The big race of the year. The one I had trained for was finally here
6:20AM – Waking early Nick and myself were both excited to head out to the course and see what the weather had in store for us. We quickly eat our breakfast and packed the car before heading for the famous Zolder circuit.
8:45AM – We arrived at the race course making our way around to the designated rider parking, There was already spectators starting to enter the course wanting to get the best vantage point for later in the day. As soon as we pulled up we got the bikes off the back of the car and started to put them in the trainers for warmup. For the day I had my own personal mechanic JB. A top bloke that knows how to work on a bike and do it fast.
9:00AM – I headed off to the camper that we had borrowed through some connections and got changed into my practice kit. I wanted to go out on the course two hours before the race as I wanted to see what the conditions were like and if the rain from Saturday had any effect on the course.
9:10AM – Fully kitted up and ready to go, JB pulled my bike out from the work stand as he had just replaced the shift cable. I went to ride off and bang I had no gears.
I had changed the shift cable a few days earlier to an unknown brand and it had a funny shaper head on it. It was a hexagonal shape not a circular shape. I ended up removing this odd cable as it affected the shift quality tremendously. I hopped that I hadn’t damage the cable head housing when I remove it as it might affect the new cable. But not to worry as I had plenty of time before the race to get it fixed.
JB jumped straight into action and managed to put the head of the cable back into place but we went sure that it was permanent fix. I headed out on the course keeping in mind not to shift too quickly when going down the gears. After two laps I headed to the camper to get changed into my race kit and warm clothes prior to doing my warm up.
9:45AM – I hoped onto the rollers and started my warm up. I wanted to get a long warm up in as I knew that I would get interrupted and wanted to make sure that I was ready to race and had time to deal with this. One thing that is really cool about racing in Belgium is all the fans. They are on another level as far as supporting all the riders and wanting to be a part of the atmosphere.
10:30AM – I Jumped off the rollers and started to get my final gear ready before heading to the start finish area. Once I reached the start/finish area I rode up and down the start straight to keep warm. It was a very long tarmac start which mean that it would be fast. After a few laps up and back my shifter had the same issue as earlier in the day. I raced down to the pit area that was about 1km into the course and jumped on my spare bike letting JB know what had happened. I raced back to the Staging area were they had just started to call up the first rider. I was not in the ideal situation starting on my spare alloy bike and mud tires but I had to make the most of it and calm down, drop my heart rate and focus on the race at hand.
10.58AM – I was on the start line and the 90 second call was made. Everyone took off there long pants and threw them to their helpers. I was on the Left hand side right where I wanted to be to try and miss any tangles that could occur on the first right hairpin corner. One minute to go and I removed my jumper, checked my wheels were tight and made sure I was in my starting gear.
‘30 Seconds’ and the tape was removed from in front of the riders.
‘Green Light’ Were off, I got a good clip in not slipping a pedal, there was people everywhere banging bars with two Germans nearly crashing in front of me. The spray from the riders in front was hitting me in the face but lucky I had Salice Sunglasses on. Around the outside of the first turn and on the inside there was a crash. My plan had worked. Coming past the pits for the first time and I was in about 30th and feeling really good just soft pedaling waiting for a chance to pass. Up and over the first flyover and coming down the other side someone had crashed into the fence. I tried to jump the rut to avoid him but got my front wheel caught and I stepped off the bike. As I turned around to grab my bike someone came down in the rut and rode straight over my rear wheel. I grabbed my bike and jumped on till I suddenly stopped and couldn’t pedal. I hoped off and looked at my rear wheel and the disc had been bent into the spokes. With the adrenalin from the race in my system I managed to pull the disc back out straight enough so I could at least make it to the pits. I jumped back on only to realize my bars were really twisted so I stopped and straightened them too. I had to play catch up and started to chase down the tail end of the riders.
Coming into the pits luckily JB had managed to repair my shifter again so I swapped bikes and continued chasing. At this point I was dead last rider on the course and had a lot of ground to make up if I wanted to stay in the race. I chased hard and started to pick rider off one by one but as the race went on it was harder because the riders were getting further and further apart. I managed 1 and a half laps on my race bike before I had to swap back to my spare and in that time JB had managed to change the rear disc for me and realign the caliper all in the pits.
As the race went on I keep slowly moving back through the field changing bike every 1 to 1.5 laps. I started to become more comfortable on the steep descents letting the bike move around under me and committing to the ruts so that the bike pretty much would steer itself. Coming around for the last lap was a good feeling knowing that even though I had a few issues I managed to finish on the lead lap.
In the end I managed to get back to 42nd not quite the top 30 that I was aiming for but I made it across the line feeling like I had ridden a race that I could be proud of.
Thanks to everyone who had supported me for this European Adventure !
See you all at the 2016 NCXS !