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.
The race is a UCI 1.1 and was first held in 1934.
It’s also known as the Dokter Tistaertprijs after the legendary figure – known as ‘The Father of the Young Flemish Riders’ – of the same name who as well as dispensing free medical care to young riders had a hand in the organisation of that first race back in 1934.
Jan Raas, Marc Wauters, Etienne de Wilde and Nico Eeckhout are all on the roll of honour – in other words; ‘not just any old race.’
We caught up with Michael soon after his cracking ride for an update on his ride and how things are where cycling isn’t just on dual carriageways – it’s in the soil.
Congratulations on Stad Zottegem, Michael; 14th and right in with the big guns – Jarc, Kluge, Marcato…
“Yeah, I crept away with about 80k to go with a group of 20 or so.
“I got away a couple of times near the end but cramped up due to lack of juice in my bottles – it was warm and the team only had water in the bottles, one bottle of sports juice for 200k isn’t enough!
“I did a shit sprint as my legs were twitching like mad and finished happy but annoyed.”
It must have been savage; there was a huge number of DNF?
“Yeah it was a fast race.
“The first hour was really fast (don’t know how fast as my Garmin fell off in a race and someone nicked it before I turned back!) and it split under the pressure but it all came back together.
“When we got away we really smashed it for an hour or so and by that point the bunch was seven minutes down and got pulled out by the commissars.”
How have the other palmares been for 2013?
“Rubbish, I’ve been mainly working for shit ‘sprinters’.
“The team is full of wannabe sprinters who end up two places in front of me after I’ve sat in the wind for hours.
“I recently decided they can get lost, so I’ve been riding for myself and only help guys I get on with.”
How has the team organisation been?
“The team is really well organised in terms of sending out emails.
“In terms of forward planning for who is doing what races they are useless.
“You never know what you are doing until a couple of days before – I didn’t know I was in Zottegem until 9:00 pm the day before.
“That makes it almost impossible to work training out.
“At the races they seem inexperienced and lacking resources so it’s reasonably frustrating.”
Are they good if you need clothing/equipment/race food?
“They started off good with kit but we got a new sponsor halfway through the year and only got enough made for one set of clothing each.
“The bikes have been a nightmare as loads of them have broken and replacements take ages – one boy had to ride a bike with a cracked head tube for a month before it got replaced.
“I’ve broken two frames and two sets of forks – I rode a race on cobbles and heard a massive crack, afterwards I found my steerer was cracked half way round, right below my stem so thank God I didn’t sprint!”
How has the programme been and what sort of races have you ridden?
“The program has been really good.
“No stage races but lots of UCi 1.1’s and 1.2’s.
“The 1.1’s are hard and you can feel yourself get stronger after a few of them.”
How much involvement does Serge Baguet have?
[Baguet is an ex-pro and former Belgian Elite Road Race Champion and Tour de France stage winner whose ‘Baguet Cycling Centre’ coaching and training set up is one of the team sponsors.]
“None at all.”
Who coaches you?
You have Gorik Gardeyn as a team mate – he’s one hugely experienced bike rider.
“Yeah Gorik is a legend; he has lots of experience and is a really nice guy.
“He’s not up himself in the slightest and has given me some advice in races – which helps.
“Having him a guy like him in the team has been good.”
Read our interview with Gorik here.
Have you been staying at Callum Gough’s, who else is there and how’s the morale?
“I was staying there until recently.
“Not many Scottish boys have been out this year – Lindsay Gordon and some young English boys.
“Craig Wallace was there at the start of the season but moved elsewhere for his own space.”
Are you happy with your progression, this season?
“I’m happy but frustrated.
“I think I could be doing much better in the 1.1’s if I had better support in terms of food and equipment.
“They are the races I like as the longer distance suits me.”
Are you coming home for the British Track Champs?
“Well, I have entered!”
What’s the plan for Commonwealth Games selection?
“There are no plans really; just keep doing this and if it happens it happens.”
How’s the Vlaams, can we have a sample, please?
“Ik spreek niet goed Nederlands.”
How’s 2014 looking?
“Much the same – I don’t really know yet.”
Is Belgium still in mourning over the poor Classics season for their boys?
“I’ve not noticed.”
Which Belgian radio station do you listen to?
Top 20 in a West Flanders UCI 1.1, practically fluent in Flemish and with perfect taste in radio stations – he’s our kind of rider!
However, in all seriousness, we wish Michael all the best for the rest of season 2013 and would express our admiration for his performances – and his grinta.