Friday, 13 August 2010

This is Kermis (part 1 of my Belgian oddesy)

Bows, Belgium and the b-twin bidon curse part 1

Well it’s been an exciting week! An intrepid band of 3 of us set off on Friday for sunny Belgium. We loaded up the corsa and rolled from my house at the disgustingly uncivilized hour of 5.45am in order to make it in time for a good 45 mins of nose to tail 4th cat driving on the M25 and the insuing rush to make the ferry on time. I’m sure you want to hear all about the excitement of our ferry journey/car trip but I’ll leave you with the plot summary: we got to Belgium.
Having arrived we decided to stock up on waffle based products and speculoos (it’s a spread which tastes like ginger biscuits, a little teaspoon of heaven). We put away some serious calories before heading over to the café where the Kermesse began. We arrived 2 hours early, arriving early is frowned upon in Belgium so we laid low for a while but we were quickly found out by the local wandering alcoholic who insisted on escorting us to the bar, where we dutifully signed on. All apart from Matt that is who had decided no to bring his racing abroad letter, fortunately thanks to the benefits of my netbook and standing under a large oak tree we could scam free wifi from someone’s house (bdgag in Roselare – thank you very much). Thus, having arrived 2 hours early we very quickly found ourselves 20 minutes before the race, matt having just signed on scott and I pinning on his number and none of having done anything approaching a warm up. Luckily I had bought enough caffeine to compensate for any errors in preparation and arrived at the start line ready to go off the front, or piss like a racehorse depending on the length of the briefing. Luckily it was mercifully short and I spent most of it courting the local teenage female population trying to fins someone to hold my bottle. Luckily a gentleman of pensionable age stepped into the breech insisting “she can not do it, I can do it”. Realistically I didn’t expect to see my bottle again!
And with that we were away, not ten seconds into the race and there were guys flying past me on the pavement (sidewalk if you’re ‘murican). The other lads hadn’t raced in Belgium before but I had warned them about this, I looked down and noted that my wattage was alarmingly high my legs hurt and I felt like I was going to be sick. I assumed the pain face and kept it on for the next three hours.
Around 60 km into the race Matt rolled into a break and in true Belgian style I sat up and let it roll away, refusing to do a tap on the front. A chasing group went across and, seeing number 69 go up the road I realized I couldn’t leave a dude who was clearly having awesome luck that day out there on his own, so I bridged, along with one of his teammates. They were both from a lotto feeder team and didn’t have anyone up the road so I expected some stalwart work from them. I got on the front and proceeded to leather it at an entirely unsustainable pace, as I came into the finish straight the announcer was becoming audibly aroused by the situation. Having informed him about my diabetes before the race, my secret was out and he announced to the assembled crowd (and you can count on 300+ locals drinking in the bars around the course or playing on the assembled fairground rides) “Der diabetic english oop der weg” (the English, diabetic guy is up the road(or something resembling those words, my flemmish isn’t exactly fluent. Given the hearty support he was giving me I decided to stay on the front until the next corner, where I commenced flapping my arm like a one winged bird trying to take off. Apparently in Belgium this is the signal for “continue sucking my wheel like a limpet” as neither rof the boys came through. Seeing the break up the road I jumped and buried it, the others sat on and, the moment I looked over my left shoulder one of them galloped away to the right (on the pavement) pursued by his mate about 15 seconds later.
I decided to return to the bunch where much the same combination of refusing to work and the attacking like the mongol hordes (often catching unsuspecting spectators in the middle of the bunch) continued. I contributed to this, making at least one move on the wrong side of the deckchairs just to feel like one of the gang.
With about 20k to go I was hanging pretty badly and the race was severely strung out at 52kph, I was just beginning to think about whether I could finish when I witnessed my grandfather-like soigneur figure approaching the course, I remember thinking I’ll never get a bottle off him at this speed. The next lap saw us going even faster as the break returned and the top 30 riders were on the rivet around all the corners. We were riding the straightest fastest par tof the course when grandpa appeared again, only this time he was in the middle of the road screaming “bidon” in a very insistent manner. Not wanting him to have risked his life in vain I chinned it out of the line (I’d like to point out that I hit my highest wattage all race at this point) and stuck out my hand expecting the worst, but no, despite travelling in excess of urban speed limits I took the bottle (and nearly dislocate dmy other shoulder in the process) and received shouts of encouragement from my benefactor. The flat coke was just what I needed, sadly when I threw my other bidon it may have connected with the display window of a local vendor, we didn’t go back to check, I didn’t need a lynching on top of the pain my legs were feeling.
At some point 14 guys had minced away from the bunch unnoticed by most of us so the last 2 laps were spent accusing other teams of not working to bring them back. It occurred ot us that a sprint was in the offing (they pay 20 deep) and Matt and I had nothing more to give after our breakaway frivolities. I decided to compensate for my lack of sprint by pretending I was on a motorbike and lurching up the inside making barrrrrrrp noises and pressing on my navigator as if I were having engine troubles. Clearly the chap next to me was in a place of deep suffering and found this most unamusing, I know this because he spat on me. Anyway young scott, our companion for the trip who we bouth assumed had been dropped appeared and announced his intention to sprint. He made his way to the front and, following my advice from earlier took a unique route around some traffic furniture, opened a gap and held out from the main bunch for 19th and 10 euros – chapeau!

The alcoholic and grandpa came over to congratulate us in the traditional flemmish way, by anointing us with cigar smoke. Suitably knackered we limped back to the car, de kitted and took our numbers back for the 5 euro reimbursement (the race only cost 8 euros to begin with). Having dined well from one of the many barbecued wurst stands surrounding the course we departed to the house of our friend Cynthia who was hosting us.
Sadly the autoroute was 100% stationary but, given our excessive guarna consumption we weren’t going to let this bother us. Apparently they aren’t familiar with ghost riding in Belgium, or they weren’t until last weekend. I think it’s lucky we had bikes on the car, otherwise they might have just thought we were foreigners……

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