It is the day after Franco Belge and the day before Binche-Tournai-Binche. We are back in the same hotel from my first night here in Belgium prior to Franco Belge. I'm rooming with Gert Steegmans. Tomorrow's race is 200km basically flat and sure to be a sprint finish. I am not sure what to feel about it, but I will do what I can. It has 5 local circuits at the end, which I like because then I get to see what the run in to the finish looks like and I can feel more confident about my safety there. I believe the weather report is good with minimal wind, so that is nice. We'll see how it goes!
The last stage of Franco Belge was nothing short of hard. There was a cross wind nearly the whole day and it was full throttle from start to finish. I was in an early move of 17 riders containing Robert Gesink and Jens Voigt that gained a minute on the field, but it was for sure the field was not going to let us go with horsepower in it like myself! Just kidding! Nonetheless, 17 riders is too big for the field to let go, so QuikStep brought it back together after about 65km because they had missed out on the break and then war was continued. The attacks were relentless. In fact, the intensity of the race caused some serious splits due to the cross winds and I was a casualty along with Voigt, Gesink and a number of our other breakmates.
It ended up as a small break, the main peleton and the chase group/peleton as we entered the local circuit of about 15km for 6 laps with a decent climb in it. Although the climb was not hard enough to separate the sprinters, it certainly put the hurt on some guys and put a burn in the legs. I thought my race was over after being split off, but we kept chasing and caught a tailwind for a stretch during the local circuit and caught back on. To be honest, I was quite fried when I was split and didn't want to race anymore! After we reintegrated though, I was able to refuel a bit and found some decent legs for the rest of the race.
We had a really good situation at one point with 3 guys in the lead break of about 20, and the race was all but over, but then the break got split on the climb and the field began to chase again seeing the vulnerability. In the end, we had 4 guys left in the race and I was unfortunately the weak link. I did my best to try and get to the front to help in the pulling effort and a lead out for Gert, but I was cooked. I tried as hard as I could to get there, but I was going 100% trying to get to the front, even taking a few hands on the back/pushes from a few guys to move ahead, but I didn't make it. I wish I could have made it, but I simply didn't have the legs. In the end, I finished in the group and Gert made a great effort for 2nd on the stage.
Overall, yesterday was one of the hardest race days I have had. After the race I was totally spent, soaked in sweat and ready for sleeping. At dinner I was worthless and then afterwards I was ready for bed at 9, but then laid around doing nothing until 11. Then I woke up this morning at 8 because I was hungry! Hopefully I can sleep well tonight. Good night!