We just got back from the Loenhout GVA, and all our guys in the elite race finished it up. The course was spectacularly short and fast due to the cold (-1C = 30F) and dry conditions today. ‘Twas a 5min. lap, and we did 12 of ‘em, averaging I think over 20mph. There was a big crash at the start, and I just barely got caught up in it. I tried to go wide, but another rider came wide, too, and just sandwiched me into the fence. Then I got rear-ended. No, it wasn’t as fun and erotic as it sounds. Anyway, I extracted myself quickly after watching the top 30+ guys ride away, including all of our guys except Mr. Powers, who was just behind the crash but not in it. I quickly hooked up with him, and boy did we chase. Jeremy said later that he knew he’d get there if he was with me–I think that’s a nice compliment. After one lap we were still not there, but at the end of #2 we were close. When I turned onto the 400m-long (at least) finish straight, I could see Aphrodisiwicks (who’s so easy to spot) and Roger Hammond (similarly easy to spot for opposite reasons) up the road by 10sec., so I made it my goal in life to get there. Enter my best moments in the race. I checked to see that Powers was on my wheel, ignored all else, and put it down.
Not every day does somebody like me get to chase down in one pull a guy who has finished on the podium at Paris-Roubaix. (After the race and reliving another similar effort, Jon Baker said that following me on the pavement was “like riding behind a derny”–another nice compliment from a peer, me thinks.) But those efforts were hard on me. The rest of the course requires speed and power, too, but quickness was also key. I was not able to capitalize on my strengths; instead, I was ultimately hurt by them.
As things turned out, there were 13 of us split between 2 groups never more than 8sec. apart for the last 8 or 9 laps. Hammond won that first group, finishing 34th at 2:52 down. Thankfully, Powers actually put my strength and then a whole lot of his to good use, stayed with that group, and finished 36th overall. My group of 7 turned onto the finish straight 4sec. after those 6, and Jon Baker got 2nd in that sprint to finish 40th, with Wicks at 41st (or 42nd), still 4sec. back. Most of the rest of us kinda sprinted for a while, but I just rolled in today, hitting the pavement last of the bunch and finishing there, in 45th, losing 30sec. in the process. I was strong, but I had to use it early to get in the race, often to chase, and throughout to close gaps. I just wasn’t good enough to get away or bridge to the next group.
I don’t favor tight crosses that are decided by seconds, as most of my friends know. I don’t really struggle with them; I just don’t have the skills to beat out guys in such fast and tight conditions. I’m there, but that’s the problem: I need to be in front by a couple of seconds on a day like today. Admittedly, I was tired and frustrated by the finish….
We’ve had very easy conditions thus far. Today was all gas all the time, but I still think it was, relatively speaking, an easy-ish race. I mean, we were barely a half-lap down but racing for 40th. It’s cool to be only a half lap down, but the joy is quite tempered by being in a 13 man group racing for 34th place! Yes, this weather is cramping my style. Too many guys are left standing in the races. I will pray for rain, and I promise I will not complain if said rain causes me trouble. I’ll also work to improve my accelerating and sprinting….
Today, I felt good, like I think I should be feeling. I think I’m better than last year, and that’s my goal. However, my finish places in 2 of 3 so far have been worse than last year. That said, I’ve been closer to the front in 2 of 3, coming up short in the one I stacked in. We’ll see. The World Cup on Saturday is my main goal, and I plan to actually put it all together that day. Again, we’ll see….Barry had been in that first group I keep speaking of until he broke off his seatpost on the BMX humps. He tried to carry his carbon shard and seat away by hand, then by stuffing it in his jersey, and finally by biting into the seat, which he later said tasted pretty good. I went by him but drifted to the back of my group (which slowed it down because–no surprise here–nobody really pulled that hard. So, we went by the pit, and I could see Barry take a pit just 5sec. behind us. He made it to us by the finish straight, and then he jumped up next to me and we both went to the front. Sweet! I love riding with Wicks in crosses, but I think today he had stuff to put him in front of Hammond’s group. No, he for sure had better stuff. He should have been in the top 30. Last year, he and I finished, I think, 28th and 30th here under much more favorable conditions, if you know what I mean….Ryan finished 16th after fading to 28th after the very large front group crashed late in the first lap. He was only 45sec. down, and I heard he nearly pulled off a move that could have had him in the top 10. He’s fast….Nijs is even faster. He was taken out in the same crash I guess, and nearly went out of the top 20. He methodically passed one guy at a time and eventually won.
All that brings me to the quote of the day: “At this point, Sven can miss the start, get a flat, go into the pit and have sex with his wife, and still win the fucking race.” Yup, Jeremy Powers is a funny kid. Did I all ready say that I love the guy?!..Well, that’s probably enough, what with the swearing, so I’ll go to my room now. Perhaps I’ll write a rest-day journal tomorrow if Newter lets me (and helps me) use his computer, again. –Erik