Last Monday's adventures at the De Pinte Kermis in Belgium was no exception. The day started off fine enough. I ran into a bunch of folks I hadn't seen since my last kermis event two years ago when i was racing for Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam. It's always fun to socialize!
Next it was off for a perfect warmup around the course. The weather was great (a bit hot perhaps at 30 deg. C - 86 deg. F) with not a cloud in the sky. The race was 12 laps totaling 84km with lots and lots of tight technical turns and two "hills" which were actually highway overpasses.
Last time i raced this event, I instigated a break of 4 gals early on in the race. We stayed together up until the last lap of the race - an exciting day!
As i waited at the start line this time around, doing a little pre-race stretching, an 80 year old lady came up to me and asked about my stretching so i told her it was for prevention, then we talked about the weather and next week and what the race is going to be like. Normally i wouldn't write about this boring stuff but what made it especially fun for me was that it was all in flemish! Yippee - i'm getting better at it! And my experience was even topped a few minutes later when another rider pulled up alongside me and the lady. It turns out it was her grandmother. When she introduced me to her grandmother as an American, the woman was shocked! Double-yippee!
My pre-race strategy was to ride in the back of the pack way to either side of the road to stay out of trouble, keep the pressure off, prevent myself from spending face-time (forced or inspired) in the wind, and keep in the draft. I can also give myself a little extra front wheel room when i'm in the back.
The race started off fairly fast but manageable, so my first thought was that everything will be ok. But then i looked up the road only to find that we were in "neutral" mode with the pace car slowing the riders. Once the car moved out of the way, all hell broke out. The pace immediately shot up to 45kph with a string of attacks. After the first few turns where i, along with the others at the back of the pack of 123 riders, had to come to a complete trackstand before sprinting out out of the turn from 2kph to 45kph in 10 seconds, I realized what i've always known - the back is the absolute worst place to be!
After an hour of stop-and-go every minute - that's right, 60 stop-and-go's per hour - I was really cursing those turns. Just as my sprint out of one turn ended, I'd reach the next turn only to trackstand and sprint again. By the time i finally made a conscious effort to just ride through the middle of the peloton to get in a better position farther up, my energy was wasted. I rode through the middle, got to the center of the peloton then almost immediately pulled off to the side to spin it back to the finish line.
I only lasted seven laps of twelve at avg speed of 39kph, but i got an incredible workout. I don't know if my memory is accurate since the mind has a convenient way of forgetting pain, but can't imagine that i've suffered this much in a cyclo-cross race. Maybe all i have to do is suffer at the same level in a cross race, and I'd do a lot better!
Anyway, just before i reached the crowds at the finish line, i passed our parked van, immediately pulled over and hid behind it so nobody saw i pulled out. Yeah, totally pro.
Even though my debut was a bust, I'm really looking forward to the next opportunity to give it a go. Heck, it can't get any worse than this...famous last words.