Is it possible to feel like a winner, very satisfied with my performance that I had given it my all, and still wish that I had had a little more in the tank? I could hear you all yelling at the livestream. I caught a tall flash of #Van_Dessel red and black on a jumbotron out of the corner of my eye as I rode past on the first lap, which meant that I also had a cameo on the live feed! It was astonishing and exhilirating to have had such a great start.
A euro start is very different from the orderly rows one finds in US races. It more closely resemebles a "bunch" rather than a "row". And by the time the 5th row was called up, there were no rows. I stuck myself right in the middle. The heart beat counted down... and mine was already up around 150. We hammered, I jumped off the line and slid myself into a gap. I heard the slide of tires behind me on the pavement as we hit the first corner. And in the around the first dirt corner, I saw someone go down on the outside line. I surged inside and around, just behind the leaders. "Luck is when opportunity knocks, and you answer." - Someone famous
Let's consider the lap times: 9:05, 9:09, 9:09, 9:07, 9:04. And that's why they call me the pace queen. Could I have grabbed a wheel or two as I dropped from 12th to 20th on the second lap? I did a bunch of times. This race course is something else, though. You have to be explosive out of every turn, and technically perfect entering every feature, or else you are off the bike and running. In pre-ride, everything is rideable. In the race, notsomuch. Someone bobbles a loose kicker uphill in front of you, you bobble it, too. And by the last lap, I was the one running everything, quads shredded!
"Clank" the sound of metal on metal? Or my rim hitting a curb? I thought it was the latter. Either way, it was a hard jolt. I rode past Pit 2 and headed into the hills. On the approach to the first technical downhill on the second half of lap 3, I gave a push on the bars, and they dropped two inches. So, I had a slightly more aggressive position for half a lap!
Oh the sand! Even the normally muddy Belgian mud rode like sugary sand in the dry conditions they've been having. This went well, for the most part. Until it didn't. I didn't crash exactly. But I did attempt a two-footed dismount at a dead stop on an uphill sand section giving away precious seconds on the pack in front of me. Never pretty.
My 6th UCI World Cup is in the books. And, 34th in a race filled with World Champions, National Champions, and a 5th row call-up, is something to celebrate! And be grateful for. To Van Dessel Cycles, to my teammates, Feedback Sports, 2 Timing Guys, Stika Brothers Concrete Contracing, #JeSokkenZijnTeKort supporters, and @dougefreshcx (for not stressing to much about the fact that the bikes missed our flight).
One down, three to go!
And, oh BTW pictured is my “ruiter kaart”. Photographers and fans would ask Doug and I for these cards last year. So, I did some recon, and some bootleg marketing and put together something I was pretty proud of. Ping me on my FB rider page if you want one!