I know I’m sounding like a scratched CD, but I slimly missed the mark in Marke yet again.
It’s 2:07am and I can’t sleep. Lots of caffeine and left over race adrenaline are winning the battle against Tylenol PM and red wine. I’m not drowsy at all, though I should be. Today was another sloberknocker out in the city of Marke. It was fast, hot, and full of non-stop attacking. The race is still playing (agonizingly) through my mind, mixing and melding with other imaginary race scenarios, namely Univest, which is in two weeks and is another cause of my unrest.
I put in the best kind of attack and went with 1K to go and got caught with 100 meters left. There wasn’t an ounce left in me. If the race had been 100 meters shorter I could have held them off (for 3rd place since that was what we were racing for at the time), but then again if the race had been 100 meters shorter my 1km attack would have happened 100 meters sooner.
Unlike most days here in overcast ‘Pacific Northwest winter’ Belgium, today was hot. It started out in the 80’s but by mid-race it was 90, which isn’t too ridiculous, especially since I like the heat, but no one here is used to it since it’s been in the 60’s and 70’s for weeks. On top of that I had no one feeding me. I watched enviously at the other guys in the race as they grabbed bottles and cold, wet sponges every single lap. “Have I learned my lesson?” I thought. “Do I steal another bottle and get in a fight, or am I better off just suffering through it?” I ended up going for the later since I didn’t need any more enemies in the race.
Jake got in an 8 or 9-man breakaway on the second lap. I attacked hard and followed moves, eventually bridging up to him on the fifth lap with another teammate, Michael, from Scotland. He plays a mean set of bagpipes and tosses heavy logs during his rest days. And he had a full dish of haggis in his back pocket for race food, so I knew his would be a good wheel to follow in case I got hungry and/or the Lockness monster attacked us.
The breakaway swelled to well over 30 guys during the fifth or sixth lap, which was way too many. Things broke apart constantly but kept getting stitched back together, mainly since there were three or four teams each with a lot of guys in the move. The Chilean national team had somewhere between 6 and 8 guys, while one of the better Belgian teams, Deucock, had the same amount. Despite having three ASFRA Flanders guys in there (my team), we were well out-numbered. We compensated by not giving a shit. To make things interesting the race organizers had primes on every lap except the last, making 19 primes in total since we were doing 20x 6km laps.
Somewhere in there I went for a prime with 1K to go, right before a roundabout, and got a huge gap. I took the prime and stayed away for another few kilometers by myself before one other guy bridged to me. We were caught half a lap later, just like every other 259 times I attacked today, but it gave me confidence that I could stick a similar 1 km move on the final lap, assuming I was still there (and my legs too).
I continued to be one of the main aggressors, never retreating to the rear of the break, in fear that it would split up. I decided I’d risk doing too much rather than too little. Sitting in and hoping it stayed together for the final lap, or only going with one move every other lap, would be the safer, easier option, though I doubt it would have worked. Instead, Jake, Michael, and I all helped tear the break apart; with 9 or 10 laps remaining half the break was shot out the back. At one point all three of us got away to form a seven-man move. Them’s were good odds, but we got chased down since it lacked the right mix. The lead group swelled back up to 19.
On the 16th lap two guys (Chile and Deucock) got away and stuck it for 1st and 2nd. The nerve of those scallywags! A handful of us tried an organized chase but things kept disintegrating when the two teams with teammates up the road would attack us on the headwind section and the short hill after it to stop our progress. With two laps to go it looked doomed; the two guys off the front had over a minute so the motto became “attack, attack, attack,” instead of “attack, attack, pull, attack” like it was before.
Despite the constant attacking, 17 of us were all together coming into the final two kilometers. I decided to grow a pair and go for the final spot on the podium with my 1K to go move. All or nothing. I knew everyone was extremely cracked from the attrition and dehydrated from the heat, so I figured if I got any decent gap at all they’d give up and just look at each other until the 250-meter marker. That would have been the case and is almost always the case in the races over here because everyone is so F’ed at the end, but the damn Chilean team still had 4 guys left. So they blew themselves up in a super fast lead-out and caught me to win the sprint for 3rd (they also took 2nd with one of their guys up the road and they won every prime except the one I did, which meant they took home about 700 euros). I was a bit devastated. I was too hot and tired to be that devastated though. At least it wasn’t for 1st; that would have been much harder to swallow. But still, I want to take home some damn flowers and a trophy!!!!
I crumpled to the sidewalk after the finish line, coming in 16th since almost everyone in the break passed me after the Chileans drug them to the line. A small group of concerned people crowded around as I lay on the pavement. They gave me a can of iced tea while I regained myself from near death.
After changing into our street clothes at the car, Jake, Evgeney, and I collected our money from the bar. I spotted a large, unguarded tray of sandwiches for the officials sitting in a corner and made a quick decision. I grabbed one and ate half of it before wondering what kind of filling it contained. At first taste (and texture) I suspected it was salmon locks. But on further inspection I realized that it was raw hamburger meat. This proved to cause some unrest in my stomach about 20 minutes later. Note to self: raw hamburger + heat exhaustion = still worth it. Time to sleep. My eyes grow heavy at last.
Jake changing in a patch of stinging nettles after the race.
Warning, this next photo contains full female frontal nudity…
…and by that I mean the exact opposite.
This one’s for all the ladies out there. Apparently I put on a pair of pants in the exact same position that I ride a bike.