Theo gives us a fascinating insight into the art of the fast, full gas Kermesse racing in Belgium.
The second trip to Belgium in as many weeks. This time it was just for a couple of local races so a slightly less serious and less hard weekend of racing.
I was up early on Saturday, around 6:45 to make it at Swanley for 8:30 for a 10:30 train. Originally there had been a big bunch going, around 30 riders and several cars, but in the end only eight of us were lucky enough to not be completely demobilised by the weather. Apart from turning up the wrong place - ‘Sint Martens Lierde’ rather than ‘Sint Maria Lierde’ resulting in some emergency google-mapsing on my part, the journey was pretty smooth. We even had enough time for a lunch stop in Dunkirk.
Once at the right place it was a matter of signing on in the town’s pub, answering dumbly “English” (in a Belgian accent) to the questions of the old guys at the bar. We signed on, glimpsed the number of riders, a big field - 120. Then it was onto changing which was in what at first appeared to be someone’s house, but then revealed itself as the storage space for the church next door. It works I guess. There we met up with some more of our British peers.
Bearable weather and a nice course meant for some good racing. The race began in usual Kermesse style - flat out from the gun. I was feeling good so got up to the front and joined in the fun. I attacked a lot - I could see it was going to be won from a break so tried to get into every one I could. I managed to get away solo for a lap or so but Remko (the winner of KBK last week) wasn’t having any of it. I was brought back and my move was countered, leaving four guys up the road and me with a peloton unwilling to chase. The next few laps were pretty frustrating with some attacks, some wheel sucking but no organised chase. With 1 lap to go the four were still out ahead so on one of the drags I decided to go, I brought one rider with me who in response to a swing of the elbow replied “I can’t!” so I drove it on, catching a lone rider in between the break and the peloton and just about catching the leaders on the line but not in enough time to sprint round. Came away with 7th in the end.
The results took a while due to a dodgy camera which meant we then had a bit off a rush back to
the hostel since we were already about half an hour late for dinner. We made the most of the 30
prepared portions of pasta and Bolognese sauce between the eight of us, then, bellies full it was
time for chilling and bed.
A bit of a lie in (ish) in the morning - up at 8:45 for a 9:00 breakfast of Weetabix and out of the
hostel by 10. Since we had 5hours before the race we had a bit of a wonder around Ypre and
grabbed some lunch - a box of pasta from the chip shop.
We were met at the race carpark by a bit of drizzle so waited the next 20mins or so out in the car. Once sign on opened we reluctantly left the warmth and got sorted, 1:30 and a wet ride of the circuit later, we were ready to go. Again I knew a break would win this one having ridden it before, so went on the attack early. I got away lap 2 by myself and stayed away for about half the race sweeping up 20euro each lap in premes. The bunch then began getting close and one guy bridged across, we pushed on and the gap went out again. However, the wind and open roads meant just the two of us couldn’t quite hold off the chasing peloton and were caught with 2 laps to go. On the last lap some attacks started to go so I followed and found myself in a group of 6 with a small advantage to the rest. The others started playing cat and mouse but given the last couple of hours of solid effort I had just put in I didn’t fancy my chances in a sprint and so drove it on the front to stop us getting caught. A few hundred to go I attacked after another guy but was caught just before the last corner, I didn’t have anything left for a sprint so rolled in 6th. Not too bad; happy with the legs and came away with a solid wad of dough (180euros).
The drive back was slightly uncomfortable having not been able to shower and being starving. I
was pretty happy just to be warm though and ate what few energy bars I had left to keep my
stomach happy for the few hour. The journey back was pretty painless and I was home and in bed in good time.