The race….was…hard.  I am tired.

In Belgium there are 3 categories of racers.  “Cadets” are ages 15 and 16.  Juniors are 17 to 18.  And then everyone else races together.  Everyone else is very fast.  There are no cat 5’s or 4’s or 3’s.  Everyone is fast.  

We got to the race course with plenty of time to sign in and warm up.  There were 9 officials in the sign-in building.  9!!!! That’s a lot of officials!  

Our team of six guys, including Tony, Gal, Eliad, Nizan, Shapi, and myself, lined up at the very front of the field under a stormy sky.  It began to rain.  Hard.  Tony and I wanted to wear long sleeve jerseys, but the Israeli’s knew better.  Short sleeves would be fine, even though it was cold and rainy.  The race was going to be HARD.  

Without any warning whatsoever, the announcer said “go” or something in Flemish and we and the other 130 riders took off.  I didn’t even have one foot clipped in.  But it didn’t matter, there would be plenty of time to get to the front.  The race was 113 kilometers (70 miles)–made up of twenty, 5 kilometer laps situated in a village/city type setting.  The course was up hill one direction, with a couple semi steep climbs and two long low gradient climbs.  The other direction was downhill, with some flat sections.  There were 10 or 11 sharp corners.  

The pace of the race was like a very fast crit.  The contact between the other riders wasn’t too bad.  I got my pedal in a guys spokes once, got pushed into the gutter once, and bumped other riders a handful of times, so that part of the race was pretty comfortable.  My legs and the rest of my body, on the other hand, were not comfortable.  It was pain.  Unimaginable pain.  I can’t even remember what the pain was like because my brain has already blocked the memory from me.

I spent a little while near the front at the beginning, and then a lot of time in the middle, which kept on becoming the back.  130 started, and the officials pulled everyone except the top 20.  I was not in the top 20.  I was one group back, so I probably would have gotten 30th to 40th if they had let me finish.  The way that these races work is that there are a couple lead cars, and a couple follow cars.  The riders between these cars get both lanes of the road, which is sometimes equivalent to half of one American lane’s width.  Once you get dropped form the main group (a car paces you), you get pulled.  I suffered through 18 of 20 freakin laps, and they pulled my group of 15 guys with only 2 laps to go!  But I was almost too tired to care.  Almost.  So I guess I’m somewhat satisfied with how I did.  I would compare the difficulty of the race to something I could relate to, but I don’t think I’ve done a race this fast before.  It definitely didn’t suit my strengths, which are not sprinting out of corners, but if that’s my weakness, then bring it on.  Now I know what to expect, so next time I’m pretty sure I will be able to make the top 20 selection.  That’s enough for now.  Kennett tired.

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