I’ve been in Belgium for a week now (writes Josh Cunningham), but to be honest I feel like I’ve never been away with the same routines already re-emerging into the day.
It is really good to feel like a full time racing cyclist again as after months of spreading myself thin over winter, all I have to think about is riding my bike.
I arrived a week past Tuesday, the 1st of March, which was simply a date plucked out of the air to maximise winter earning time, but get here in time for the start of the season proper.
In the interests of my fuel tank, and therefore bank balance, I managed to drive all the way at 50mph.
It proved quite the mental toughness test; resisting the eagerness to get there in order to save an apparent 30% of my tank!
I arrived at about half past two in the afternoon, spending the rest of the day getting as settled as I could, before a nostalgic trip to the ‘Colruyt’ supermarket, dinner, and a DVD.
The following day was my first full day in Belgium, and no time was wasted in getting on with what I’m here for!
I tagged along with my house mates, all of the VL Technics team, who were meeting up with the rest of their team mates for a recon of the big early season opener Vlaamse Pijl.
It was a five and a half hour effort over the Vlaamse Ardennen, which took in eight (categorized) climbs, about half of them being cobbled.
However, I do stress that most Belgian roads may as well be uncategorized cobbled ones though, they are that bad!
The following few days were spent establishing the routine, with some added productivity on last year in bread making, vegetable patch cultivating and a good deal more writing, I’m pleased to say.
Sunday gone marked my first race of the year, and moreover first competitive action for five months!
In all honesty it felt quite peculiar getting ready, and as an added rarity I actually felt a bit nervous.
It was quite local, in Lierde, so I rode there, and was more than happy to see Ken Hashikawa of the Eurasia team whom I guest rode for at the end of last year, with this year’s batch of Japanese racing expats.
After a nervous start from the 160 strong bunch, I quickly determined that my condition is a lot better than this time last year, and come three laps to go I managed to get into a group that was chasing the leaders.
With two laps to go we caught them to make a lead group of about 20.
One lap to go and my heart sank as my front tyre was relieved of its air by a stray flint, and I clambered into the broom wagon.
A frustrating start to the racing year, but at least the legs seemed to have remembered their primary function.
Yesterday was race day number two, in Gooik, and I can honestly say I have never been dirtier in a race.
I rode the 30km there, then the 115km of the sodden thing.
After two hours of trying to get away, I ran out of steam and just finished in the bunch, very glad to be done with it, but not so glad about the 30km ride back home.
Right now I’m praying to escape yesterday without getting ill, and looking forward to Saturday for race number three.
Like I said – back in the routine.