Published on 20th March 2015 | By Chris Walker

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Meulebeke and Haringe!!

As the weekend drew nearer, another double header of racing was upon us. After no results last weekend in Geluwe and Ichtegem, where I rode aggressively but lacked some race sharpness, I was determined to make amends. I found myself getting carried away that weekend, desperate to ride across to the break with any move that looked likely. Sometimes you have to go with several moves before one sticks, and the key is to judge your efforts.

One of my many attempts to get across to the front group in Geluwe.
Ichtegem 1.12A, finishing circuits!
Ichtegem 1.12A

That double weekend of racing left me slightly fatigued and in need of a easier week after consistent training since the middle of February. So, come Saturday I felt ready and eager to race again, looking to show something for my decent early season form. Saturday’s race in Meulebeke was a typical early season day in Belgium, cold, windy and overcast. The circuit started with a technical section through town, then a couple of k’s of wide open roads, into a narrow twisting section  before turning onto finish straight. A circuit like this means a lot of fighting for position, a huge amount of skill is needed to stay well positioned, whilst using as little energy as possible, although sometimes you just need to get there, no hesitation!

160 riders arrived at the start line, ready to fight for that first corner barely 50 metres ahead of us. I started towards the back of the peloton, aiming to hit the front just before the narrow roads in anticipation of a split or attack that would blow the race apart. I got myself in a good position, avoiding the stress of fighting for cover in the long line of riders, preparing myself for an almost inevitable split in the tailwind section to the finish line that followed. One lap down, less than 7km and already some of the 160 rider peloton that started together had succumbed to the nature of the circuit and conditions.
It wasn’t long before riders began looking at each other after a flurry of attacks, it was at this point that a group of 10 riders clipped away, and I made the mistake of hesitating, perhaps lacking a bit of confidence as I hadn’t felt so good until now, but it was a dangerous move and a good time to go. The gap went out to over a minute very quickly, as it often does when a small group like that gets organised and the speed of the peloton fluctuates as riders attack intermittently. I decided that it would be useful one way or another to follow a rider who is consistently fighting for the win, an ex pro and someone that I can definitely learn from. It wasn’t long before said rider attacked, with me on his wheel and 6 others coming across, it was time to put our heads down and ride!
Chase group of 8 mentioned above, up up up!
A lap later and we had got ourselves closer, yet still just over a minute behind the front group, a bridgeable gap if a group work together in an efficient manner. Unfortunately, there were still a lot of riders interested in riding hard back in the peloton, our chase attempt was to no avail. I then spent the remainder of the race trying different things, moving around the peloton and attacking into corners to test my skills and get something out of the race since a result was no longer possible. I finished safely in the peloton for 56th, rather disappointed and extremely motivated to force a result in Haringe the next day.
Haringe, break established.
Haringe. A local race for us Tomacc boys, a mere 10km from the team house, another reason for high motivation. I planned to attack from the start, not to go flat out, but ride hard, with the intent of getting away early. I started on the fourth row, roughly mid-pack amongst the 80 starters but forced my way through quickly as we got onto narrow roads within the first hundred metres of the race. I saw a couple of riders forcing the pace at the front and decided it was time to add fuel to the fire. As two riders broke clear, the peloton hesitated and I took this as an opportunity to go! Riding across to the two in front and pressing on instantly as we eked out a gap to the riders chasing. It wasn’t long before a small group of 7 came across, including new team mate and ex British domestic pro Peter Hawkins, good move for us, don’t panic, just ride!
Establishing the break on first lap, led here by ex pro Steven Caethoven.

The break formed very smoothly, with every rider committed and willing to take a double or longer turn in order to make it a successful escape. I was feeling really comfortable, and focused on the task in hand, and having a reliable team mate in the break with me really eased the pressure, I was confident. The laps ticked by seamlessly, cohesion in the group remained. After around 30km, a large group of 12 or so came across to us. I became very vigilant at this point because often this can trigger a bout of attacks from riders unwilling to work with such a large group. However, for a couple of laps at least, most riders maintained their work rate.

50km to go. It was time to make things less complicated and split the group up! Heading into the crosswind section towards the end of the circuit, the Leopard Development Team rider attacked into the gutter with one rider on his wheel, I jumped into their slipstream and pushed on as riders behind scrambled for the wheel in front. It had worked. 10 riders were dropped. 12 remained, including myself and Pete. Things had gotten interesting!
The end of the race was in sight and you could sense the change of atmosphere in the group, who would make the next move, who is going well and who was just hanging on. Poker faces all round. Looks can sometimes be deceiving, so this is usually the time when riders going well will test the water, making either a half hearted attack, or dig in the tail/crosswind sections. I was still feeling strong, and had definitely recognised a threat from a couple of the riders, not long left now, staying focused was vitally important.
Easier said than done though, I let my focus slip for a second, and Steven Caethoven had made a move on the twisty roads of the tailwind section, I was 3 riders too far back at this point and the front 6 moved away. I hesitated about riding across as Peter had made that group, not wanting to take riders with me. I took a couple of turns with the riders behind, before trying to jump across the 50 metre gap by myself in the crosswind, I got about halfway before stalling, chance of going for the win, was disappearing.
We now had less than 30 km remaining. Still a decent result to be had, I had my eyes on the best of the second group as the front 6 had established a gap that was near on impossible to bridge in the circumstances. Heading into the last lap, I had decided to leave it late, as the last kilometre or so was headwind. I was third wheel coming into the last 500 metres, who will make the first move. BAM, the sprint was launched, I left it to 200 metres before coming out the wheels, but could only manage 3rd in the group, so 9th on the day.
The sprint for the win!
Pete sprinted to 3rd, to give the team our first podium of the season, I’m very confident there will be many more to come for the team!
Zele and Ichtegem this weekend, both 1.12B category. Cannot wait to line up again on Saturday,will post to Twitter how each race goes before doing a write up after the weekend 🙂
Thanks for reading!