Pain and Racing Speed

Omloop Hoeksche Waard 2013: A Race is a Race is a Race!

Home » Pain and Racing Speed » Omloop Hoeksche Waard 2013: A Race is a Race is a Race!

My annoying alarm didn’t take no for an answer. All I could see through my weary eyes, after the third snooze, was 6:25am. In a last desperate search for an excuse, I looked at the light creeping through the folds on my bedroom curtains. Nope, no rain, it was sunny. Crap, no excuses, in less than three hours it was going to be a fact – Omloop Hoeksche Waard 2013.

I consider myself a morning person, I think it is more of a ‘not-wanting to waste half the day’ person; I still like sleeping in and I hate alarm clocks. A renaissance is the best way to describe any of my mornings.  As I strolled into the living, room, my neatly packed race bag from the night before, and my fresh racing clothes waiting for me on the couch reassured me one thing – a racer is never a quitter. All of a sudden the adrenaline rush gave me that familiar feeling – RACE DAY!

Energetically eating my breakfast, I caught a glimpse of one of my housemates’ friends staggering to the bathroom after a night of partying, so that is what normal people do on a Saturday morning? Oh well.

My race bike was waiting poised and ready. When I slammed the trunk of my car shut and entered the address in the GPS, the estimated arrival time was giving me a sign of worry – 8:30, only 45min to pick up my number, change and get my bike ready. For the hundredth,no millionth time I said to myself: Snoozing; NEVER again.

Thankfully most ‘normal’ people do not get into a car and go drive to the middle of nowhere on a Saturday morning, so without even going close to the speed limit the GPS kept ticking off minutes of my arrival time -1,2,3…7! Now I was in business.

The Start
The Start

The sun was finally starting to make its presence known. In one of those picturesque Dutch villages with the name of Puttershoek it was a gathering of likely minded people. Cars, bikes, wheels and shaved legs glistening in the morning sunshine.

Race anxiety was kicking in. How many layers? Where should I keep my food; middle pocket or the side? Wind vest or no??? Is it going to rain?!?!?!? Should I go to the bathroom one more time????!?!?!?

Although I am usually one of the first at the start, however, this time with 15min to go the peloton was ready and lined up and the jury was calling my name in the speakers to go sign up the start sheet. I’ll start in the back, can’t be too bad…I guess.

The start shot echoed in the cold windy morning and we made our way into the neutralization zone – 1km of pure anxiety and nervousness. The red flag of the pilot car waved above the colorful sea of helmets and it was on. If you know the feeling when a pilot floors the throttle on the plane just at the beginning at takeoff. Well that is what happened. As the peloton snaked through the narrow and beaten up farm roads, all of a sudden one realization crept up into my head. The guys at the front had a clear shot at every corner while the rest of us in the rear kept stretching back and forth every 2minutes and having to claw back to the main group. The crosswinds were doing the damage. The fatigue in my legs was starting to make itself known. Every acceleration was blowing up a fuse in my legs. The numb pain demanding I settled down. No such thing, the pace was hovering between 47-52kph (30-32mph). Almost unnoticeable the evil Dutch wind had already taken its toll and small groups were forming down the road. Regroup or never make it to the finish – one of the unwritten rules of cycling. With only a few words uttered we stretched diagonally across the road taking turns protecting each other from the relentless crosswind. One by one dropped riders kept joining our group. We were working together.

The Winding Course
The Winding Course

The kilometers kept ticking away and it was the same familiar faces putting their nose in the wind while the majority were just there for the free ride. I didn’t care, I was there to race across that finish line, so I was going to do my part and more! With 70 kilometers out of the 95 gone the neutral cars behind us were getting impatient and were trying to make their way past us on the narrow road. Than the impossible happened. As if someone pulled up a switch and all 30 riders in the group stopped racing, the pace dropped to a casual weekend coffee ride???

In disbelief I exchanged some words with a cyclist at the front. The caravan had passed us so it was over. Are you friggin kidding me?????!?!?!? Are you serious?!?!?!? After 2 hours with 20-25min to go you are going to quit????

It is always easy to quit, fortunately, 2 other cyclist and myself said: “Screw it were going to cross that line. A race is a race is a race.”

Easier said than done. On a course without a single straight line, and the neutral cars far ahead of us, where do you go??? In such a small group after 2hours of racing the fatigue was a tough mistress. As we kept making our way we finally saw the back of the caravan. I had to jump through the openings in the barricades as the race volunteers were sealing off the road? You are not letting racers pass, seriously???

As I crossed the finish line I was relieved, I made it, I finished my first road race!!! And I was angry, I was FUMING. Although I finished 10-15min after the winners, I was so mad at the organizers and race volunteers. They were already tearing down the race venue and all the police motorcylclists were casually chatting. With the PRO race only an hour away this was unacceptable. This is a race where you have responsibility towards the participants, to at least mark the course, you can chew the rag with your friends any other time.

I was too tired for this, I did what I set out to do. As I sat down I looked down at the layer of dust on my tights and peeled of the sweaty layers of my back I realized this was the toughest 2:20hours I have ever done on a bike. The cliché: “It never gets easier, you just get faster” hit me like a wet slap in the face. This is what it is all about, this is why I wake up in the morning; so I can look back at the guy I was yesterday and see that I am a better, stronger person today!

Omloop Hoeksche Waard 2013 – 2:21h 297W Avg/310W xPower, a horrible organization, and a memory forever.


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