My last week in Belgium was a bitter sweet one for me. I had just come back from an awesome trip to France and Italy and had just over a week before I went home. I had three races lined up, two kermesse’s and one cross country race. I had loved my time in Belgium and was sad to leave but on the other hand it would be great to go home and see friends and family again.
The first kermesse I had lined up was the Buggenhout 1.12 race. Buggenhout is about 20km from Leuven so I took a spin there before the race to warm up. A huge field of 150 riders lined up, somewhat surprising considering there was a big tour taking place at the same time as well as a few other one day races. The course was tough with a climb of just over a kilometre long and a tough gutter section along rough cement slabs. This thinned the field out somewhat but still saw about a 100 riders coming to the line on the last of 11 laps. A crash 5km from the line spelled the end of the race from me; I had to shift down to my small chain ring and in the process my chain dropped. I couldn’t ‘pick’ it up again by shifting it up again so had to jump off. Anyway a ride home helped spin the legs out for the race the next day.
Photo Credit: Jean Bollaerts
The following day I was on my mountain bike again for the Flanders Cup race in Hechter Eksel. In total I had spent almost five hours on my bike the day before so the legs were quite tired. A pan flat 4.5km course was one of the most fun I had raced on in Belgium with it being almost entirely on fast flowing forest single track. I started quite well but after breaking a spoke I had to take it easy into the tech zone and lost a couple of places. With a new wheel I was off again but started to fade in the last two laps with heavy legs and many accelerations. I finished in 17th place in the elite men race.
Image Credit: Ludo van der Put
I took a day’s rest and then Gerry and I took a road trip up to Baal for another kermesse. It was my last day in Belgium and I wanted to make it count! Despite the very flat course it was a tough race with hard accelerations as usual. After helping close the gap to a very threatening break I found myself near the back on the group when a split happened that I didn’t notice at first. It was a bit too late and the gap too big to close and unfortunately it meant that was that.
It was unfortunately a disappointing end to my trip; but one that I will look back on fondly. I really enjoyed it and learnt so much about myself and bike racing. I would love to go back again next year after having sussed out how the whole scene works.