Friday, 17 July 2015

Omloop Van Der Drie Dorpen 2015

For this unusual yearly road race I partook in some unusual pre race preparation, unusual for me and down right horrifying to my team mate on the day. A slight cock up in my calender meant that Saturday was, arrive in Euston for 11am and drink until about 2am the next day, this being the big summertime piss-up with the customers. However as we're not sixteen any more I was allowed to slip off at 7pm to try and sleep off eight hours of boozing. Before putting my head down I checked my messages to see when Andrew was picking me up.....6am......great.
True to his word 6am saw us loading up and before you knew it we were up in Flecknoe getting ready to race.
So the Omloop? It's an unusual race as I've said. It's super short and super tough. About 60% road and about 40% stony doubletrack. It is though without a doubt a road race.
The conditions bring out an eclectic mix of bikes. Top end carbon race machines, 90's steel Colnagos and cyclo cross bikes, all present. My choice this year was the CX bike fitted with 28c road tyres, 25 and 28c tyres are de rigeueur for this one. The stony sections have to be ridden to be believed, pictures don't do it justice. The stones are embedded in the baked hard soil, they don't give. Pick your line and stick with it....or else.
At the briefing we see the great trophies, cobbles with engraved plates Paris-Roubaix stylee. We then get our race briefing, and cautionary note come warning. We are reminded that bones get broken on this one and that trying to change lines on the sectors could easily see you on your ass. It's Andrews first Omloop and I'm sure I hear him gulp.
Then we are assembled outside where the race lead car then escorts us to the start. We set off is age groups, I think this is mainly for safety. Did I mention how narrow the tracks were and that some are lined with barb wire fences?
My group is off, it's all downhill to the start of the sector. I make the decision to hold back to avoid the chaos when the group hits the stones. I think it pays off as I don't have to stall and I can choose a line rather than risk being forced into a ropey line. Yes it pays off and I find a line past many riders.
It's bone jarring, but you can't look for anything better as it's all rough. Loose grip, steer with the knees, float on the saddle and most of all big ring it.  Then your out. It's a few hundred yards reprieve and then its into the head wind. I'm already riding solo which is another odd feature of this race, you'll see many doing this as it's hard to strike up a mutual partnership here. Ideally a team mate would be best.
Whilst on the road a rider I passed on the stones storms past me, my crosser is a little under geared. We take a left and turn out of the wind, only problem now is that it's all climbing to finish of the lap.
I catch my man on the climb and descend towards the sector again, and again he passes me. End of lap one.
I can see him slow on the stones, so I pass him thinking I might bury him and stop him passing me on the flat. No, he comes past again. I sprint out of the saddle fighting the headwind and keeping my foe in sight. Again I pass on the climb and he again then passes on the descent. I dig deeper on the stones and fly past my man. I exit onto the tarmac ahead, but once again he comes flying past. This time however he really fly's and drops me. To my horror he is ahead on the climb and seems to have found his off road legs as well. Still never say never.
I'm alone I fall into my drops on the stones and TT it. I fight the wind and push a bigger gear on the climb. I'm passed at this point by a Corley pairing, Carl from Corley's shouts encouragement. He tells me that a lot of riders have pulled, crashed or retired with mechanicals. With that info I lift myself out of the saddle and push out of the stones. I'm heading for the flag now so pain isn't much of a problem. Stones done, headwind beaten it's just the climb, and nearing the climb is my foe. I can see him labouring. This is where months of training and working on the front over all those club rides comes to fruition. I select a big gear and and push, I pass him and honours are mine.
I'm just chuffed to bits to have finished.
I'll later find out that I was 4th in my age race and Andrew was 5th in his. I'll take that.

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