Another weekends racing in the bag, this time in the motherland of West Flanders. A big group from all over Blighty where on the eurotunnel nice and early Saturday morning for the first race in the small town of Heestert. With the rain just about holding off, and just over one hundred riders lined up for the start, it was looking to be a good days racing. The course was pretty open, with a very slight drag up one side followed by a few head/cross wind sections and then a fast section through the town.
In the break at Heestert
The race was pretty reluctant to break up early on, possibly due to the size of the bunch or relatively typical open (but narrow) Belgian roads. However a small break of three riders finally slipped the grasps of the bunch after around twenty km. I looked to try and get into a move and eventually made a break with fellow Brit (and Londoner) Germain Burton, along with two other Belgians. I knew we needed to try to bridge to the front group as quickly as possible and put some space between the break and the bunch, however it was not to be and with around ten km to go we where swept up by a large break of around ten riders. The group was too big and after a few turns, with some others sitting in it started to slow considerably, eventually getting swallowed by the main bunch with one ronde (six km) left to race. A few riders slipped away with a few kms to go however it was mainly one big bunch sprint for the remaining top ten placings, with myself coming in at the back end of the group in thirty second place. Not a great end to the day but with the legs there and another day of racing tomorrow, Morgen is een andere dag (tomorrow is another day).
Sunday saw some blue sky and sunshine battling the grey monotone Belgian weather to break through! A welcome sight to accompany the days racing in the town of Katchtem, just outside Izegem. A town that John Barclay and Dave Storey informed me Andy Fenn and Dan Mclay had both previously won in. The course was pretty twisty with a long dragging road, a few slow wide headwind sections and some narrow fast sections, a classic Belgian kermis as always!
The race was lively early on, with a slightly smaller field of seventy starters, and split early on with around twenty riders going clear in groups of four or five. I made the first break that then got swallowed up by those behind, making one large lead group, however was wary for a counter attack leaving the larger group behind. When three riders did jump off the front I bode my time and then jumped across solo, I had hoped one or two riders would come with me to make a really strong lead group, however fancied our chances none the less. We stayed up the road for around twenty five km, however where eventually swallowed up just like the previous day! Jon Dibben then launched his race winning move along with a well known Belgian rider, I reacted a little late but again tried to bridge across, this time with British Champion Dan Pearson. However we soon split and I was on my own for around ten km chasing the leaders. I made a little impression for a bit, trying to cross as soon as possible, but soon realised I was in for the long haul on my own. This wasnt to be and I was eventually caught by the group behind. However yet again I made another break with Germain with around five km to go, along with two other Belgians. Although unfortunately with around two kilometers to go Germain crashed and I went straight into him, game over. We went from racing for third place to brushing ourselves off to rescue a top 15, not a great end to a good day! On a better note big J. Dibben went on to take the win with a roaring celebration (from what I can see in the pictures!)
Pressing on in the break, just starting to distance the group in the background.
Attempting and evenutally failing to bridge solo to Dibben and Declercq.
Not a happy camper (post race).
Thanks to John Barclay and Dave Storey for the trip over to Flanders!