sometimes life throws you a bit of a bummer; today was the gullegem koerse, one of the most famous night time kermis races. as the ourse wa sonly 3k from my temporary home i headed out in the morning for a brief recconaisance, this turned into alengthly slog as i decided to visit wevelgem, the ride out was pleasant, the ride back, not so much. Funny what a 50kph wind will do to you! Anyway my course inspection revealed a 3k lap with more road furniture than an ikea superstore. i went back to the house and, in classic local style was presented with an extremely rare steak exactly four hours before the start and told to eat up, and eat i did!
After faffing about for a long time and covering myslef in liters of "warm up oil" which serves no purpose other than shinyness i headed over to the bar to sign on, get my number and scope out the oppo. then it was time to warm up. in my time honoured fashion i turned up late for the start to find 120 of my closest spandex covered friends waiting to ride around the narrow streets with me. It also seemed that we were going in the other direction to that which i had taken all my practice ronden. bollocks.
the family i was staying with had mobilised the whole street to come and cheer so i had something approaching local boy status. in belgium this mandates you to ride off the front like a crazy fool. so i commenced diving up the inside of every corner, slamming on the anchors and then sprinting out of them like a proper local hero. The Belgian style of racing is to pretty much drill it out of every corner after creeping through each turn and chopping everyone like a crazy samurai.
now as i mentioned the course included not one, not two but an impressive 5 speed bumps in a mere 3 kilometers, also we got to sample the delights of 3 traffic islands and two roundabouts. This, combined with the grossepremelist meant that 3 laps in, the field was down to 2/3rds of the starting size. gaps were opening up and people were crossing them full gas. After about 15k, amother gap opened as the bunch split around a marshal stood on a piece of road furniture. one of the flemmish cycling project guys was busy burying himself and paying close attention to his stem, he was so enamoured with his front wheel that he neglected to notice the impending lampost and slammed into it at 50kph, it looked fairly painful. It is important in Belgium to maintain an aloof demeanour so i made an effort not to bat an eyelid as we all silently rode past.
the race continued in the usual kermis fashion, balls out and then slowing right up into the corners. I made apretty spiritied move for the preme sponsored by our local bar, only to have a rapidly retreating rider slam into me, i spilled both my bottles and came perilously close to an intimate encounter with the crowd. i managed to keep it rubber side down. but the next 70 kilometers were not fun; having lost all my prolong i was seriously lacking in fluid and calories. Every lap i shouted for anyone to give me water. The family had cited themselves on the premeline and thus every lap we went past them full gas, no feeding there. Eventually i managed to pull a sly one, hopping up on the curb i grabbed a bottle from a lady who was not in any way expecting said bottle to be grabbed, cheeky but necessary! thankfully a lady i had talked to before the start took it upon herself to replenish my supplies. Still running only on water i was rolling some pretty low blood glucose levels. i wa sracing in a skinsuit so gel carrying capabilites were limited.
come the end of the kermis 2 groups had slipped away. I had some good tempo left in my legs so i kept trying to pull the group back but nobody would work. It seems the response to seeing someone on the front trying to get a chase going is to sit on mercilessly and then hop onto the curb and drill it. after 3 laps of this the flag was being waved. I managed to pull enough of a sprint out of my stripy arse for the 3rd bunch kick, which got me 5 euros and a smoked fish. i think the smoked fish was more of a consolation prize but it tasted good.
I'll be writing more on kermis culture later but that's all for now, it's about to start raining and the whole family is trying (and failing) to name ten famous Belgians.....