I’ve left a huge gap from our time in Europe. Main reason is the slow internet speed and my choosing to sleep rather than wait for downloads to complete. Sorry, priorities!
So after Beverbeek, we drove to France for the GP de Lilliers, 160km. This is the 44th year this race has been contested, it’s amazing how many races have been around for decades in Europe…anyway, this year found the boys on the start line in full rain gear and cold temps.
As usual, the hammer dropped just after the start and we came across a few crashes but luckily, none of our boys were left on the ground. But our luck wasn’t long lasting, one of our guys was involved in an early crash and had bent the derailleur hanger but still had decent shifting so wasn’t aware of anything until another scuffle, then he noticed poor shifting and called for the car. As we made our way foreward, we radioed to him that we were just behind him and when he looked back, the car he was following braked suddenly and he found himself immersed in their back window…I jumped out of our car and dove around various vehicles and riders to find our rider sitting on the berm with a dazed look on his face. I asked if he was hurt and he shook his head ‘no’, I checked him for cuts or other damage and found him to be relatively unscathed! Somewhat relieved, I helped him stand and escorted him to the car, strapped his bike on the roof and sloshed my way back to my seat and off we went, one rider down. At the finish, we had one guy in the top 30. The race began with 170 riders…it ended with 57.
Our next event was back in Belgium, the Wanzele Koerse. Another 160+km race this time 10 laps of a 16km loop. But unlike the norm, no rain! Still cold but 200 riders went at it from the gun and at just under 4 hours a Dutch guy took the day at over 42kph average speed. We had 3 guys finish to day.
A few days later the boys lined up at another Belgian race, the Omlop het Waasland-Kemzeke. Another 44th edition race of 191km. Better luck for us this time, 5 riders finished. Weather is typically Belgian and it was hard racing.
200 riders started, half finished. One of our riders dnf due to a last km mechanical…his headset bearings loosened so much that he had difficulty controlling the bike over cobbles and through corners. Seems we have some unusually loose cartridge bearings that will set up fine but will become loose when pounded over cobbles. This has been an on-going issue which took me some time to diagnose…luckily no one crashed or was hurt before I was able to get replacements installed.
Many thanks to the Industry friends who helped with this issue!!
Next up was the Nokere-Koerse, 197km over roads the boys have been training on for most of our time here. We even had an easy start as the boys rode 3km from our B&B to the start. Although the cold was not as harsh and the rain had ceased, a bit of hail let us know that things were still normal with the Belgian weather.
193 riders took the start and went at it like a weekend training ride…B O R I N G…the first 100km went by agonizingly slow, I had to pry my eyelids open at times to see if Steve was still awake at the wheel.
Eventually racing started and with the wind and course changes, broke apart big-time. Just about half the field finished.
A day later, we packed our bags and left Belgium for good (at least this season) and headed to our reason for coming to Europe….the Tour de Normandie! 7 days, 8 stages (yep, a double stage day in there), 1127km begining with a 5.8km prologue and incuded 4 days of 200+km stages…oh and the Belgian weather we had grown to loathe, followed us to France and stayed for the entire event!
To make a long story short, we had one rider come to Europe sick. Mostly sniffles and cough but he had a hard time staying in for an entire race and had no ‘go’ when he needed it. Since we were living in close quarters and eating together, most of the boys caught what he had and by the 7th stage we had no more riders competing.
We packed up and headed for Paris and our flight home.
We’ve all done some reflection on our time in Europe and how to improve what we do. I certainly miss Europe and really like being there, racing. I look forward to returning!
I get to go home for 9 days. Then back to Canada for 2 events before jumping the border into NY for Tour of Battenkill.
Anyone NY locals looking for experience??? Contact me and let’s get to work!