HOMEBOY Belgium: Gregg’s First PRO Race
After my recent announcement of my going pro with the Flanders-Afincom team, I now have the pleasure of writing my first diary about my first pro race, the UCI 1.3 Omloop van Vlaanderen Sheldeboorden in Kruisbeke, Belgium near Antwerp.
Having absolutely no idea of what to expect I was a bit nervous at the start of the race, but I was the perfect race to dip my feet into the pro peloton and get a feel for the waters I will be swimming in the next season. The race, being the day before Amstel Gold, didn’t have nearly the horsepower of a standard race with only a few Division I teams. The field size was also just under 100 making navigating around the field relatively easy. The course was around the Antwerp region, which meant flat roads, and only one cobblestone section.
As I am in the changing rooms I can see many of the teams and riders I had just seen on the television on Wednesday’s GP Sheldeprijs. No longer am I in the company of amateurs but full on pros, with the UCI 1.3 status of the race meaning all the teams have to be Division III and above. I had no idea what to expect,
but I knew that I would be hiding more than Bin Laden and conserving my energy to try to finish the race. The race, at 190k, was a full 40 kilometers longer than the longest race I did so far this year.
After the changing rooms I headed over to sign in where I was stopped by no less than 20 photographers who all wanted to take my picture making me feel like such a celebrity! As I left the sign in stage I saw a Lotto-Domo rider roll up with green and yellow stripes on the sleeves. It was Robbie McEwen. The previous two days he had raced in the same races and my roommates and placed second in both of the events.
The start of the race was very subdued and no one was in a hurry to get going as the neutral rollout made it’s way out of the town’s center. Soon the green flag was waved from the lead car and the peloton continued rolling at a leisurely 35kph pace. I looked around and everyone was chatting away, warming up the legs and easing their way into the race. This was such a difference from the go from the gun, 55kph, lined out in the gutter starts I have become accustomed to in the amateur races. The tourist pace continued from almost half and hour, but then the proverbial gauntlet was thrown down by a French rider and the race was on.
From this point to about two hours later I rarely saw speeds in the peloton drop below the 50kph range. The attacks went and came back. There was the intense fight 38k into the race for front positions before the one-mile long cobblestone section. In fact the fight for the front was where I put in my hardest 10, 20, and 45 second efforts of the entire race. This combined with the average 25mph pace over the cobbles led to my heart rate hitting a new max at 198! I came out of the cobbles with a few extra reserves and was able to recover nicely to hang on without to much problem.
The most disheartening moment of the race as when I saw Robbie McEwen fading back to the rear of the peloton just after the cobblestones. As I am red-lining it to hang on he casually rides to the back without a line of pain on gracing his face. Of course this is also why he is one of the top riders in the peloton and I’m just still just pack-filler. Still, it’s a gentle reminder of how far the gap is between my current placement and where I need to be.
The local laps saw the peloton split and three groups break off of the main bunch. I stayed in the main group and hid while doing the occasional team-duty when it was needed. I even felt fresh enough at some brief moments during the race to try to go and attack, but
that wouldn’t have been prudent as Flanders-Afincom already had some riders up the road and I wanted to prove to myself I had it in me to finish.
In the end I hear my second most favorite phrase to hear in a race, Laaste Ronde, last lap. I followed the last bits of attacks and rolled in with the main field for a respectable 50th placing in the race. Not too bad for my first pro event. I was tired, I hurt, but I didn’t have to dig into the deep reserves of my legs. It was a good sign for me and a clear indicator my preparations for the season were, and are, right on track. The slow and steady build up has been very beneficial for me.
Till next time, keep the rubber side down.
Gregg Germer is now in his third year in Belgium and is racing professionally with the Flanders-Afincom cycling team out of Oudenaarde, Belgium. Between races and training he likes to spend his time consuming mass quantities of coffee, watching movies, reading and doing website design in addition to his writing articles.
You can always find out more information about Gregg and see more photos of his journeys and travel by visiting his website at: CyclingLinks.com/gregg
and he always welcomes e-mails at [email protected].
You can also directly help Gregg in his quest in Europe by buying from his internet shop VeloStuff.net.
And now some sponsor name dropping: