April 28, 2008
Well I am currently still reading a book that my brother gave me last year for my birthday called 'The Sorrow of Belgium' by Hugo Claus. It could very well be a book about cycling or some other of my trials and tribulations that I have had in Belgium, but it is not. It is simply an autobiographical account of a child's awakening during the Second World War. Sounds riveting, doesn't it? Why have I brought this up you may ask? I don't really know. Maybe I was looking for a good way to lead into my diary entry. Or maybe I guess, my mind just wanders sometimes...
I have recently returned from Belgium where I have been training and catching up with Glen Chadwick and his family, Belle and Jade, for two weeks. Also had a bit of time to tie up a few loose ends, chase down some prize money from last year and catch up with a few of my old team mates and management from last year. Was an enjoyable two weeks and will be catching up with them all again soon through the year. Was also good to see an old team-mate of mine strutting his stuff on the Belgian 'Dancing with the Stars'. It did look like he still had his cycling shoes on, but hey, I am no expert. Hats off to you Nico Mattan.
Shay Elliot Memorial
Within a couple of days of returning to Ireland we headed off to race Shay Elliott Memorial. I met up with the team and Kieren Page the day before the race who was making his return to racing after breaking a bone in his hand. Ryan Connor also joined us on the day to complete the roster. We were aggressive from the start, getting three of us, Kieren, David and myself into the break.
It was soon up to us to keep the pace up all day. Also in the break were three Pinarello riders but they started to sit on when Malcolm Elliot and Russell Downing attacked the group behind and started to chase, some four minutes down. We needed to split the group up, so 40km out we started to attack.
Dave got away with a Pinarello rider, Paul Griffin, but Kieren and I lucked out and missed the split. I eventually got away with some 25km to go with another Irish guy (Sully) and picked up Kieren along the way who drilled it for Dave up front and fell back. Rain came late in the day and it got pretty cold but did not seem to affect things too much. Dave won the day, I was fifth and Kieren was sixth. It was bloody cold though and the legs felt rather heavy towards the end of the day.
With Kieren hanging around for the week in Cong I decided to do the same and bunk in to have a good little training group. A good week of training was had and we headed off to England on Saturday for our next assignment: the Rutland-Melton East Midlands International Cicle Classic. With a little bit of dirt road on the menu it was sure to be a bit of fun, plus the race was on my birthday so I hoped to have a good one.
East Midlands International Cicle Classic
We went into the race with the same attitude as we did going into the Shay Elliot Memorial. Be aggressive at the start, get the numbers up the road to have some options and let the others chase our tails. I headed up the road after two kilomteres and was joined by two others after about 10km. We were together until we were joined by a group including Dave and Ciaran after 50km. Kieren Page joined us shortly after to make four Pezula riders in the front group of 10. We then set about driving the break and gaining as much as time as possible on the bunch.
The special sections of dirt road were not too much of a hassle. It made the race interesting but it was the succession of hills between the 11 sections of dirt/farm roads that was the telling part. We were all going for it and built the lead to about three minutes. Some 50km from the line we started to attack to break things up a bit. Dave got away and was joined by Ciaran and a Dutch rider. I attacked to get across but was covered and then Kieren jumped across and made the front group of five. I was left with a couple of others and was swallowed up by the bunch 25kms from the line.
It got close towards the end. The bunch was closing in on Dave and Ciaran, and on the last section of dirt it was only 30secs or so. Dave pulled a couple of long hard turns to keep them at bay and despite a last minute attack by the Dutch rider Ciaran held on and won the day from the Dutch rider and Malcolm Elliot who led the bunch home. Dave held on for seventh on the day, Kieren had a great day and walked away with a good place and most aggressive rider and I came in 24th after being away most of the day and picking up a few quid in the KOM and Sprint points along the way.
Would have been great to have been up there for a bit longer and get a better result on my birthday but it was still a great day for myself and the team so can't complain. Thanks again to the staff especially Stef van Zundert and Dave McQuaid for the smooth running bikes and for managing us for the weekend.
All that was left was a drive back to Hollyhead for our ferry which was not leaving until 2:30am in the morning. Not the best situation but could not have been helped. So my birthday night was spent in Conwy, eating an Indian curry with three top Irish lads in Dave, Ciaran and Dave McQuaid and enjoying a pint of Kingfisher. Nothing like a bit of Welsh culture on my birthday. My Mum will be so proud.
So next up we are off to Holland and Belgium for a week for Overijsel and Oomloop de Kempen to dodge some street furniture. Hopefully things continue to roll along.
'Til next time we meet.
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