I’ve been fairly sick ever since Namur, laying low for all of it and generally hating life. Belgium is the worst place to get a cold, for many reasons. The first is that the only reason I’m here is to race, so not being able to is extremely frustrating. The other reasons Belgium is a terrible place in which to get sick: 1) over-the-counter medication is extremely expensive here, 2) fruit and veggies are expensive here too, 3) EVERYTHING is filthy, at least in the slums I’ve stayd at, 3) there’s nothing on TV, 4) the internet is slow and goes out for days at a time, and 4) everyone else is going to races and having fun in the sun all day long, making me even more depressed!
I put it all behind me yesterday at my first race back. It was a kermess in Lessines, a two-part series that commences tomorrow with the overall winner taking home a solid chunk of change. Entering the day I knew that my legs wouldn’t be 100% since I’m still coughing up mucus and I hadn’t ridden very much in the last week, but just getting to race was a small victory in itself. I drove the ‘mini bus’ out there by myself. I got lost for a while but made it there on time, running on fumes as I pulled into the parking area. After a 30 minute warm up I took my place for the start. I had previously decided to be pretty conservative since I was still recovering and didn’t want to hinder my immune system too much. Once the race started I forgot about that completely and followed moves and attacked for the first five of the 12 laps. On lap five or six it began to rain. I was near the front of the pack leading into a series of 90 degree corners through town and my front wheel slid out for a fraction of a second. I took another corner and the rear wheel slid out. I realized my choice of tire pressure (125 psi) and tires (one brand new front tire and one tire from 1997 on a borrowed rear carbon-esque race wheel) probably weren’t the best of choices for an oil and rain-soaked technical course. The next lap I was on the front leading into this section, just in case some idiot thought about crashing in front of me. I was going about 9 mph, taking the corner like a 98 year-old might steer a bulldozer in first gear…really slowly. My rear wheel slid out, I unclipped and tried really hard not to go over the sidewalk curb. I kept upright and came to a stop about three inches from the curb.
I debated whether or not it was worth continuing, seeing as though it was mainly me who was having difficulties in that corner and no one else due to my plastic rear tire. But maybe the rain would stop and the road would dry up? I continued. We caught the break. Another large group got away and dangled. The rain let up.
A lap later I attacked during the main “climb” of the race, which was a tiny roller that actually hurt really badly every time. I got away and was soon joined by two others. The three of us drilled it as hard as we could for the next half lap until we caught the lead group. The 13 of us would stay away to the finish.
With five laps to go I still felt good and did more than my fair share of the work since all I wanted out of this was to make the winning move and have it stick for once. I shouldn’t have opted for this decision since I ended up riding myself out of the break. Guys were letting gaps open and doing half attacks the whole time, with me never shying to pull through, but with two laps to go the real attacks started and I was already out of legs. I continued covering too many moves and attacking for that second to last lap and all of a sudden realized I was in real danger of getting popped. Entering the final lap, the break was split up into groups of two to six and there was no where to sit on and recuperate. I came off with 7k to go and took 13th, for what I think is the first time I’ve been last out of the break. Pretty unsatisfying, but at the same time it just felt good to be really hurt and tired again. If only the States had hammer session races like this. We’d all be a lot faster.
On the way home I stopped at two more gas stations (I’d attempted to get gas on the way there too) but both stations were only accessible with credit cards. I plowed on in the mini bus, going 20 mph uphill and coasting downhill in neutral, gaining speed and carrying it through corners to near tipping-point. The gas light had been on for at least five minutes before I got to the race and the drive home was around 32 kilometers. The mini bus doesn’t get a lot of miles to the gallon. I actually expected to be ditching it on the side of the road and riding my bike home, but I spent enough time coasting so that it really only had to drive like 16 K. I made it back home and parked it in front of the team bike shop down the street. Tomorrow is the second day of Lessines and I’m ready for round two, the mini bus I’m not so sure.