Yesterday was the Oostkamp kermis, our hometown race. I missed it last year since I was sick with bronchitis so I was really looking forward to it this year. We've had a lot of rainy and overcast days this past month so we were relieved to see bright blue skies yesterday morning. It was all a cruel trick a la Belgium style. By 4 in the afternoon the rain started to fall and since our race wasn't starting until 6:30, we would be getting wet for sure.
The course is pretty technical with some slick cobbles in the center on town, it's basically a big figure 8 loop with lots of manhole infested turns. Lots of guys were going down including two of our own but no one was seriously injured.
Taylor Kneuven attacked from the gun and stayed away long enough to pick up some primes, which were going on every lap for 1,2, and 3rd place. Races in the rain here are sometimes easier than in the dry. If you can get over the discomfort that is, riders here take the turns so slow but sprint like mad men coming out so you have to be ready and can't let gaps open up between the wheel in front of you. I always find that the safest place to take the turn is in front, especially in the rain. I can choose my own line and take it at my speed. Every turn I take first, I can open up a gap just by keeping my speed, the rider behind me is usually too scared to follow which is great because then he opens up a gap. I used this to my advantage later in the race.
A couple of moves went, and they came back. The first hour or so is like that. Guys get up the road and the rest chase. It won't be until later in the race when guys start to get tired that they start looking at each other to do the work, which usually no one does and a lot of yelling ensues. The trick is to attack just as all of this is about to happen. I had tried a couple of attacks, went with some others. A couple of the local strong guys were here, Mario Williams to name one and Kevin Mane for another. Mane crashed into a barrier so he was out. Willems will attack incessantly until he finally gets away. He's known as a kermis king here in Belgium. There's a handful and everyone knows their name. He got away with two other guys, our own Paavo Pajaanen being one of them.
Now all we have to do is get a second group going and sit in.
The center of town hosted two of the most dangerous turns in the race, the ones with the slick cobbles and manhole covers. You might as well be turning on ice. I went through first, opened up a gap and floored it. I took it all the way to the next turn and saw that some guys were bridging. It's important to see if it's just a small group or the rest of the peloton. This time it was a handful of guys with the green light to start pace lining and making some time up the road. Also in the group was Taylor. Perfect.
Just before we got away I was told by a team mate of mine that Paavo had crashed on one of the manhole covers and was no longer in the lead group. It wasn't long before we picked him up in our group, and then there were three, with two up the road.
We worked well together. There was an eissen guy with us (another strong team in the area) who was working well along with some others. The sand baggers weren't there for long, sitting in the back. After a while our group was halved and coming into the last lap it was even smaller. Paavo and I planned a little attack and follow move in the last lap. There was a head wind section going into the backside of the last lap, three turns before the finish. I would attack and if I was pulled back Paavo or Taylor would counter. For these to work you have to jump at just the right moment. First you need to pick out who is the strongest guy in your group and attack when he has either just taken a pull or is at the back of the group. Sitting second wheel I saw that Paavo had opened up a gap behind me and sitting on his wheel was the Eissen guy. Perfect. Off I went, deep into the pain cave.
they guy I went around was still trying to match my speed but I was gaining some ground and established about a 5 second gap. through the last turn, avoided the icy manhole cover, and went with everything I had left to the finish. I peeked under my arm and saw that two guys were not far behind. What I couldn't see is that Taylor was sitting second wheel.
I stuck it for third place, grabbing the last podium spot. Taylor came around easily for 4th, and Paavo for 11th. I even got a bouquet of flowers, white roses actually, and a little trophy.
Hopefully I can get some podium pictures up after this post.
heres a link for the results.