I never thought I’d say it, but damn that kermess was easy. And BORING! I made the long journey up north through Gent and out east to Lokeren again for what I hoped would be another slobernocker. Same field of riders, same town, same prize money. But completely different atmosphere. These Lokeren kermesses are a three-part series that started on Monday–the day I missed unfortunately, due to fighting off that cold (I’m 100% healthy now though). The lack of guts in today’s race could have been because everyone was tired (unlikely) as well as the top three series leader’s teams chasing everything down and keeping the field together. Each day has a different course, and today’s didn’t include any serious cobbles, which was probably the biggest factor in how the race was raced.
Like last time I got lost again today. This time ending up on a tiny gravel road winding through corn fields. I was coming to terms that I rode all the way out there for nothing, seeing as there was no possible way I’d make it to the race on time (or at all) and then just like that I popped out of an ally way and was at the race.
I came prepared. I had extra coffee in a water bottle 30 minutes before the race started, more race food, more caffeine during the race, an extra water bottle in my back pocket, a great Ace of Bass song stuck in my head…I was ready for some hurtin.
One and a half minutes into the race three guys were already up the road and the field seemed content to let them go. Huh? Screw that, I didn’t ride all the way up here to sit in. I bridged the gap, went to the front of the now four-man break attempt and drilled it. Over the course of the first lap four or five others bridged up to us. But no one wanted to really pull hard except me and one other dude, both of us doing double duty pulls when others skipped out. In fact, the others in the group got upset at me for pulling through too hard. I couldn’t figure it out. Just two days before everyone was riding like the moon was focusing all of its gravitation on circulating the peloton’s legs with as much force as possible.
I came into the last corner second wheel, 400 meters to the finish line. I pulled through and looked back, saw a gap had formed to the other six or seven guys, stopped pedaling to wait for the others to get back on my wheel, annoyed and shaking my head at the way things were looking for our success, finally took my pull and they all sprinted by 150 meters from the line. NO!! THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING AGAIN!! I specifically asked people before the race about the prime laps. 50 euros a prime every other lap starting on lap #2 and ending on lap #16. But this was lap number one. Apparently I was misinformed and lost a for-sure prime winning sprint, seeing as I could have just NOT sopped pedaling and won the stupid thing. 50 euros down the drain.
I later came to the conclusion that the first 10 laps were all prime laps. Guess what the next lap number I came through in first position was. Number 11 of course.
The break did not stick. We were caught half a lap later. I went with some other attempts but could see that the race was super negative and that everyone was half asleep or something. It could have been a hard course with all the wind and turns, but no one wanted to make it hard. I sat in for a long time, waiting. Just conserving for when it would get hard. Because I KNEW it would eventually go ballistic.
Wrong. It never did. I made it really hard for myself a handful of times, doing monster efforts to bridge up to a number of different moves when I sensed the race was just about to blow apart and I HAD to get up the road to that winning move, but sadly the field always came back together. I spent most of a lap off the front with one other guy with four to go, got caught, then sat in, still waiting for it to get hard and for things to shatter. Hoping.
I was 20th or 30th wheel with a lap to go when a large break got away with all the represented teams, and their teammates blocking. Game over. I finished in the pack then rode home, upset that I could still see straight at the end of the race. No race in Belgium should leave your vision fully intact. Lame. I hear Sunday will be much, much harder.