100th edition of RVV was a big one. Riders say it was a really hard edition and spectators definitely enjoyed the exciting racing. I enjoyed every bit of it too. From waking up, having breakfast in the hotel on a morning when I could eat as much as I was able to stomach, till the post drive back to the hotel exchanging some stories with teammmates. How hard was the race? Well it only hit me full swing 3 days later when on Wednesday I realized I’m still unable to turn the pedals as quick as I did pre race.
You can watch the race live on youtube in full length, so I won’t go into details about the race as much, but more point out the things TV does not show.
Start in Bruges was packed. From the team buses we all followed a corridor lined with fans on both sides reaching out for a high five or already cheering on their favourites with a glass of beer in their hand. They must have been there for hours before to get a good spot. At the end of this fan filled corridor you rode onto a stage in the main square where you’d sign on, get some more cheers, see some more fans and quickly roll off the stage. Of course, unless you were one of the race favourites. Fabian got his own theme song played when he got on the stage which sounded like a mariachi band playing their favourite piece. Then he gave a quick interview and before rolling up to the start line signed some autographs along another corridor lined with fans.
On the start line I was just soaking in the view. Hadn’t seen so many people come out for a race… emm… ever. All the cafés were filled to the point people would be almost bringing their own seats just to get close. Seemed like locals were having gatherings in their flats, because all the windows even on the 2nd and 3rd floor were filled with faces chugging beer. Yes. It was 10am and people were already in the spirit of drinking beer.
First time up the Kwaremont I was feeling good and could enjoy the ride up it. I don’t think people got dropped there as I had expected before the race, but it was still a key sector as it marked the beginning of the show. After this sector I was taken down by the same crash that took Demare out of the race. I was back on the bike as quick as I could and in the bunch soon after. Andreas told us where to move up, so I waited for the moment and by the 2nd key moment – the Eikenberg I was at the front yet again. The only problem was that my shoe had lost a buckle. Every time I had to sprint out of a turn I just couldn’t. My feet were almost popping out. I was losing energy, so had to change shoes.
I didn’t pick the greatest moment either, and had to suffer long to catch back up. On the (b)right side though I got to amuse a few spectators that started laughing when they saw my shoe change. I caught back up to the front group 3 times before I actually managed to get back in the peloton, because every time I did, peloton split and by the time I passed the riders that got dropped the back of the bunch was gone. “Yay”. Finally after a full on sprint to the top of a steep kicker I made it back.
I got to rest a bit before we hit the Kwaremont the 2nd time. The approach to it was madness though. I was in good position, but when we hit a long super fast downhill section with buses on the left side of the road, exactly where I was. I noticed someone standing next to a bus on the road side. Mid way up. Once he realized that the group is using the full width of the road all he could do is turn and run as fast as he could to the back of the bus, and jump out of the way. I though he wouldn’t make it. He barely did. It would have taken 2 seconds of hesitation, someone who was a bit less fit and carnage would have been upon me and many others. I bet he was glad he skipped that prtion of frittes last evening.
Then and there I realized I don’t have the legs to do much anyway and I’m not going to risk my life for this race today, so I eased off. Let people pass me and hit Kwaremont further then mid way down the field. That was the end of my race. Next up was just riding along with the straggler group I was in. We hit Koppenberg – the third key sector I mentioned. Someone had slipped and hit the ground, so automatically everyone behind him had to jump off the bike and walk up. After several meters a police officer offered to push me and with his help I mounted the bike and got going again. Thank you, good sir.
To see me crash and get a quick recap of how the race unfolded see this video:
I’m in the first crash of the video on the left trying to get my chain back on.
Rest of the race was painful. But I was kept company by Andreas voice in my ear cheering on Dylan who was doing an incredible ride. I could listen at first and excitement was big. Then they started talking in Dutch and it faded away a bit. Still on some sectors I could hear my name cheered on and I just pushed through. Third time up the Kwaremont was “interesting”. I was breathing pretty much as hard as I could and breathing in the smell of beer all the way up. The fans had been consuming gallons of beer the whole day like it’s their job, what else should have I expected?! If I had ridden through the sector with a breathilizer tester in my hand, it definitely would have beeped the whole way up.
We weren’t very motivated anymore. Our group got swelled as we got caught by other bunches from behind and by the finish line we had a pretty solid peloton. The sprint was weird though. No trains, no room to move up. Everyone just road up to the line. I wanted to sprint, as I don’t really get to practice that enough, but didn’t happen.
After the finish I got to see my sister. On the bus I took a nice shower, got some food, enjoyed the amount of fans still crowded all around Oudenaarde and relaxed.
I made it. My first Flanders. My first WT race. My first classic. My first race over 250km. Done. Felt good. Maybe more then good. No beer to celebrate though, as I’ve got other goals and I was back on the bike the next day.
I’ll do all the Ardennes up next and hopefully manage to stay up on my bike for all of them, but seeing how many crashed there were in Flanders I’m not really expecting to. As long as my legs are well, I stay healthy and I get to race my bike hard I will make the best of it. I’ll gain experience and maybe even get a result.
For some more cool pictures check out these guys: http://galleries.soigneur.nl/the-100th-tour-of-flanders/photos/2610389