Homeboy: Apathy Of Sprinting
European racing is some of the best around, but for me there is one problem. I never get any real chances to show off my best skill which has always been the money maker, my sprint. There rarely comes a time when someone here uses their field sprinting skills in an amateur event. Teams would rather drill the pace and cause a break rather than risk the chaos of a field sprint to placing riders.
This weekend I competed in my first UCI 1.5 race. For those of you who aren’t wearing you UCI race number decoder ring a 1.5 is a Semi-professional race. Meaning there were both amateur and UCI professional trade teams there. This race had a bit of a twist as the race only allowed under 26 riders to enter; the UCI’s way of helping younger talent shine.
The 160 kilometer (100 mile) race started out under some very ominously blackened skies. 15 minutes before the start those skies opened up to let down monsoon like rain untypical of Belgium. With the rain pouring down we started out through the first big loop of the race over 50 kilometers of undulating roads.
I had a very simple tactic of conserving all the energy I could while in the hills and surviving to the local laps of the event. Things went more or less to plan, but as always there were some bumps along the way. The hills turned out to be more or less the short and steep 1 kilometer power climbs and as such didn’t give me to much problems.
The ABC-Aitos team did get a rider, Eric Keim, off the front over the hills after 35 kilometers, but he got reeled in just before the final climb after 10 kilometers or so. The counter to this move ended up staying out in front of the race for the next 100 kilometers and included US National Team rider Dan Bowman.
The race highlights included having the entire road covered with over an inch worth’s of mud while on a downhill stretch. It was so bad that it caused one of the race motos to crash! Going along the same lines of mud, about half way through the race were drilling it along and out of the corner of my eye I see a large chunk of mud flying though the air. I couldn’t believe someone would throw something like that at the group, but as I turn my head I see a horse running away in the field next to us. When we spooked the horse the mud from his hooves catapulted at the field with surprisingly good accuracy.
The breakaway was caught with 30 kilometers to go. With the field back together the splits happened each off the four times across a short 400 meter cobbled section. Add to the chaos of chasing guys the fact the feed zone was just 1 kilometer after the cobbles. In spite of the chaos things were still coming together, so I was placing my bets on a sprint.
In the end a break of about 20 guys got off the front and I found myself in prime position for the field sprint. Whereas two years ago this was my domain, the place where I could work my magic like the old Pantani in the hills, my skills after two years of little to no sprint action my skills turned out to be a bit rusty. I went from a nice position just off the front to almost 4 rows back. Top things off with a lone rider blowing up, going backwards through the field and almost causing a huge pile-up in the field. I was quite happy to come out alive and unscathed after watching riders play human pinball in front of me. Still I was able to finish my first 1.5 race, which is a good step in my book.
Oh, and for those of you who are wondering what happened last week with my diary. I decided to pull a very Italian move and take a day off just because it was nice out. I am trying to assimilate more and more to European life and I think this was a good step towards living the lifestyle.
Till next week! (for real this time)