Keerbergen is where I lined up for my second Kermesse in Belgium.In all honesty it felt like my first real introduction to Belgium Kermesse racing, it was hard!We would do eighteen laps of about a 6.5km circuit. It was once again pan flat but had many corners, a few chicanes and interestingly placed speed bumps.
The final round of the Belgacom GP XCO series was held this last weekend in Geraardsbergen. As has become custom in XCO racing the lap was relatively short at just over 5 kilometres but was tougher than usual with up and down all the way round. The climbs were steep with a few tricky switch back sections, a couple of technical downhill sections and the last section comprised of very twisty single track. A highlight for me was riding up Die Muur on our start lap, a famous cobbled climb that is used every year in the Tour of Flanders.
Image Credit: Danny Zelck
I must say the Cube HPC Elite was the perfect bike for the course. With a section of cobbles and a few tufty grass sections the flex stays came into their own whilst the frame maintained its stiffness which is a huge benefit on a course like Geraardsbergen with lots of hard acceleration s out of the corners and up the steep climbs.
I was now over my head cold and hoping to have a much better race. We lined up at 5pm, crazy right?! and set off up Die Muur. Everything pretty much stayed together up Die Muur on the start lap which meant a short wait as we neared the top and went into the first single track. I held my start position of around 25th on the first full lap but then started to lose a couple of places with each lap. The course is really one where you need to do at least four or five practice laps, something I was unable to do and meant that I overshot a few corners on the first 3 laps and with the level of racing being so high in Belgium, every little mistake you make is to the advantage of another rider.
Image Credit: Bart De Cooman
My bottle of PVM Octane somehow fell out on my 3rd lap and a missed feed meant I was without a bottle for a lap and a half in what was a fairly warm Belgian day. The solution to my problem came when passing a rider walking after he had broken his chain, in a mix of Afrikaans(similar to Flemish) and English I asked/took his bottle from his cage ‘promising’ to give it back at the finish. For all I knew he could have been French from the puzzled look on his face but let me take his bottle so thanks to you dude, sorry about not getting the bottle back to you but to be honest I don’t remember what you look like…
Image Credit: Bart De Cooman
Image Credit: Glen Coessens
I felt like I was getting more into the swing of things towards the end of the race and made up a couple of positions to finish in 37th elite. Not a fantastic result on paper but considering the circumstances I was satisfied, although to say, happy would be a bit of a push.
Thanks once again to the Versluys Evenza team for making me feel a part of their family and for all the help at the races.
Thank you to Nick, the team manager, for allowing me to be a part of the team during my time here and for the support at the races. To Ivan and Dirk who always prepare us great lunches before the races and always ensure everyone is well fed and has something to drink. Thanks to Gerry for sorting my bike out for me on numerous occasions, lifts to and from races, being in the feed zone during races and for all the good laughs! Thanks to Thierry for also feeding during races, making bottles for us and all the encouragement.
Thanks must also go to Mr and Mrs van Hoovels for the lifts to and from races, the support and as well as the help with feeding.
A big thank you to the riders: Kevin, Bjorn, Sebastien and Nicolas for including me during my time here. It was great to get to know you all and spend time training and racing with you. A special thanks to Kevin for all his help through our trip, the numerous lifts and training rides. It has been great to meet everyone and I have made friends that I will definitely visit again in the future.
Visit the Versluys Evenza Team site by clicking here and watch out for them next year, big things can be expected!
I will be doing mainly kermesse races for the remainder of my time here in Belgium. Keerbergen is on the cards for tomorrow and then another race on Friday.
My first taste of Belgian Kermesse racing came at the Buggenhout Kermesse this last week. I was feeling a bit despondent with my riding after two back to back disappointing results in the last Belgacom XCO’s I had done; this in combination with picking up a head cold. I really needed a decent result to get my confidence back on the right path.
I wasn’t quite sure as what to expect with many of the famous stories of Belgium racing in the back of my mind. The circuit was pan flat; I kind of expected that, although it was to an extent what you may call technical. There were quite a few corners, narrow cement slab roads, a short section of cobbles and some sketchy road surface at points. This meant a lot of hard accelerations which start to take their toll later on in the race.
I approached the race conservatively and sat in the bunch for most of the duration of it. I did follow one or two moves in the later 25% of the race although nothing came of them. A split of about 15 riders went clear with 3 of the 16 laps to go and that was the move of the day. I finished safely in the bunch which doesn’t look fantastic on paper but personally helps a bit with the confidence. The 117km was covered in just over two and a half hours at an average speed of 43.3km/hour.
Tomorrow it’s off to Geraardsbergen for the final round of the Belgacom XCO series. It is a UCI category 1 race so should be tough as usual. Our start loop consists of the famous Muur of Geraardsbergen climb, the idea of riding it sounds cool but the actual deed may be a different story…