Best part of 200 riders, good crowds, the music playing, the beer flowing and the kermesse burgers cooking… all the elements of a typical kermesse here in Merelbeke, Belgium.
I made the point of being on the front from the start here, knowing like usual it would explode from the off and not wanting to be caught too far back when it did.
Not long into the first lap and I found myself in the first move off the front but this was to be pulled back only a few kms later. After a few laps in the bunch I thought it was time to try again.
Making good use of the bike path and the cobbles dividing the path from the road, again typical of racing in Belgium I was back at the front.
After getting off the front numerous times over the next few laps, the elastic finally split and I was away.
A group of 13 formed at the front and we worked well. There was never really any let-up in the speed… everyone was eager to make it work.
Primes came and went without too much disruption… most being more focused on staying out to the finish. : Maybe in England a group of this size, working as well as it did and building up a gap as it did, would have been home and dry however in Belgium it’s never over – especially when ‘kermesse kings’ Patrick Cocquyt, Tony Bracke and co. are chasing.
Still working well, I began to think about how I would play this one going into the last couple of laps… when would the right time to launch an attack be or to save it for the finale?
With everyone working well I knew going too early could be a mistake as it would be pulled back. As with many races here the break looked like it would go to the finish in one piece and the winner decided right at the death.
At that point everyone is tired having worked hard from start to finish and so it comes down to who plays it right and who has that extra bit when it matters. Going into the last few km’s we were still working hard and there was a lot more shouting… both signs that we were being hunted.
A little look behind and a group of 20 was on our heels. I jumped, hoping that there would be a slight relax in the groups as they formed into one but a few hundred metres later I was back.
This was going down to a sprint…
32 riders going for the win. I got myself towards the head of the pack within the last km but the race moved right and I found myself too boxed-in when the sprint really opened up.
There was no way through with the group spreading across the road. Cocquyt took the win, I placed 23rd. Maybe a little disappointed with the end position given the race I had, but content with the performance I gave in what was a real exciting race to be part of, so hard to be too disappointed.
The big result is definitely coming… if I’m constantly putting myself into these sorts of postitions it’s only a matter of time before it comes off – watch this space!
See you next time, Dan.