Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Day at War

Today's stage 3 of West Flanders was a true battle. It might not be a true cobbled/Belgian classic, but it was a day full of Belgian specialties including but not limited to rain, wind, small farm roads, and cobbled climbs. The start was actually fairly mellow considering the rainy, windy conditions. We did a tag team effort with QuickStep to control the race from the start. After the break went, I did rotations on the front with Ben King and a couple QuickStep guys. It was still chaotic even pulling because so many teams kept trying to put their guys in the front where there is only room for so many! About 80km in is when the first critical portion of the race was with some small roads and climbs. We did the Kemmelberg, a famous climb from Ghent-Wevelgem that is about 600 meters of cobbles at 10-12% with only enough room for one car to pass, about halfway through the race, and it created the first real big splits. I fought for a good position and was able to remain with the front group. It was a pretty good selection of guys, and I thought it would not come back together; however, a large regrouping happened. Then the war for position started again with such a big group.

Around km 135 we had a 2km section of cobblestones and I had decent position but couldn't go the pace over the cobbles. I was simply ridden off the wheel, bouncing everywhere trying to figure out how to put the power into the pedals. We finally came out of it, and I was in a small chase group that came back to the main bunch, but there was a small group of favorites off the front, which was good for us because Wagner was in there. The race leader had actually crashed along with his teammate who was second, so Wagner was virtual race leader. I thought the deal was sealed, but our group put in a massive chase, and everything came back together in time for the 3 local circuits.

During the local laps I was hanging on for dear life. Honestly my legs were not too bad (I don't think, but I couldn't feel half my body, so who knows!), but I was too far back in the bunch and getting ripped to pieces by the small roads, turns, and accelerations out of the corners. There is only so much one guy can do against a team on the front going 50+kmh. It simply isn't possible to just "move up" when it is so fast. Several times actually I was dropped but came back. I think I thought my race was over 4-5 times, but magically I would come back! In the end though, I met my fate when a guy in front of me hit a "parallel" crack in the road and ate it, skidding everywhere in front of me. The gap opened, and it wasn't possible to come back alone in the last 3km when the peloton is going 60+kmh.

I was exhausted (4:35, ~188km, 260 watt avg, 4300kjs) and glad to cross the finish line unscathed; although, I imagine I will be digging dirt and animal excrement out of my eyes and ears for the next week! I took my glasses off about 65km into the race because I could see absolutely nothing. I felt it was more dangerous with them on than without. It was largely ok, but at the end it got rainy again, and the tire spray was painful. I tried to put my glasses back on, but they were so dirty, it was useless. I suffered to the finish, wiping my eyes every so often to try and help the burn, but it was useless. Despite those discomforts, I am really happy to have had the chance to do the race. It provided me really good experience in fighting for position, and it was definitely good for my condition. I felt I was missing the top end gear before this, but I definitely might get something now! For now, I am happy to get home to Lisa have a couple days relaxing.


Big Cahunico said...

Great recap!! You sound like you are finding your pace. Stay strong

Dave Schlabowske said...

Matt, this is Dave Schlabowske, Communications Director for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin (and the guy who started the Velo Trocadero team a long time ago). The Bike Fed has a daily blog and we would like to share your posts with our readers since you are one of our hometown heros. I would always give credit and link back to your On the Road Again blog. Can you give me permission to share what you post? You can see our blog here

You can also email me at if you want to discuss further.

Good luck racing!