Kermess in Denderhoutem. Guess what happened. I didn’t win.

We had a right proper race yesterday. 11 laps with a hard, rain-slicked cobbled climb that I thoroughly enjoyed stomping up every time. As usual, I missed out on the winning break. It formed on the first two laps when I was still learning the course, though that isn’t the reason I missed out. As we headed into the final corner at the base of the climb on the second lap, I sat third wheel, which was great. Perfect spot to be since there was a smidgen of head/cross wind going up it. But the bloke in front of me almost crashed sideways into my front wheel as I tried to pass on his left, causing me to brake. If I hadn’t I would have gone into a barbed-wire fence. The braking immediately caused a gap to open up, which I was able to close, but then at the top I had to come around another guy who’d blown up. This gap was even larger than the one before. I dug hard at the top here, where the climb flattens out for a few hundred meters before gradually heading downhill, and I latched onto a small group of maybe three or four guys. One or two had been up the road and we’d just caught them.

I had a teammate with me now, Henrych, who was riding very strong, and the four of us looked like the perfect group to bridge up to the two guys off the front who’d gone on lap one. I worked on the descent and tailwind section over the next few kilometers, though I was pretty cracked from the climb and was in quite a heap of pain. A few K later, after a few guys had bridged to us, it all went to shit. Our group was about six strong now, two getting dropped another four or so bridging to take their places. I slotted in at the back after taking a pull, just as the guy at the tail end of our group let the wheel go in front of him (typical move over here to force someone else to do extra work while you take a breather) but I didn’t come around to close it for him (which is what he wanted). I yelled at him, he shook his head, deciding his legs were too cracked and that he’d instead call my bluff. We both ended up losing contact with the others in a stalemate. I had one last moment of decision as I looked back and saw the pack closing in on us, just a couple seconds behind. I could either destroy myself and close the gap up ahead, or let the pack catch us. The smart decision seemed to be to let the pack catch us since the entire move looked doomed at that point, so that’s what I did.

The peloton caught us. It did not catch the others. Instead, they dangled off the front for two kilometers, just 3 or 4 seconds up the road. A lap later they were still only 20 seconds ahead of us as guys attacked (myself included) trying to bridge up to them. But in reality they were gone, slowly riding away from us over the next few laps. Henrych crashed out of the break a few laps later. At one point early on it had looked like we’d have the breakaway stacked with two riders; now we had nothing.

My revenge was taken on the climb every single lap after that second one. I CRUSHED it so hard a two times that I actually had to sit up and coast at the top because no one was even within sight, behind or in front (the break was over a minute up the road at this point). It was futile to go alone in the wind, every time I did it just resulted in a waste of energy.

The race remained aggressive and my teammate Jake and I bridged up to one of the secondary moves that had gone up the road later, around lap five or so. Our new group contained 11 guys, fighting for 8th place since seven men were up the road in the front group. I continued to take the lead on the climb every lap and split the group each time, the last few times only Jake was able to hold my wheel. All 11 guys kept coming back together on the tailwind section, but the worn out legs showed on everyone’s faces. Jake and I discussed a plan and we decided our best option was for me to keep smashing the climb and on the last lap the two of us would go all out on the following tailwind section to stay away for 8th and 9th place. Either that, or I’d at least be able to split the group like usual, though on the last lap things are less likely to come back together since guys are less willing to work together to regain contact, everyone thinking of saving their own legs. We were out of the podium, but had a likely chance of both getting top 10.

As we came to the finish line with two laps to go everyone began sprinting wildly like it was the end of the race. Because it was. The race announcer must have said it was the finish over the loudspeaker (cutting us short by two laps). I put in a quick few pedal strokes during the last 100 meters, but it was too little too late. I finished 15th. The front seven, who continued on for the remaining two laps, finished in defeated-looking groups of one’s and two’s, broken to smithereens from the cobbled climb. If only I’d been in that lead group and used my legs at the front of the race instead of fighting for the scraps!!! AGHHHHH!!!! I’m getting sick and tired of writing stupid race reports like this. I’ve had it! From now on I won’t write anything and you can just assume I got 15th or 20th. I’ll write a race report worth reading when I get a top 5.

Doing some serious reflecting on what happened during the race…or thinking about what’s for dinner.

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