Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tour of Belgium: Neerpelt and Team Presentation in one day

by Danny Zelck
And what a long day it was!
First was the Neerpelt UCI race - the international season opener for those of us based in the Benelux (Belgium/Netherlands/Luxembourg) region.  Going into the race, i really had no idea what to expect but helping my morale was the course. If all else fails, i was going to enjoy myself! it was a very heavy course with much of the first half through the woods on pine needle trails. The second half was nonstop short steep hills - some of which were barely rideable and others that were runups - mainly all on sandy terrain.
My start was about average - nothing special. Others were not so lucky - like Hollander Reza Hormes Ravenstijn. She was caught behind a woman in an upside down position, bike perfectly upside down above her. For the first handful of minutes i felt like a rockstar but then i started to fade - maybe is was all the adrenaline from the start wearing off? For those moments of sleepiness, i was passed by a handful of folks - nothing i could do but try to keep up a minimum speed to stay somewhat in contact.
by Luc van der Meiren
Thankfully, my full senses came back in the second to last lap! It was like a turbo shot and i was back to normal speed. I managed to pass a couple of riders but the last one got away. I nipped at her heels for the full final lap, unable to find a spot to safely pass. She is one of the more agressive riders who has no problem elbowing you off the course so after a few tries that ended up almost disastrously i was relegated to finish just behind her in 13th position.
It may not be a victory but i had a good feeling from it - and i learned a lot, mostly what NOT to do in a race. If i had a penny for every lesson learned though...

Trying to get past - by Lucien Duquesnes
After the race, we did yet another 200km of driving to the little town of Aalter on the other side of Belgium for the team presentation. I showed up naturally with wet hair after my post-race shower - yet another lesson learned. When having photos taken that will be on trading cards for a full season, take a bit more care about what you look like. haha.
I was kinda dreading it because you never know what sort of questions you'll get while standing on the stage with a microphone to you lips. But they were mainly ok - nothing i couldnt handle.
by Dirk Bruylant

The MC guy named Chris is actually the tv personality for the Superprestige races on channel VT4. I must admit that i did feel a little uncomfortable during one of the questions when he said "Now that Superprestige is allowing women to race at some of their events, does this make you happy?" Happy? No, it makes me laugh. They were forced by the UCI to take a womens race at their Category 1 events. They had no choice. Anyway, i went on and on and on for many minutes with my speech on the inequality of women in cyclocross - especially superprestige. After a while i remembered that he represents the Superprestige and i added a "sorry about that". Was i sorry? not really. But i did feel bad that he probably had no idea what is really going on behind the scenes. 

Overall it was a great day - during the race i got to see soooooo many friendly faces it was unbelievable. And the cheers i got were tremendous. I will never forget that last lap when i was trying to get around Nancy Bober, a belgian rider. The cheers for me were so overwhelming i almost felt bad for Nancy - but not bad enough not to try still to get around her! I have to add that it was very kind for all the spectators of our race to stick around that late as we raced after the men for the first time!

And in the evening, i was very happy to see yet another handful of friendly faces show up to see our team presentation. That really meant a lot to me!

Normally this sunday is my next race in Kalmthout but it is not yet certain if i am invited. No invitation yet and it is already Thursday. Fingers crossed that last minute email comes through.

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