Belgium Boys – Maccie’s home, the other’s are heading to Paris!

Posted: July 26, 2015 in News, Racing, Road
Tags: , , ,

Maccie arrived home last night and has written a terrific summary of his trip which I’ve posted below.

The other boys have headed to Paris to watch the final stage of the tour… and enjoy the odd crepe!  Riley and Mitch had their last race last night with a second to Riley, following home a new mate he made on the trip for a Vertex 1-2… nice way to finish!  Mitch got rolled-out at this race (something that apparently doesn’t happen too often over there) and unfortunately rolled over… so no racing for him.

Back to Maccie… enjoy the below read:

Here I am sitting on the plane in Brussels, waiting for my flight to take off.  It seems like yesterday that we arrived but wow what an amazing experience I have had.  After 19-days of staying in the caring hands of Gregg Germer (Chainstay) and Tim Redus (Vertex), I will take away an experience that I will never forget.  Racing in Europe has been my dream ever since I started watching Le Tour.

I knew the riding in Belgium was going to be hard, and it was!  The bunches where bigger, in one case over 170 U19 riders, and yes, the risk of crashes was higher.  I had my ups-and-downs over the 19-days but by far my greatest ‘up’ moment was a local club Kermesse in a small quaint town called Gavere, 15kms from Oudenaarde (my home for three-weeks and the finish for the famous Ronde Van Vlannderan).  It was at the end of my first week at Chainstay so the fatigue of racing three times a week hadn’t really hit by that stage.

Big bunches amongst the juniors meant very different racing than in Australia.

Big bunches amongst the juniors meant very different racing than in Australia.

I put up a short race report a few weeks ago, but for those that are interested, here is a slightly longer version:  It was a pretty overcast day, very misty and likely that there would be torrential rain again (classic Belgium weather).  I had some idea on Belgium racing having already raced two kermesses, but I didn’t know how my body would react to such an aggressive race the day before.

Having a crack… that's what it's all about!

Having a crack… that’s what it’s all about!

As we were lining up to get the whistle I was ¾ of the way down the field (not the best place to be), but as the whistle went I found my bearings and made my way towards the front.  At this point we hadn’t even finished the first lap but I felt that I could go with the break today (somehow I had great legs), as I was positioned about 8th wheel I was ready for the attacks to come thick and fast… and they did.  I found myself getting boxed in when the initial 11 man move went away and really couldn’t do anything for a good lap and a half, until I found myself 2nd wheel behind new friend and team mate Mateo Sanchez. As the road started to rise I made my move to close the one-minute gap (I thought I could bridge on my own, it was just a matter of kicking hard enough to not get the whole field on my wheel).

It took me 8.5kms to close the gap, but by the time I got there I couldn’t really recover seeing as the Belgians looked around and said in Dutch “who’s this kid and where did he come from?”, From there on I was marked by the Belgium’s, I guess not knowing who I was came as the biggest threat to my break away compatriots, as soon as I got to the break I knew who to mark and it came as no surprise, especially as he rode for Young Telenet Fidea Cycling Team (one of the biggest and strongest junior teams in Belgium).  His name, Eli Iserbyt – he is the current European and Belgian Cyclocross Champion and also current Belgian National Road Race Champion, anyway back to the race, as soon as I got to break I was ordered to start working straight away but with a break of 12 riders the turns weren’t very long which was comforting.

A kermesse - courses were between 6 and 11km long and usually included some hills as well as a pass through the hosting town.

A kermesse – courses were between 7 and 11km long and usually included some hills, some fields as well as a pass through the hosting town.

You could say positioning is key in the peloton to avoid crashes, flats etc but it’s even more important when you’re in a break, especially in Belgium, I was at the back having a gel when Eli and one other attacked, I didn’t even know until it was too late, I tried to do my soloing move again but my legs weren’t going to give a second time, that was race over for the win at least, we were now fighting for the podium, in the end it was a bunch sprint in the break and I just didn’t have the legs, rolling in 8th out of 95 riders, pretty exciting to make the break and then get top 10… couldn’t really ask for more at this point!

In Europe and especially in Oudenaarde racing is chaotic to say the least.  Big bunches, big teams, narrow roads and a lot of junior cyclists who want to win at all cost. The racing is a lot more aggressive than it is back at home, I think partly because of all the teams. I can’t even describe how many attacks there are and how vicious they are, they start at roll out and just when you think the race has settled down after a break away has been caught another rider will attack, it is relentless.

You either attack or you chase down attacks… Maccie chooses to ATTACK!

You either attack or you chase down attacks… Maccie chooses to ATTACK!

The biggest race we did was the Junior Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Interclub Club (IC), it was awesome and one I will never forget, 28 teams, 170 riders, neutral support, team trucks, you name it, it was there, it was real TDF stuff but for an U19 race! For me the race was not to be and I ended up with a disappointing result and not able to finish due to a crash at the 77 km mark, a summersault over another rider on the cobbles ended my race.  Crashes are bound to happen on the cobble sectors (this crash wasn’t my fault) but it is hard to take especially as it was a goal race for me and one I wanted to do well in. To make matters worse, two-days later, another big IC race and another crash that took out a third of the field and left the road blocked which meant that my race was over early again. But, that’s bike racing, it is a lot of hard work, with amazing moments and experiences mixed with a bit bad luck and some disappointment.

To market to market...

It hasn’t all been about racing, I managed to get out and have a few long rides with the team and catch up with some of the Australian NRS riders who are in Belgium at the moment.  We ate frits, watched a bit of the tour while it was still daylight while doing our core exercises and stretching.  It is amazing how quickly the time goes when you do three big races a week and how little spare time you really have.

Part of the fun of the camp was the exploring the Flanders region on bicycle.

Part of the fun of the camp was the exploring the Ardennes region on bicycle.

The camp has been hard, it has tested me physically and mentally, but I would go back in a heartbeat. A big thank you to Tim and The ChainStay, Alex Smyth for the lift to the airport and to CyclingDad for to opportunity to share my story, I hope that it might motivate you to get on a plane and race in Europe, because trust me, it is amazing.  

Race Schedule


Race Location


Distance (km)


Wednesday, 8 July 2015



90 km


Saturday, 11 July 2015



92.4 km


Sunday, 12 July 2015



95 km


Wednesday, 15 July 2015



98 km


Thursday, 16 July 2015



90 km


Sunday, 19 July 2015


IC – Nat

120 km


Tuesday, 21 July 2015


IC- Nat

111 km


Wednesday, 22 July 2015



96.6 km


Post script: We got home and 11.00pm last night and I had a ride this morning to try to clear the jet lag.  IT’S COLD!  I want to go back!

  1. Jeanette Berwick says:

    What a wonderful experience the boys have had & it has been great to read about it all. It has whetted their appetite for more of the same & im sure they will go onward & upward.

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