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In the eye of the storm

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Kenny Van Hummel on his way to fifth.

Kenny Van Hummel on his way to fifth. (Image credit: Bert Geerts/
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All smiles for local boy Kenny Van Hummel before the start.

All smiles for local boy Kenny Van Hummel before the start. (Image credit: Bert Geerts/

13 per cent. Yes, I've double checked the maths, it's definitely correct: only 13 per cent of the peloton that started the this year's Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne finished it.

It's been a few weeks since I was part of the smaller section of the equation and its given time to digest what was definitely one of the more incredible experiences of my professional career so far. As a Dutchman I'm used to riding in the wind, even the rain, but I've never seen a race like that before, let alone been part of it.

For those that might have missed it, a storm system violent enough to be given a name - Xynthia - whipped its way across Europe on the Sunday of Kuurne. While France, Spain and Portugal were worst hit, for us in Belgium it meant a very wet, very windy day on the bike.

In my last Cyclingnews blog I mentioned how many layers of clothing I'd been wearing to fight the bitter cold of winter in the Netherlands. Ironically, it was a decision to cut the number of layers I was wearing during Kuurne that I think helped me make it across the finish line.

I rode the race with just two jerseys, and my rain jacket stayed in my back pocket the whole time. Sure, I got wet, but whenever there was a break in the rain I had a chance to dry out a little, instead of being wind-chilled by a sweaty, rain jacket-covered jersey.

I finished 17th out of the 26 of us that finished. You might ask why I rode all the way to the finish on such a horrid day? The answer is two-fold. First, it's not the way we do things in our team; to get off our bikes without good reason. I've never heard our director Rudi Kemna's voice through my radio saying 'okay, it's cold, it's wet, you can get off your bike now if you want'. We always keep fighting.

The second reason is a little bit more practical. In the confusion of that race, with riders constantly dropping out, it wasn't really clear what was going on, so I just kept pushing to get back towards the front groups. You've got to be in it to win it, as they say, and especially on a day like that, you never know what might happen.

I heard some guys had been pretty scared in the conditions, worried about crashes, possibly breaking a bone and undoing all their hard work throughout the winter. I never really felt scared, but I can understand why they wouldn't want to take the risk. Everyone seemed to come away from the race with their own story, and when I lined up at GP Samyn a few days afterwards everyone in the bunch was still talking about 'Kuurne'.

I feel pretty proud to have made it all the way through that race, but I've already had a couple of others to keep me busy since then. I'm still building up my own form for the moment and I'm expecting to reach a peak in a few weeks. Everything's on schedule and for the meantime I'm really happy to be able to help my teammates out at races as I'll rely on them soon to help me out.

After Samyn we headed off to the Three Days of West Flanders. I was really happy to be able to help Robert Wagner get our team's first win of the season. He's flying at the moment and finished in the top-10 each day, as well as winning the second stage. Racing with Robert's a blast because we have pretty good instincts for one another when it comes to working together in the sprints.

For now, I'll just keep progressing and hope the cards fall the right way for me to add some victories of my own when the time comes. After all, this sport's a numbers game and like Kuurne I'll keep on trying to shorten the odds.