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Tag: Belgian Races
When I get calls from both of our men who trawl the Belgian palmares websites – Vik and Dave – in the one day about a performance, I know it must be a good ride. Michael Nicolson’s 14th place in the tough GP Stad Zottegem over 182 kilometres behind Slovenian hard man Blaz Jarc (NetApp-Endura) with Vacansoleil duo Wouter Mol (The Netherlands) and 2012 Paris-Tours winner Marco Marcato (Italy) third and fifth respectively, certainly falls into that category.
VeloVeritas & Co. always tries to keep an eye on what’s happening in the Heartland of Flanders. If it’s not Vik, then it’s Dave who tips us of about who’s burning up the kermises – the name of 23 year-old Australian Luke Davison caught his eye with back to back kermis wins.
One of the biggest professional kermises in Flanders is the Gullegem Koerse, first held in 1942 when Belgian legend Marcel Kindt claimed victory. Since then it’s been won by many of the hardest kermis riders in the game – Willy Tierlinck, Wilfried Nelissen, Nico Eeckhout, Gert Omloop to name a few. Not to mention some of the best roadmen of their eras; including Nico Mattan, Peter Van Petegem and Philippe Gilbert. And for this year’s edition we can boast of a Scottish winner in Andy Fenn – well, his mum is Scottish and he rode the Commonwealth Games for us in Delhi.
With our Flatlands boys Douglas Dewey and Llewellyn Kinch heading south to race in France for 2013 we decided we’d best have a word with Rayner Fund rider Joshua Cunningham to see what’s happening in Belgium?
Having had Michael Mørkøv’s take on de Ronde, we thought we’d chat to a man a bit closer to home about his experiences in what is at least in the top three of the world’s single day races – along with Milan-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix. The Tour of Flanders was one of the few races left on Russell Downing’s ‘to do’ list – but now he can wear the T-shirt.
We thought it would be good to speak to a man who was in the thick of the action at the Tour of Flanders last Sunday, across those cruel cobbles and over the brutal bergs. Step forward Saxo-Tinkoff’s Michael Mørkøv; team pursuit flyer, Six Day star, polka dot jersey wearer in the Tour de France, and Classics escape artist.
For 2013 the 29 year-old decided to go back to the drawing board; train using the methods which worked so well for 2009 and join a team where the ratio of chiefs to Indians suited his perception of how a team should be built. The surprise for observers came in the team he chose – new Swiss Pro Continental squad, IAM.
So this is my first blog post from across the pond aka stateside aka the USA writes Dan Patten. Despite everything tending to be bigger here in the US, I intend to keep my blog postings shorter and more frequent this year (well this is the plan!). It's been a little over 3 weeks now since I took off from London Heathrow. A smooth flight to Philadelphia was followed by some airport time before another flight onto Greensboro, North Carolina...
Dan Patten has been a regular blogger on our site over the years. Dan came late to cycling, a talented runner but a niggling injury saw him turn to the bike. His first race was in July 2006, it took him 10 races to get his first win. We’ve always respected his single mindedness in pursuing his ‘Flatlands Dream’ – but for 2013 it’s ‘all change’ for the man from Essex.
VeloVeritas and chums were over at the Belgian season opening Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne Brussels Kuurne semi-classics. Unfortunately the latter was cancelled but we still snapped away – here’s a selection of our favourite images from the weekend.
I wish I'd tried it; pals Dave, Ivan, Viktor, and our 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...
Our man with his finger on the Flanders pulse, Vik, first tipped us off about this gentleman at the end of the 2011 season. Llewellyn Kinch was getting up there on the Belgian results websites and onto Vik’s radar. Here are the background questions we asked, from the end of the 2011 season.
It was back in the spring when we last spoke to Douglas Dewey; he’d just won Gent-Staden, the first big race on the Belgian amateur calendar. Since then he’s ridden a very varied programme, including stage races in France and Belgium, hard fought kermises, a silver medal in the British Elite TT Championships and bronze in the British Pursuit Championship.
It was Vik (for those who don't know, our pal pedalled the hard roads of Belgium in his day, still trains hard and is our outspoken elder statesman, observer and 'critic in chief') who was first to spot the Kiwi’s potential as his name edged up the results in the heartland's kermises. So the call came; ‘you should be talking to that Manchester laddie, Jack Cousins, he’s doing well!’
