I haven't written much lately because i am still in racing hell. As of this sunday i will have raced 9 races in 12 days. That alone is not a feat but when combined with my other multitasking activities it makes it impressive - or at least explains away a little of my flakiness for not updating my blog in a timely manner.
This week has been post-Tour (de France) criteriums. For many of them there is a womens elite race just before the mens spectacle, which is exactly what it is. While the women race it out no-frills style - no parade, no pre-arranged finish, no podium girls, the men's event starts off with a caravan of convertibles containing the crowd favorites like Cavendish, Boonen, Gilbert sitting in the back seat flanked by sexy long-legged bikini babes. Next the guys ride around the criterium track for a few laps at an almost trackstand pace, slapping hands with their fans and happily responding to the fans who yell random encouraging words.
Finally it's race time. Last night's crit in Herentals, Belgium was the only mens crit I got to see this season. For the first many laps of 50, the guys take turns showing their faces off the front of the peloton. First it was cyclo-cross stud Bart Wellens taking a flyer for a few laps while the rest of the peloton pretended to grimace in pain. Next flyers came from the local favorites racing for Belgian clubs, then some of the other big pros went for a front seat "hello" to the crowd. Finally after about 40ish laps, Cavendish, Gilbert and Boonen were off the front - clearly the three chosen for the podium placings. With two laps to go, Boonen dropped them. But within a lap he was caught and Cavendish flew through for the win with Boonen and Gilbert behind - in that order.
The first 40 laps looked fast but when they hit the 45-lap mark and the pace went up to something closer to reality, it was very impressive - almost surreal to see cyclists moving that fast.
Compared to the mens race, ours must have seemed quite ordinary to the crowd. But to me it was much more interesting. This is partly because i was riding on a borrowed bike that was one size too small and only ridden by me for a whopping 15 minutes before the start.
The night before the race, just after returning home from a race in Chaam, Holland (which was a fast race, by the way - we finished 60km in only 1hr 10min), Jonas found a crack in my frame. So that night we stripped the bike down in hopes of getting another frame by the morning so i can make the afternoon race.
Jan from Fietsen Goeman (photo right) in Everberg thankfully called Scott Headquarters in Belgium in the morning and they had a frame in stock. Unfortunately by the time we could get the frame there would be no time to build it up so Eddy at Scott (his is the one talking to the Scott rider) graciously lent me a bike to race for the next three events. What a godsend!!! Not only was it in perfect race condition (although a bit too small to race on all season) but it was the top of the line Scott Carbon CR1 bike equipped with full carbon campagnolo record - even carbon cranks. What a luxury.
I was nervous about racing with it, firstly because it is a very expensive bike - my guess maybe worth 4000 euros?, and secondly because i was not sure if it would be comfortable enough to ride at 40-50kph in a tight group through hundreds of high speed turns, some of which are on cobbles. But the bike proved excellent. Wow - it was the most comfortable ride i've ever felt from a road bike. I used to think that road bikes are all the same (while cross bikes are NOT) but now my mind is changed for sure.
Anyway, i didn't win the race but i surely showed my face a bunch at the front of the race. And most importantly i had a blast doing it.
Today has been spent writing, writing and writing. Tomorrow it is back at the races. Just two more races then i am off for a mini 3-day holiday without the bike. I guess it's time to blow the 1-inch dust off the running shoes since i'll be using them shortly to get ready for cyclo-cross season. Just can't wait.