Belgium Boys (Part 1)

Posted: July 12, 2015 in News, Racing, Road

For two of the boys, this cycling adventure didn’t start as smoothly as they perhaps hoped.  40-hours door-to-door of travel isn’t the ideal preparation.  A delayed plane arriving meant a delayed departure; missing their connecting flight in Doha, being sent to Milan, having to wait there for two-more hours before hoping a plane to Brussells and arriving at the hotel around 3am (Belgium time) – more than 40-hours after leaving home to start the journey.

Filling in time in Doha airport… would make a nice team car, yes?

Maccie & Riley filling in time in Doha airport… now that would make a nice team car, yes?

Soon forgotten as they awoke to a beautiful sunny day, built their bikes and rolled to the Dutch boarder to spin the legs over.  Next day they were off to Oudenaarde to begin the Vertex Camp with 10 other kids – mainly from the USA and the UK.

Assigned rooms and unpacked all 13 went for a roll around the local area and started to get to know each other… so far so good.

13 kids + a few of the ride leaders all lined up and ready for a big three-weeks.

13 kids + a few of the ride leaders/coaches all lined up and ready for a big three-weeks.

Day two and Maccie had his first race – a 90km affair (10-laps of a 9km circuit) around Brakel… within riding distance of Oudenaarde.  While Maccie and the other juniors prepared to race, Riley and Mitch headed to the test their form on the famed Koppenberg… Riley takes up the story:

The koppenberg is a brute of a climb. The first day we went out to try it the weather was less than ideal. Typical Belgium, I have already learnt no matter the forecast always be sure to pack a rain jacket!  First time up Mitch and I went at it pretty hard, Nikki Terpstra’s strava KOM firmly set in our minds; how hard could it be to average 13km/h?

Mitch stomping up the Koppenberg…

Mitch stomping up the Koppenberg… Terpstra’s Strava record… not in danger!

Very hard is the answer.  As soon as you hit the mid section and it ramps up to over 20%, if you haven’t picked the right line and gear its going to be a tough walk up in cycling shoes. After successfully completing our first time up the Berg the rain started… however we were sure we could make the 5k loop back around before it got too bad!  By the time we were at the bottom we ran into a couple more Aussies who were pondering the best way to get over it in the pouring rain.  We all decided that massive speed and a big gear would be the best bet so with a good run up we were off.  Determined and drenched we hit the wall at a good speed, and after about 400m we wished we hadn’t. One thing that will be a life long lesson from this trip is that cobbles, steep hills and torrential rain aren’t a good mix.  

From there the two nieuwelingers headed to cheer on Maccie in his first Belgium kermesse.  Things started out ok, but pretty soon the rain that hit the Koppenberg, came to the reign havoc on the kermesse.  Over 100 riders on slippery roads with lots of road furniture isn’t a good mix.  Maccie reports he saw seven crashes, including one right in front of him.  He says that the effort wasn’t significant – not as hard as racing Modella a couple of weeks before – but that position and riding in that big a bunch were the difficult parts… plus the rain of course!

The rain came down the race changed complexion very quickly.

The rain came down the race changed complexion very quickly.

He was the second best finishing Vertex junior and is shown in the results to finish 59th out of 74 finishers with over 30 DNFs.  Not a bad start to the trip!

A rest day meant a trip to the market, some lunch and then a roll to Roubaix… just 35km from where they’re staying.  There were goosebumps riding the cobbles leading into the famous Roubaix velodrome.

Fresh from the local market… salmon with salad some bread and cheese… lunch of champions!

Fresh from the local market… salmon with salad some bread and cheese… lunch of champions!

Another rest day and nerves were starting prior to the weekend of racing.  A recce of the course, check of the bikes and early night before Riley and Mitch’s first race and Maccie’s second.

Race day arrived: all the boys were racing an event called Herzele-Borsbeke, which is the town that’s closed off to stage the event.  A 7.7km circuit with rolling closure and a finish in the main street which was fully closed and fenced.  Riley and Mitch has 9-laps (61.6km) with Maccie 12-laps (92.4km).  It was a rolling course with some leg sapping pinches.

Riley takes up the commentary of the race (text via Belgium cycling news article):

After a slightly nervous start due to the fact I had a camera stuck on my bike, we got underway for what would be my first race in Belgium. Mitch and I saw this Herzele as a chance to learn what we could do in our first race. However on the second-lap, after testing my legs up the climb, I found myself along with Mitch off the front and almost to the early break of two locals.  For the next two laps we all worked well together and established a lead of up to a minute, however in the last two laps the others in the group seemed to be hurting so Mitch and I had to do a lot of the work.  Coming into the last lap the field had closed the gap down to thirty-seconds, however Mitch and I worked hard until we knew we would stay away. After being attacked by Lars about 1km from the line, I closed him down and caught him coming into the final corner only to have Yorgo attack out of the corner.  However I was able to close him down and with Mitch on my wheel we came around him for a 1-2 for Australia in our first race.  Couldn’t be happier with the result and I’m looking forward to the next few races. Thanks to everyone who made the race possible and the other riders for a hard fought race.

Riley and Mitch on the podium after their 1-2 in their very first Belgium kermesse.

Riley and Mitch on the podium after their 1-2 in their very first Belgium kermesse.

Cycling is a big deal in Belgium!

Cycling is a big deal in Belgium!

Maccie and the other Vertex Juniors (under-19s) continued the momentum for the visitors with four of the boys finishing in the top-25 (in the second group) with Maccie in 24th.

Interestingly there were two other under-17 races and three other under-19 races on nearby with all of them attracting 50 of more riders… on Sunday there are five under-17 races on within a 150km radius!

Hopefully we’ll hear more from the boys as the racing and living in Belgium continues.

  1. Belgians better start coming out here for some hard racing

  2. Jeanette Berwick says:

    How awesome were they& what a wonderful experience, well done boys , keep the flag flying for OZ

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