Time again for an update as this 2012 season in Belgium continues. Yet again the consistency has continued but also now I can happily say that consistency has been rewarded with some wins. Victories have been near all year but found myself just missing out. However with three wins and one overall classement win in two weeks, I have finally been able to enjoy that sweet feeling of success again. It was simply about keeping the faith knowing that it was only a matter of time before the persistence paid off.
Dan Patten. So its been way too long since my last posting. Since that mid-April time post, my race schedule has increased, my condition also (always a satisfier) whilst the weather like much of europe has continued to be mixed. However with nice spells of nice, sunny belgium days, the good weather has outweighed those bad days....just! We'll get the real low point of these past months out the way first and that came on my return to the UK for the National Championships, which certainly did not go to plan.
So last time I was posting here on the Dan Patten Blog about the great weather we were experiencing in Belgium at that time. Unfortunately the sun has gone and the rain has returned. Clearly 20 degrees+ in March was a treat. I'm hoping a treat that returns soon.
Scotland’s Michael Nicholson was in fine form for the four stage Tour of the North, held over the Easter weekend in Ireland. He took eighth in the stage one prologue, seventh on stage two, won stage three and was 11th on stage four to give him a final second on GC behind Velo Veritas regular, James Moss (Node4-Giordana).
It seems as if English pro James Spragg’s luck has finally turned. After a crash blighted 2011 and the all too typical broken pledges regarding a contract for 2012, Spragg has finally put pen to paper for Algerian/Belgian Continental team, Geofco Ville D’Alger.
So it's been a fairly quiet start of the season for me, but I can say now on the Dan Patten Blog that things are underway. A blood test here in Belgium revealed lower iron levels, which most likely explains my lethargic start to the new year.
Francesco Chicchi (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) started his season well with two stage victories at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina in February and the opening road Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen last week, and he continued his great form with a superb sprint victory in Nokere - Koerse 2012 today
Vik's latest nod to us is regarding an Englishman, Douglas Dewey. Douglas won the British U23 time trial championships last season, but the other week he pulled off a major win in Belgium-Gent Staden, the first major amateur classic of the year.
It's the 'Belgian Opening Weekend'; Het Volk used to be a cult race, the teams would line up in the street just up from the Kuipke velodrome. The first team to set up would be the late Frans Assez’s Flanders squad — no flash bus or trucks, just a ‘Luton’ style van...
Sep Vanmarcke instigated the main splits of the day in the Het Nieuwsblad 2012, survived the many crashes on the slippy roads, rode strongly in the breaks and the final winning move, foxed and feigned heavy legs beautifully in the last couple of kilometres and finished the day with a fine accelerating power-sprint win over Tom Boonen and Juan Antonio Flecha.
'First race today, took it pretty easy, finished 14th - feel good.' Yes, Hamish Haynes is back to start his 10th season in the flatlands. No World Class Performance Plans, no Lottery funding, just hard graft and dedication. Haynes came late to sport but has been racing and winning in the Flanders since 2003.
Erick Rowsell is a name which seems to have been around for a long time; maybe because he was winning British medals five years ago-in 2007 he took bronze in the junior road race and individual pursuit as well as gold in the junior time trial.
Belgian professional Gorik Gardeyn’s name has been a familiar one in the European peloton for over a decade – but for season 2012 he’ll be signing on for events on the other side of the globe, as well as the ‘old continent.’ The 31 year-old has just signed for Chinese Pro Continental team Champion System.
George Atkins was a name that suddenly appeared on the Scottish scene back in the summer. And on Sunday the versatile man from Leicester took silver in the British U23 Time Trial Championships, but before his foray into the world of riding 'alone and unpaced', he spent six weeks in Flanders, so naturally we needed to have a word with him, not long before the British Champs.
So I've been meaning to put together a blog post of my latest experiences of life here in Flanders. This season has certainly had its ups and downs, but all this seems rather irrelevant after the events of this week. Cycling indeed has its fair share of tragedies and the death of Wouter Weylandt in Stage 3 of the Giro this year is another one added to that list.
Participation in cycle racing, like any other sport, is a constantly changing cycle of highs and lows, and the graph of peaks and troughs is also as fragile as it is changeable. This is an aspect of the lifestyle I lead which at first I found hard to take, but now I see as just that; an aspect of the lifestyle that simply needs to be dealt with. The last time I wrote I was just beginning my Belgian campaign for the 2011 season, and it seemed like things were going well, which they were.
