Racing under the South East Region banner the team of Luc Hall, Jon Dibben, Jake Kelly, Dan Pearson and myself where all raring to go. We recconed some of the course the day before, getting a good ride in and ofcourse a cheeky stop in the nearest Patisserie for a Rice tart.
Race day saw a reasonably relaxed morning as our race didnt start until after the Pro edition, that Mark Cavendish later went on to win. We tinkled with the bikes, chilled in the Cafe and went over the plan for the day. In essence the main theme of the race would be positioning, in a bunch of this size the chances of crashes are very high (especially as it was the first big race of the year), so staying near the front was crucial in order to stay in the race.
In short I made all the splits on the climbs, however with 30km of flat to go until the finish line the emphasis was lacking from the groups going clear. It all came back together for the flat run into the finish, that included a tight finishing circuit of Kuurne and Kortique. An 80 man peloton was looking set to contest a big bunch gallop. Again positioning was crucial coming into the finish, and with 10km I realised my resources where going to be better spent helping Dibben to try win that rolling in for a top 20 in the sprint. We hooked up about halfway up (or down) the bunch with 10km to go and proceeded to move up slowly but surely, hovering around the top 20, ensuring I didnt blow to quickly by just riding on the front, and that we had a bit of a run at the front of the bunch coming into the last few kms. A few attacks went and I tried to wind up the pace rather than jumping away from Jon, however with about 1km to go I was starting to park up, I think Jon sensed this and with the sprint being slightly downhill, combined with the fact there where four riders hovering just of the front of the bunch, he soloed the rest. Getting in the wheels until 300meters to go and then hitting the Belgians hard, where it hurt, winning the bunch kick for 5th. A great result! I rolled in 33, unable to see much of what was going on, but knew Dibben had done the business upon seeing his face after the finish. A good day out in the saddle, first race of the season under the belt. I am looking forward to a few hillier ones I have to say, but felt like on the whole it was mission accomplished for the 26th of Feb. Onwards and upwards...
Ofcourse a huge thankyou, as ever, must go out to John Barclay and Dave for the trip!
Early on in the race.
Up the Kruisberg mid race.