So yet again I have fallen behind on my blog posting duties. However, as usual, I have a long list of (valid!) excuses to compensate for the dire lack of updates.
May has been a very busy month so far, with my AS level exams looming, and a big block of racing now coming to a close. Since my trip to Croatia with GB, I returned to Belgium for a few kermesse's, before flying out to the Czech Republic for the Course De La Paix (Peace Race), the third nations cup of the year.
So after a few days off the bike due to a cold (thanks fellow easyjet passengers/rain, cold and damp in Croatia!) I was glad to be getting out to Belgium for some racing. The Saturday was ok; a third place finish in flood like conditions. The course was pretty good, with a short steep climb and some classic mud covered farm lanes, however the legs didnt seem one hundred percent and I finished third in the five man sprint. Sunday saw sunshine and crosswinds, always making for a good race. However just as I felt I was really getting my teeth into the race I punctured and buckled my wheel in the middle of no where. Unlike road races, kermesse's dont have neutral service or team cars, so it was a lonely and solemn walk back to the race village to watch the rest of the riders battle out for win.
After a quick day at home it was straight off to Stanstead on Tuesday morning to meet the lads and fly out to Prague. This was followed by a quick transfer to Litomerice, the town in which our race hotel would be located. The accommodation and general surroundings where surprisingly nice, especially after the horror stories we had been fed by Jon and Sam over the last six months. Infact the countryside and surrounding hills where confirmed to be anything but horrific the next day when we went out for a pre race spin. The race was five stages over four days, with a Time Trial and road stage on the second day.
The first stage went reasonably well, barring finding myself the wrongside of a late split on a descent, costing me twenty seconds. Situations like this at the time appear simply annoying, especially when looking at the results and seeing half the race out the back, however it becomes more and more frustrating as you think of all the energy and effort you put into staying in and with the front group, to then lose time four kilometers from the finish! Lowey however didnt make the same mistakes as me, placing himself well in the final few kilometers and winning the bunch sprint for second! A marginal few meters from the lone escapee, a great result and moral boost for the whole team.
The TT the following morning was tough. It is hard to go into to much detail other than it was a complete sufferfest. I finished about fiftieth in the hundred and twenty man field. It also reaffirmed that if I want to do well in TTs, I need to spend alot more time on the time trial bike! The afternoon stage went really well, other than the end result. Our plan had been to set up Sam for the sprint, to try and take the white Points jersey and ultimately the stage win. And whilst we controlled the race all day, the frantic nature of the bunch split the team apart in the last two kilometers. Whilst it was frustrating not to get a result in the big bunch kick, we knew as a team we had had a grasp on the race and it was only a matter of time before situations like this start to go our way.
The final two stages where pretty much along the same tune; the racing is hard and the going tough. We bagged two further top tens (myself and Alex) on the last two stages, with Chris taking third on the last stage. It rounded off a good week for the team, and we consolidated on our 6th place in the Nations Cup rankings. Unfortunately I will be missing the next round in Germany due to my exams in school, however I am sure the lads will do a stellar job, hopefully bagging a stage win along the way!
My most enduring memory of Czech may be the Chocolate topped spaggetti we where served everyday, not something I have seen before, but I may have to try it in the future if I see it again!
Video found on Youtube of the race and some photos of Croatia below, hopefully a few will surface of Czech but dont hold your breath!
Second stage in Croatia, Dibben just about to fly over the top of the bunch with me on his wheel!
The final stage, wet and pretty miserable! However we finished well with Jon and I leading out Sam for 5th in the bunch sprint.