The phone rings, it's Vik; "Why haven't you spoken to that Wade Mangham boy? He's getting round all right in Flanders." In line with VeloVeritas policy of trying to keep abreast of who's 'up and coming' in the Flatlands, we tracked young Mr. Langham down - here's what he had to tell us about dodgy club presidents, Shane Archbold's mullet - and he has a chat with his bottle cages.
Dwars door Vlaanderen saw the re-birth of Nick Nuyens (Belgium & Saxo Bank) as winner; for those who know their Spring Classics it branded him as a potential Ronde winner - and so it proved. However, on the same day on similar roads, the Under 23 version of the race, the 'GP Waregem' saw another young Briton take an important step up the ladder with an excellent win over the cream of Flanders' young cycling talent, Dan McLay.
A few years ago, Vik and I were hanging over the barriers at a Friday night kermis near Gent; ex-pro Tony Bracke was Hoovering up the primes but one of the Kingsnorth Wheelers guys was catching our eye, Christopher Macic.
Our pal Viktor has been hard at work; it's not everyone who could do his job, those long hours huddled over a computer screen, day in, day out - checking those Belgian cycling results websites. Lifting his head only to make another coffee ("sometimes my fingertips tingle with the caffeine"), or to phone me; "Ed, there's a boy you should be talking to..."
Back in the heartland and my season is officially underway. It's great to be back racing and despite a disrupted winter the body is feeling surprisingly sprightly. I have defied the norm these past few months. From having much of the winter off the bike with an achilles injury, to starting the season (albeit a little later than originally planned) with testing figures that are higher than could have imagined six weeks previous.
I've been in Belgium for a week now, 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.
Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2011 used to be the 'revenge match' for Gent-Gent (Het Nieuwsblad); after poor showings in Saturday's race, QuickStep usually rode on Sunday with great panache to salvage the weekend-they did this with Nuyens in '06, Boonen in '07 & '09 and brilliantly with de Jongh in '08.
The issue of weather for Het Nieuwsblad 2011 (or Gent - Gent as the locals still call it) is a dichotomy: if it's wet it's a proper man's race but you get frozen and soaked whilst spectating; but if it's a nice day and you're not near-death when you stumble into your favourite bar to watch the finale then you end up watching 100-plus riders contesting the finish.
On a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in Gent, Rabobank's Sebastian Langeveld took the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2011 victory by inches from breakaway partner Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky Procycling and the winner last year), with another Sky rider Matt Hayman third.
We're in Flanders for Het Nieuwsblad 2011 and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but first there are mechanics to annoy, bars to visit and bergs to climb. Donna Summer, Barry White, The Real Thing - and even a bit of Joe South; three pils for €5.40 and all the smoke you can handle - cigarettes and cigars - The Vivaldi, it's a proper bar. 'We won't kick the backside out of it, tonight,' says Dave on Thursday; but the pils was cold and smooth, the soul and disco flowed... we got to bed at 03:45 with all of Scottish Cycling and the UCI's problems sorted out.
So I thought it was about time I posted another Dan Patton Blog update, I've been rather quiet of late and the reason being quite simply there's not been much to talk about. I've been plagued by misfortune after misfortune this winter which ironically gave me lots more time to update the blog, yet I was short of anything really interesting to say - until now that is...
Now, if anyone was thinking of doing so, think long and hard before driving to Antwerp and back in a day, because the job in hand is just that-long and hard! Saturday gone was the date of my team presentation, or Ploegvoorstelling, so with the company of my girlfriend we took on the 500 mile round trip to meet and greet with team mates, sponsors, press, and the obligatory random Belgian cycling fanatics at the team café, St Barts, in Merksem, Antwerp.
Hello. I suppose I had better start with an introduction! My name is Josh Cunningham, I am 20 year old, and for two years I have committed myself to the formidable task of "making it", in the world of professional cycling, or at least get as far as I can possibly go in realising these utopian dreams.
I knew that Ian Whitehead had finally gone native when I received the email to inform me that his mail address no longer ended in "dot uk" but in "dot be"-that was the last link with the 'old country' gone. However, English Christmas pudding was consumed on the 25th-so there are still links to the 'old ways,' despite what he says. Ian is one of the men behind Kingsnorth Wheelers, the Belgian Team with an English name that's been home to so many good Commonwealth riders over the years...
Callum Gough is a life member of Liverpool Century but races now as a vet for Onimpex Racing Team — back in the 80’s Gough’s name was one that appeared regularly in "the Comic" [Cycling Weekly] as a winner of road races both in the UK and on the continent.