victory at a time trial - a discipline at which he excels - in the Post Danmark Rundt back in 2007
For Flens, fighting the rain and wind turns a road race into a personal sort of time trial. "This morning I was happy with the weather forecast. It's hard for everybody. I'm powerfully built. There's a lot of oxygen in the air and I like that," Flens said to Cyclingnews.
Flens joined fellow Dutchman Traksel in the lead shortly after climbing the Oude Kwaremont, where he had attacked. "On the Oude Kwaremont, I accelerated but nobody followed. I figured that my advantage would be useful once the real burst came..., but it turned out that my move had been the decisive burst," Flens said, trying to laugh though he was clearly feeling the effects of his arduous day.
Once up front, the breakaway was almost caught by a chase group that included bigger name Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam). "I remained calm when I heard that there was a group coming back with Hushovd in it. If they had gotten to us, well, then that's how it would have been," said Flens, who explained that he wasn't worried about who would join him and the others at the front.
In the end, the names didn't matter. Only the strongest men managed to stay near the front, and Flens was proud to be among them.