East Flanders, Stage One.

Saturday started at 5 Am, force feeding myself breakfast. By 9 we where on the shuttle to France, the Eastern Regions team, travelling to East Flanders, Belgium for the RONDE VAN OOST-VLAANDEREN, taking on some of the roads from the pro race, Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

We arrived quite late and after a frantic sign on, changed into our club shorts and eastern jerseys. It was 37 Degrees and before the race had even started I was suffering. I had been running around so much before the race that I had forgotten to drink as much as possible, the humid conditions on a course without any downhill and little wind where hellish at some points!

I started very well, straight into the top 15 riders in the field, being swept along. Then about halfway into the second of nine laps (72km) I got caught behind a crash. This dropped my placing from right up the front to almost the back of the 130 man field. Although I never look back I could sense I was near the back and started to panic, the racing is always so much easier at the front and more importantly I was going to miss the breaks.

I spent the whole race going full gas out of every corner and with about 5 laps to go was almost at the front. With 4 to go Jonathon Dibben, riding for the British Talent Team attacked and took a rider with him. The next time round, about 2km before the line I attacked along the right hand side of the road and escaped. After about 4km I caught a rider ahead of me and we started to work together, a lad who had followed my attack then caught us up. We worked really well together, I put in some big turns knowing that the time we where gaining on the bunch would be valuable in my overall GC hopes.

With 1km to go, and two corners to come I pulled of the front and slotted into second wheel of our group of three, I was still trying to keep the pace high, wanting to gain as much time on the bunch as possible and make sure I wasnt caught! We could also see a group just up the road, all bunched out and obviously playing with eachother before the long straight 700m run to the line. Around the last corner and we where meters away, then with 500 to go we caught on the back. I realised they hadnt seen us and that we where going quite a bit quicker than them and launched myself down the far right of the road.

I had never expected to win the sprint but went for it in the hope I might. With about 150 to go I looked under my arm and saw them chasing me, I put my head down and really dug in then with 50 to go looked again and new I had got it. I crossed the line knowing I had not won by hoping I had atleast got a good placing. 16th! I thought it was going to be alot higher but early breaks had gone whilst I was stuck at the back.

I was still really pleased with my sprint and gaining a minute on bunch. I learnt that there was a 1st year (un15s) competition, with prize money for the top 3, I was currently 4th overall, 53seconds down on the next 3. Time I hoped to make up the next day!

Miel Pyfferoen a friend I have made over in Belgium won on the day and would wear yellow the next day. Hopefully I can find some pictures of the race soon.

EDIT - just seen this photo, turns out the rider at the front was just about to be caught by our group, its funny because my mind seems to have completely erased him from my mind, i remember knowone infront!