Sunday, April 5, 2009

Belgian Racing

With the first races of many races this weekend, I began my first Junior racing on European soil (last year I was considered a Newiulgen ??). The US Junior National Team raced in two kermesses (circuit races) in Waarschoot and Beernem. As expected, the racing was both fast and hard with only two of the five Americans finishing in Waarschoot, and only four of the six Americans finished in Beernem (Adam was still getting over his bronchitis and decided to skip racing on Saturday).

Kermesse Waarschoot

With no wind and hills, the difficulty of the course was deceiving. The kermesse was 90km long (about 54 miles) with about 9 or 10 laps. The race started on a wide open road before turning onto a 200 meter cobbled section that transformed into what helps make Belgium famous, skinny roads. The race then stayed on the 7 feet wide roads before turning back onto the finish line straight. Unfortunately, Nate and I had a absolutely horrible starting position in almost last place behind almost all 210 other starters (that's right, 212 starters). The race started extremely fast and it took me a total of 30 km to just get up to the front. Right when I got to the front I went on an attack and quickly opened up about a 10-15 seconds gap before being brought back about a half a lap later. Nate then went on the counter-attack to quickly open up a 20+ second gap. I tried to stay close to the front to try and act like a teammate, and that is pretty much where I stayed for the next 45 km. I pretty much just followed wheels and tried to disrupt any pace making by the others. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that Nate had crashed the same lap he went off the front and dropped out of the race, so I pretty much did all that work for nothing. I then started to drift towards the back of the shrunken field until there was a crash in front of me that completely did me in. I then dropped off the back and finished the rest of the lap before I was pulled by the follow car. All in all, it was an extremely tough race with my 60 minute average power at 300 watts. Jacob was our top finisher in 18th with Alex finishing in the main group.

Kermesse Beernem

This course was definitely not deceiving; it looked fast and hard, and it was fast and hard. This kermesse was 78 km with about 7 or 8 km laps. The course was full of road furniture on the sides of the road. Like the other kermesse, the race started on a wide open road with an overpass before taking a sharp right hand turn onto an extremely skinny road with trees on both sides. After traveling down this road you turned back onto the road the race finishes on, but it is still like 3 km away. During that 3 km you travel over another overpass that helped decide the outcome of the race. After yesterday's race, I didn't want to waste so much energy up at the front, so I tried do a lot more sitting in. Once again, Nate and I found ourselves on the very back row. Fortunately, there wasn't as much people as yesterday ("only" about 140-150 today) and we were able to move up WAY quicker. I just kind of chilled near the front and put in a few attacks. With about two laps to go Jacob and Nate both got off the front with a Belgian kid and opened a pretty big gap. Thinking that was going to stick, I was planning on just chilling in the pack, so that I could have something for the finish. I was then surprised to see the break being caught right at one to go. A group of three then countered the move and opened up a huge gap of about 10-15 seconds really quickly. We then turned onto the skinny farm road at a leisurely pace. I then put in an attack to try and lift the pace up and was surprised to see that only one other guy had reacted with the pack about 7 or so seconds back. The two of us were working hard and were soon caught by about three or four more. With the break so big, many of the riders were content to just sitting on the back to let the others do the work. This caused some panic which brought the pace down which allowed two or three more to bridge back up. This brought the group up to 10 with the three barely hanging off the front. Going over the overpass a few gaps opened up and I was stupid enough to be the one to try and close them. This pretty much blew my legs, and I ended up fighting as hard as I could to just hang on to the back of the break. By the time the sprint opened up I was completely toast and finished about 15 meters behind the group to finish in 13th. Jacob and Connor both finished in the pack with Nate a little bit behind the pack. Adam's was having some trouble breathing during the race and decided to pull out about 45 minutes into it. Unfortunately, Alex laid his bike down in the early stages of the race (he's fine) and pulled out as well.

That's pretty much it for now, and it's getting kind of late so I’m about to go ahead and hit the hay. Good night (for me)!

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