I wish I’d given it a go; pals Dave, Ivan, Viktor and VeloVeritas Editor Martin all did – save up your dough over the winter, take the ferry, doss in the cold little room in Gent.
The ride out in the rain to the kermis, change in someone’s parlour, the inevitable punctures and kickings, the phone call home from a payphone on Sunday night . . .
But at least they tried it.
Carrying on the tradition is ‘our man’ Michael Nicholson, but the kickings are getting less and less as he starts his third serious Flatlands Campaign.
How did 2013 go – which were the rides you were happiest with, Michael ?
“I went alright early season; I was happy with how I rode in the Tour of the North and the Rutland. But I contracted food poisoning the week after Rutland and never really came back from it.
“I stupidly never gave myself enough time to recover as I felt I couldn’t afford the time off.
“It turns out I just humped myself and wasted most of the rest of the season – you live and learn.”
Your 2012 Geofco-Ville d’Algeres team – tell us about it, please; did the African stage race programme come to pass ?
“It was a bit disorganised, I wasn’t expecting that, it threw me and I ended up getting a bit ‘down’ at the end of the season with personal money problems.
“I had to go home early.
“As for the promised African programme, I never did any races there and I think they only did the Tour of Morocco.”
Flanders for 2013 – why that team ?
“They’re local to where I was staying.
“They have a long history of helping foreign riders, they ride good races and have lots of helpful people on hand.”
Doltcini are second sponsor – tell us about them.
“Doltcini is a clothing manufacturer making club kits and team kits.
“It’s the new name for Geofco, but it’s a much better set up this year, way more organised.”
Baguet are third sponsor – is that Serge Baguet ?
“Yes Serge Baguet, the ex-professional rider.
“I’m not sure how much he is going to be involved – his bike shop (Baguet Bicycle Centre) is one of the sponsors.
“Having his name involved with the team should help with invites to races.”
Who’s DS, and is there back up – mechanic, soigneur ?
“There are a few DS – Luc Assez from Asfra, Walter Maes (previously with ISD-Lampre Continental, Colba Continental and ISD Sport Donetsk) and Thierry (Barny) Descamps.
“As far as I know we have a full time soigneur and a race day mechanic.”
How does the programme look ?
“I’ve only seen March and the start of April but it’s packed with UCi 1.2 and 1.1’s.
“There are no stage races yet but I was speaking to Walter, who is doing most of the programme planning and he has been looking at trying to get us into a few.”
Tell us about the hardware please – frames, groupsets, tyres ?
“The finishing kit is Jazz which is an accessories brand owned by Flanders Fietsen.”
Where will you be staying in Belgium ?
“I’m staying at a team house in Oudenaarde with Jake Tanner and Jim Bryan (mechanic and British masters cyclo-cross champ last year).”
How has your winter training gone ?
“It’s been different, the track changed a lot of what I did up until the end of the year.
“I’m back doing normal road training now and it’s been going well.”
How much of a difference has Glasgow track made ?
“It made a big difference to my training to the Christmas period. I found it hard to combine hours on the bike with the quality stuff at the track. I didn’t want to go to the track tired and waste the time but didn’t want to miss too many hours.
“I cut the hours quite a bit to start with but now I’m just doing road. I was missing my usual weekend runs. I usually go out on a Saturday with David Gibson and his gang – that’s a hard workout.”
You were fourth in the British Madison Champs with James McCallum – any ‘what ifs’ ?
“Nope ! The top three were well clear.
“But I kind of wish I could have got my own bike when I started riding the track so I could get comfortable. That always helps. Scottish Cycling lent me a bike – it was a bit small but did the job.
“I’m thankful for their help as I wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise.”
At the British road race, you mentioned your weight to me – have you worked at bringing that down, over the winter ?
“Normally I put a bit on at the start of winter and lose it on the run in to the early season.
“But this year I stayed lighter all winter, but didn’t go too low to avoid illness.
“I’m bringing it down now and planning to go lighter than before.”
I know you’d like to ride the Commonwealth Games – do you keep the selectors abreast of your performances ?
“No, but if I get any UCI points I’ll be telling Graeme Herd!” [the Scottish National Coach]
What’s your take on the Lance/Rabo/UCI mess ?
“I think its a good thing, but in the long run I don’t see anything changing.
“The same questions will be being asked in ten years just with different people involved.
“All areas of our society are corrupt due to selfish folk driven by want for money and ‘success’.
“All you can do is to make choices you can live with and enjoy what you do.”
Was ‘kitting up‘ something you’re conscious of in the races you rode ?
“Yes, it’s actually quite obvious to see who does and doesn’t cheat.
“But there’s nothing I can do about it so I just concentrate on what I’m doing.
“I enjoy what I do even if it can be frustrating when you think about it sometimes.”
What tips do you have for those intending to follow your footsteps ?
“Go young and learn the lingo as soon as you can – the longer you leave it, the harder it is.
“Expect drama, race hard and let people help because you can’t do it alone! And keep a blog.” [We can help any budding kermis riders with that part – Editor.]
Your third year in Belgium – what’s the goal ?
“Keep enjoying it, race hard and try to improve on last year – and don’t crack !”
VeloVeritas wishes Michael every success for 2013.
Michael's Race Programme, Part I
Le 27/02 : Le Samyn BEL 1.1
Le 02/03 : Ster van Zwolle NED 1.2
Le 10/03 : Dorpenomloop Rucphen NED 1.2
Le 10/03 : Kattekoers (Deinze-Ieper) BEL 1.2
Le 10/03 : Omloop Waasland BEL1.2
Le 13/03 : Nokere Koerse BEL 1.1
Le 15/03 : Handzame Classic BEL 1.1
Le 29/03 : Route Adélie FRA 1.1
Le 31/03 : Val d’Ille FRA 1.1
Le 04/04 : GP Cerami BEL 1.1
Le 09/04 : Challenge Khouribga (1.2) MAR (en attente)
Le 10/04 : Challenge Youssoufia (1.2) MAR (en attente)
Le 11/04 : Challenge Ben Guerir (1.2) MAR (en attente)
Le 14/04 : GP Donetsk UKR 1.2
Le 20/04 : Arno Wallaard Memorial NED 1.2
Le 21/04 : Rutland Melton Classic GBR 1.2
Le 26/04 : Skive Lobet DEN 1.2
Le 27/04 : Himmerland Rundt DEN 1.2
Le 28/04 : Destination Thy DEN 1.2
Le 04/05 : Ronde van Overijssel NED 1.2
Le 05/05 : Circuit de Wallonie Fleurus BEL 1.2
Le 09/05 : Ronde van Limburg BEL 1.2
Le 11/05 : Scandinavian Race Uppsala SWE 1.2
Le 15/05 : Puivelde-Sint-Niklaas BEL
Le 18/05 : GP Criquielion BEL 1.2
Le 20/05 : Borsbeek BEL
Le 28/05 : Gullegem BEL
Du 30/05 au 01/06 : Tour of Estonia EST 2.1
Le 01/06 : Heist op den Berg BEL
Le 02/06 : Verrebroek BEL
Le 02/06 : Waver-Rijmenam BEL 1.2
Du 06/06 au 09/06 : Ronde de l’Oise FRA 2.2 (en attente)
Le 08/06 : Riga-Jurmala LAT 1.1
Le 09/06 : Jurmala LAT 1.1
Le 16/06 : Flèche Ardennaise BEL 1.2
Le 18/06 : Ruddervoorde BEL
Du 26/06 au 30/06 : Solidarnosc POL 2.1
Le 26/06 : IWT BEL 1.2