The first classic weekend of the year has been and gone and safely back in a rather snowy Scotland I’ve got time to reflect on the Classic season opener. The glorious Belgian sunshine all weekend could not lift the thermometer and the riders endured bitterly cold conditions for both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad or Kuurne Brussels Kuurne.
Riders faced just under 200 kilometres each day and whilst the temperature had us looking for our thermals some hardy riders were glove free, presumably generating enough body heat from the effort.
Grass track legend John “Jock” Hardie, Dave, Ed and I left Edinburgh on Friday bound for Brussels Charleroi, catching up with Stuart Anthony and John Young who were also heading to Gent for the racing. We picked up the rental car, an Opel Meriva with suicide doors, something I thought had been consigned to history, but apparently not.
A weekend of philosophical debate and pondering life’s mysteries beckoned, our musings would probably be helped by a few beers.
Gent is a university city and there are students everywhere, bikes seem to be the primary mode of transport evidenced by the thousands of parked all over town.
Aside from driving on the other side of the road visitors must stay alert for the cyclists in the cycle lane that is often on the inside of the parking space.
Saturday dawns and after a hearty breakfast we head for the 73rd edition of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad which is run off in beautiful sunshine, but we were not fooled, the cold is biting with the wind chill reducing the temperature further.
The Omloop Gent Gent as it was once named is becoming more commercial and the team presentation in the Kuipke is evidence of the changes; stage, presenters and bright lights is a far cry from the turn-up-sign-on of yesteryear.
The glitz of the presentation was sharply contrasted with the gloom of the vaulted garage.
The team buses line up and the fans star spot as riders venture from the warmth of team buses to sign on and head for the team presentation.
Ed and Dave chew the fat with former classics man and top -tech guy with Shimano nowadays, Bert Roesems, winner of amongst other things the Nokere Koerse in 2006. Jock and I circulate checking out bikes whilst rider-spotting, UAE’s Ben Swift has a nice Colnago with detailed breakdown of what to expect on his stem. Preparation is all.
We have a quick word with Rob Palmer soigneur at ES Drapac and former teammate of mine at Bicycleworks, we leave Rob to get organised for what will I’m sure be a busy day.
Dave has us intersecting the race at no less than five different points. The course has changed this year but it’s still going to be tough.
The early break is working well and the bunch is cruising with Wout Van Aert last man in the bunch. The chaos and carnage commences on the pave sections, the climbs add to the cumulative effect of wearing guys down.