Well, so where do I start? The start of the year got off to a disastrous start, after multiple blood tests, MRI’s and x-rays the doctors finally managed to diagnose me with Glandular fever for the second time! I managed to get the all clear and get back on my bike around the start of March which was good news…BUT I had already booked my ferry ticket for the middle of March to come out to Belgium which as I write this now was not ideal preparation! I finally landed in Calais, France on the 18th March and made my way to the house I was staying in, in Nokere, Belgium by late morning and thanks to Stephan and Birgit for letting me stay in their fantastic house again (http://www.sportshopnokere.be/).
I unpacked all my things and went on a quick ride with my housemate Dan Whelan and one of his friends Jason Jones, before I headed off to the Morgan Blue HQ which was only 5km away from where I live to pick up my team kit and temporary team bike as Ridley hadn’t pulled their finger out with our order! So I was all settled in and I was told my first race for the team was the Handzame Challenge on the 21st March, which turned out to be an Interclub the morning before the pro race ‘Handzame Classic’ in the afternoon. I knew full well I would not make it to the finish after being off my bike for so long and my team knew that, but I surprised even myself to make it into the second group after all the splits in the crosswind sections for only to hit a few potholes in quick succession and for then my bars to slip round as if I was riding round like superman, which was not safe! So after getting to the halfway mark of the race I decided to pull into the feed station, get my bars fixed and get a few more km’s in before watching the finish.
My next race was just a normal 1.12B kermesse at Anzegem on the 5th April, so me and my housemate Dan Whelan rode out to the race as it was only 10km away. We got there and found out we were one of the last to sign on and were number 260+ so we knew it was going to be a tough race, even Stephen Abbott and the Wheelbase lads came over! So even after lining up a good 15minutes before the start we were at the back of the bunch and thought we would never see the front and it turned out we wouldn’t! I managed to move up to around the top 1/3 of the bunch, until crashes and fatigue starting setting in. There was a grippy little climb on the back half of the course which then turned a sharp corner into a fast crosswind section which made it vital to get to the bottom of the climb in a good position, hence all the crashes and touching of wheels. So with 3laps to go, I was sitting in the top 70 and thought I would get a finish until somebody let the wheel go in the fast crosswind section and I just didn’t have the strength to close it and nobody would help from behind me so we all got to the line with 2laps to go and were pulled out of the race, so close yet so far..I was pretty annoyed!
Onto my third race which again was another Interclub over in Holland called Omloop Van Braakman on the 12th April. I was told it was a tough race with lots of cobbled sections in and plenty of road furniture to weave around so I was expecting the worst. It didn’t help that I had come down with a cold a few days before but felt well enough to make the start, so I did! Now the race was mental! After 8km we turned a sharp left and into our first cobbled section so positioning was vital. I had managed to get near the front of the start line, but after lots of crashes and a few near do’s after trying to move up I found myself in the back half of the bunch, we got to the cobbled section and it’s a crosswind so there are bodies all over the place straight away but thankfully I managed to stay in contact with the main peloton and sit in for another 80km or so until the pace starts cranking up over the cobbles and in the crosswinds which for a light guy like me is not fun! I soon lose touch with the peloton but to my relief another 30 or so guys had as well so we spent a good 30km or so in the
cars chasing before giving up as we were steadily losing ground! Another race with a DNF against my name which I was abit annoyed about with myself but then people kept telling me a month ago I was only just getting back on my bike doing 1hour recovery rides, which sort of made me wake up abit and see how well I am actually doing.
My next race is on the 20th April at Kruishoutem which in theory is my “home race” so I have been looking at the parcours and riding around it a few times so fingers crossed I can finally get a result against my name! Depending how well that race goes a few of my teammates are heading to Moorslede which is a 1.13 U23 only kermesse, which should be good!
I would like to thank everybody behind the LBTF for funding me and supporting me out here in Belgium, if it was not for them then I would be struggling financially and mentally as it has been a tough few weeks on the bike and they have given me some kind and motivating words!
Thanks for reading and till next time!