I knew I was in trouble.
With more than fifty riders all around me and my front wheel in the air while leaning into a corner was NOT a position I ever want to find myself again….
After shattering all of my power records just three days ago I knew I had the form. After getting dropped after 10min during the 2013 Ronde van Amstelveen, I was aware I was still a student in the art of racing bicycles.
They say first impressions can be deceiving…they, whoever ‘they’ might be, are usually correct. From the first glimpse I could get of the course, it was not going to be that challenging, just some brick pavement, couple of turns and some asphalt. Repeat for 1h15min and you are done. Easy!
Well, unlike previous times, as soon as the Masters race was finished the officials lined us all up, no warmup lap and no chance to check out the course. Oh well, I’ll figure it out as we go.
And we went….fast, very very fast. What seemed like smooth brick pavement was beating me and trying to knock the handlebars out of my hands. Than the first corner came…
“Take it wide” as a teammate advised me before the start. I took it wide and like a bouncing rodeo horse, a road irregularity shot my front wheel into the air!
I landed and nobody at the front seemed to care; the pace was furious. Second corner, finally on the asphalt. The peloton was strung out in one line and we were onto the finish straight again. Back to the fabled first corner and as I took it wide, I was going way too fast and I almost went directly into the curb…
I knew whoever my guardian angel was that day, was not going to give me a third chance. It was only the second lap I had two near misses, it was one of those days. Whoever was driving the pace at the peloton, was certainly having his best legs. The group was splitting and a couple of more laps where I was so scared to take a corner fast, I was dropped together with a couple of more riders. More and more riders were just leaving the race.
Bicycle racing, as I learned very fast, unlike any other sports I have tried, involves paying your dues and by that I mean not being able to ride in a race with the others until you learn the tricks of the trade. That doesn’t mean getting off the bike and going home.
A bad workout is only the one that didn’t happen!
So I got low and dug deeper. Lap after lap I kept driving the pace and every time I passed the finish line my teammates that had already finished their races in the earlier categories were cheering me up. I could feel getting the hang of it, and what once seemed an impossible corner I was carving better and faster.
I wasn’t coming back into the peloton, however, I was getting race experience. Being in a smaller group was certainly helping. Soon an hour passed and I called it a day; I have done my (race) training. I rolled past the race officials at the starting line, they gave me a big smile and affirmative nod. I left the race and I was happy. It is always what you take out of it – whether it is throwing the towel after 5 minutes or doing your own race and coming a better rider afterwards. Respect is earned on the days when cobbles are cruel and the pace is hot!
Race Photos (Credit to Klaas Groot)