Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ronde van Oost-Vlaanderen

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. I haven't had any time to "blog" due to the late nights and busy days.

Stage 1

Not much to report on the first stage of the Ronde van Oost-Vlaanderen for me where I lasted a total of three out of the five laps. The races were pretty late in the day so we all had a chance to sleep in and hang out for a while before we made the hour drive to some small town for the first stage of three. We arrived at the town at about 2:30, or I should say 14:30, so we would have time to get dressed and then go ride a preview lap. After the preview lap, which we did half of it backwards, it was about 30 minutes till the start of the race. We then switched out all of our bottles, grabbed a few energy bars and made our way to the start line to get a good starting position. Even if we thought that it was kinda early to get to the start line we were completely wrong. By the time that we had got there we were forced to go to the very back due to the fact that about every single rider had already lined up. On the way back I was lucky enough to find a small gap around the middle where about half a person could fit in. After somehow getting over there I managed to fit perfectly into the spot. After sitting around for another 20 minutes and the official was done yelling in Flemish the race started. At the beginning of the 60 kilometer race there were about 7 turns before we got out of the town and onto the skinny country roads. When we finally made it out of town and we actually started racing I found myself drifting uncontrolably to the back of the 140 man group. After trying extremely hard to get back to the front I finally was able to move in the top quarter and stay there. After making it through the first lap where kids were jumping onto curbs like no other, and there was probably a total of three seconds where someone wasn't screaming for no reason at all, I was able to kind of relax a little. About three quaters the way through the second lap I found myself behind some tiny kid that looked like he was twelve. On a downhill part where we were going at least 50 km/h that kid decided he would jump on to the curb. I would of been perfectly fine with this had his back wheel not be crossing my front wheel. After flipping over my handlebars I jumped back up to examine the damage. I had re-opened my scrape from the first day...again. And added some more to my elbows and my left knee. Feeling like I was still able to ride I picked up my bike and spun both of the wheels. The front one was fine, but the back one wouldn't roll (it actually turns out that the wheel was fine it was just the brake that had pushed up against the wheel). I took off the back wheel and waited until the team car finally rolled up (we had picked car 19 out of 23 in the caravan) to get a spare wheel. By the time that everything was ready I jumped back on the bike to try and get in the caravan so I could motor pace back up to the pack. It turns out that the saddle had been shoved to the left when I had crashed, but no one had realized it. After trying for another lap and a half to draft back up to the pack the officials pulled when I rolled across the finish line with two to go. I rode back over to the team van where the mechanic had gotten out of the caravan to help me. I was then able to ride in an ambulance over to the start/finish line where the medics where cleaning up all the other "fallen soldiers". The day ended up in a pack sprint with Joel, Alex, and Anders all finishing around 50th.

Day 2

Today was another extremely fast day that was indcredibly hard to move around in the field. We got to the race a little later today and we where unable to do a preview lap. The race started similar to the previous day, fast and scary. I pretty much sat in the middle of the pack the whole race while Alex had gotten into the early break-away that stayed away until about two and a half laps to go. With about two laps to go I could really start feeling the previous days events and was starting to go deep into the pain cave. With about a half a lap to go I had finally had enough and dropped off the pack on a downhill section where we were spinning at around 8 RPMs. The day finished exactly like it did the day before with the same guy winning and Anders the only USA guy finishing in the pack because both Joel, Peter, and Alex had been caught behind a crash a little before the finish, but they were given the same time as the leader due to the three kilometer rule. James had also finished off the back.

Day 3

Today was a little more action filled than the previous days. I was feeling way better than the past days and the course was a lot flatter than the others. I was trying to be a lot more aggressive today in terms of position and was able to stay up in the top twenty for a good part of the stage. Due to my role as domestique to the team I tried to pull in a few attacks at the beginning of the race. After the first lap I just stayed in the top twenty and recovered a little. With a little less than three laps (6 kilometer laps) I saw Anders and a few others attack with no one reacting. Knowing that I needed to be in that group to help Anders I attacked up to the group with still no one reacting. I then sat down and went to the front of the group and pulled all out to try and distance the break farther away from the pack. When I pulled off the Begian National Champion pulled through and I was able to get back into the pace line to take another pull. The group had about 8 or 9 guys with one of them on the team that had the leaders jersey. Knowing that this would be a problem later I pulled even harder when my time came. We quickly opened up a fairly large gap. Practicly all the people in the break worked pretty evenly except the guy that was on the team with leader, the team is called Avia for future reference. The gap stayed pretty even for another lap until the guy on Avia started to come to the front the pace line and slow down so that it would be easier for us to get caught. With a little under one lap to go the gap had started to drop pretty quickly. On a small rise the Belgian National Champion had had enough of the Avia guy and attacked. I got to the front of the break to try and pull him back in for Anders. After bringing the gap down a little I pulled off to see a small gap of around 20 meters to the pack. I had used all my energy in the break to try and get to stay away. I then just kinda sat up, much to my legs relief, and rolled to the back of the pack only to be caught behind a crash that took out the leader of the race. That did it for me. I didn't have the energy to chase back on and rolled in a few minutes behind the pack. Anders finished in 23rd on the stage, and Joel finished somewhere in the pack. Alex, Peter, and James all crashed on the last lap. After the race Tim, Joel, Alex and I were talking when the Avia team director came up to Tim and told him that Alex had pulled the race leader's handlebars out from underneath him. I'm not gonna really go into details about the rest of the conversation, but I'll just say that Alex got kinda mad at him....

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