Well, back in Belgium after a trip to America for the Tour of Missouri but more on that later. Before I get into that the team race Memorial Rik van Steenbergen here in Belgium and turned into be a pretty successful day.
GP Rik van Steenbergen
Started off with me sleeping through my alarm and missing my train up to Booischot to leave with the team. A hasty phone call later, Gil came down to pick me up and got me to the start late but still with plenty of time to spare. First time for everything I guess.
Race started in its usual hectic way with many of attacks. We were all having a good go at getting away, and after 30km of racing as the race headed into the town of Putte I followed a wheel and I was away in a group of five. Quickly built a lead of one minute and the gap continued to climb steadily to a maximum lead of fiev minutes. As the rain started to fall halfway through the race, I was quite happy to be up front away from the bunch and the associated dangers.
Through the feed zone and onto the two cobble sections our lead was coming down and just prior to entering the local laps with 40-50km to go we were caught. 130km or so out in front with a bit of National TV coverage was good for the team and self satisfying for me. The final 50km was flat out with a strong group of 15 getting away with two laps to go. Matti came in solo in 16th place just behind the group of 15 and the rest of us came in in the peloton a couple of seconds back. Was pretty flogged after the race but happy to have felt good and made something of the race. An day easy, packing and leaving my apartment in Leuven (lease was up) and I was off to America for the Tour of Missouri.
Tour of MO
Kitted up and left for Kansas City, Missouri via a quick stop in Chicago. Arrived in the afternoon and then had a good three days there in Kansas City before the race start to train, enjoy the sun and get ready and maybe check out an old spot or two. Personally I was feeling pretty dusty from the flight and concentrated on the training and resting part and watching an old movie or two in the hotel while the other guys headed into Kansas City for a look. The three days passed and was ready to get the tour underway.
The first three days I continued to feel very average for reasons I am yet to figure out. From feeling great at Rik van Steenbergen just days before I found I could barely 'pull skin off a custard”. To add to this the team had bad luck with Matti puncturing two times on the finish circuits in the first stage and losing three minutes. Kane, Rhys and myself dropped back to help out but all was lost and had no chance of coming back. We then missed the break on the second day. We gave chase for as long as we could but with little help from the other absent teams (apart from Toyota) the break pulled away. The guys set a good pace to prevent the break from gaining a day on us, but any chance of a good overall GC was definitely lost.
It took a great ride by Matti in the Time Trial to finally get the ball rolling on stage three. Matti was one of the early starters and stormed over a very tough TT course, catching six riders enroute (me included) to finish third on the day just behind noted stars like Levi Leipheimer and Nathan O'Neil. Everybody else got through the day.
Finally things had started to go OK for the team. On the long 214km stage four, after a very hectic two hours of racing, I once again got into the right move and had another long day out front. The maximum lead our group got was approx four minutes, but a few teams could smell a bunch sprint and began the chase in earnest some 30km to go. Stayed away for the two intermediate sprints, scoring in one, but we were reeled in with 10km to go; another 130km out in front. Hung in over the tough final couple of kilometres and rolled in with the bunch.
The team continued to go well in the next two stages, with Matti getting away in the day long break and scoring a fine 6th in stage five, and then Jeremy getting away during the final stage around St. Louis. The final day came down to a bunch kick and Gert and Rhys were in a good position, but a nasty crash in the last kilometre ultimately ruined their chances. All that remained of the tour was a quick trip around St. Louis to find our hotel and to step out to the Tour's after party for a well earned night out.
So after a rough start for me and the team with a bit of bad luck things turned out OK. We all enjoyed the tour and the American experience. Organisation was great, great hotels, good hard racing and the people of Missouri embraced the tour and made everyone feel welcome.
A couple more weeks
So not long now before I head home. Bernie kicked things off and headed home today. Tour of Tassie coming up for good old badger and he is in good form so should give it a shake. Another week for me and Jeremy, whereas Rhys is heading home on the 5th and poor old Munge will be bouncing around the house by himself for a couple of more days and heading home on the 9th.
Have just finished my last little block of racing back here in Belgium, with some of the races going well and some forgettable. Koolscamp Championship of Vlaanderen was on Thursday after getting back, and with the flight still in my legs did not go too well. Then had another good/consistent result on Tuesday at a Pro Kermis in Vichte with 20th but then got blown away and around at Lichtervelde the very next day. Stayed upright in the atrocious conditions unlike five of my team-mates, but did not get in the 25 rider split after 20km that decided the race. Nevermind, one more week in Belgium with a bit of training planned, then home for a week to soak up the sun, a few early morning bunch rides and maybe an odd dip in the sea before heading to Melbourne for the Sun Tour to meet up with the guys again for one more race. All looking forward to it.
A couple more things... Congrats to Harro and Jess on their wedding. Good day had by all. Congrats to Matti with his 16th in the Elite Mens TT at the World Champs. Good luck to Dag and Glen Chadwick for Sunday's Road Race
Til next time we meet.
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