HOMEBOY Belgium: Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen
So this week’s inside look is at the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been coming very close to finding that good form that brings in the results and I think I have found it. Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs was a race I knew I could do well in, being a completely flat race and made for the sprinters, so I had high motivation.
After Tom Boonen’s win on Sunday and his being the winner from the year before I was fairly sure the race would be a controlled one where the sprinters teams keep things together for an all out finish but still full of lots of gutter sections. Knowing this I planted myself firmly at the front of the group even before the start. Before the start there was an AG2R rider in a Lithuanian National Champions jersey talking about how today would be so much easier after 220k’s of Roubaix ….
I would like to be able to say what happened at the rear of the race for the start, but I can’t. I am quite proud of the fact I stayed in the top 30 of the peloton for the first 70k of the race. I mean if there was a chance to stay to the front and advance my position I was there. So with the wind being a factor a group of 10 or so split off after 15k, no big deal? Right? Well it was to the Davitamon – Lotto guys. Shortly after the break was established I hear a Davitamon – Lotto rider to my left yell into his mic, “Everyone to the front!” I immediately sprinted all out to get to the very front and prepared for Mock 5 speed.
This was the point I had a brief flash of the movie Spaceballs where Rick Moranis goes “Lightspeed is too slow, go to Ludicrous Speed! What’s wrong Colonel Sanders? ……Chicken?” Then they all end up with eyes in the back of their heads from the speeds.
So the Mock 5 speeds were fast, try a nice five minute stretch where we went 60kph, with a first hour average speed of 53kph. But I was glad to be where I was as it hurt like hell to be there. There was a point in the chase that it was the Davitamon – Lotto train, four Quick-Step and then some goober Flanders rider from American right behind them. Boonen doesn’t look so big when on a bike.
The break came back and two riders went off the front never to return again, one being that AG2R rider, Tomas Vaitkus, the Lithuanian National Champion. The peloton decided they would let the duo get a lead and went easy for a good while after dropping a lot of riders from the ‘ludicrous’ speed of earlier. I drank a bit more and tried to keep warm with light rain coming down sporadically.
Things went easy till just after the feed at 110k. In a nice wet and slick corner there was a little pileup of about 15 riders blocking the golf cart sized road. I was just able to squeeze around two guys and sprint up to the rear end of the group that split off the front from the chaos behind. This is when Chocolade Jacques – T Interim and Davitamon – Lotto thought it would be a great idea to go really, really fast!
It was as good a time as any to go because looming in the near kilometers was the first hard cobblestone stretch. The rain was coming down quite hard at this point and navigating in narrow streets of towns was turning into a tooth and nail fight in the peloton. At one point I had Tom Steels pull my jersey and I went back three spots in the peloton. Full of adrenaline all I wanted to do was sprint up next to him and yell, “You aren’t the only one who can throw bottles well!” but then my common sense too control again and told me that it would have been a bad idea.
Note: Tom and I had a nice, but brief, chat about the exact nature of the noise coming from my bottom bracket area. Conversations like this always randomly happen during the lull of the speeds. I assured him it was completely a normal sound and a tactical decision of mine to make sure people give me room in the peloton because they think my bike is going to fail at any given moment. The look on his face told me he didn’t believe me that it was a conscious choice. Sadly the noise has been fixed and I am not longer feared in the pro peloton for mechanical failures.
Ok, back to the race … So we hit the cobblestone section and I am in ok, but not great, position. The cobbles are very wet so I go on the dirt section on the side. The only problem the dirt section is full of huge holes and you really have to watch your lines. I pulled out the cyclocross maneuvers and made up a few spots all while keeping well within my limits. I felt really good and to me this was a sign that the race wasn’t going hard enough to split. (Later 20/20 vision reveled I was wrong).
So we come out of the cobbles and are lined out on the road single file. I bridge to the small group in front of me and when the front guys pull off I notice a gap of 25 meters in front of me. SHIT! So I pull through and drop back to allow the rotation to put in the hard pulls and bring it all together. We chased through the second cobblestone section and all the way through the first two of the local laps, all the while keeping them in a 60 seconds to as close as 20 seconds gap, but alas, we never caught the lead group.
So I was rain soaked and dead tired, but I managed to finish. At that I finished in a very respectable 42nd place in a UCI 1.HC (the highest category race I can do) where less than half the starters finished. I have finally figured out the right way to follow and control myself at the front of a pro peloton, my form has started to improve and with it my results. Everything in a nice steady progression.
My next objective, a top ten, but I’m going to have to wait till after this weekend. I have to go to Switzerland and do the Tour de Bern, not exactly my race, but you never know. The next weekend will be two hard dirt and cobble filled races in Denmark, much more my racing like.
Take care and keep the rubber side down.
Gregg Germer is now in his fourth year in Belgium and is racing professionally with the Flanders Pro Cycling Team based out of Oudenaarde, Belgium. Between races and training he likes to spend most of 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: www.gregggermer.com and he always welcomes e-mails at [email protected].
Support those who support our Homeboy in Belgium:
Flanders Pro Cycling Team – www.flandersprocycling.com
VeloStuff.net – www.velostuff.net
CaneCreek – www.canecreek.com
Cobblestone Dreams – www.cobblestonedreams.com
Trial-Tir USA – www.trialtir-usa.com