In the first part we saw how I got screwed by the Belgian national team in 2010. I did enjoy the race however, so I decided to race it again in 2011, this time in a small Italian village in the Marche-region. A race in Italy, that means an Italian organisation, and an Italian organization it was...
In the months before the race we were informed that the course consisted of four parts.
first a flat section to the local golf course
then a lap around the golf course
followed by a climb (about 5 km) and the descent
and at the end a lap through town with a small hill (about 2km)
The website explained we had to do one section two times, but they didn't tell us which one. The organisation did give us the length of the entire race and the length of the different sections. I made some calculations and concluded we'd have to do the long climb two times. I figured that this was good news for me as I climb better than most.
I did a recon two days before the race at noon. It was incredibly hot (about 40°C), but I wanted to test ride the course at the same time as the race was going to be held. After being hit by a foolish car driver, I rode the climb two times and I felt confident for the race.
On race day I warmed up a bit, had a chat with several other riders and as we gathered at the start, the speaker told us we had to do 'the lap' three times (so not two times as everybody thought). Things got even more confusing when some started yelling we had to do the climb three times, others were sure it was the lap at the finish, and the rest had absolutely no clue at all. One minute before the start the speaker confirmed it was actually the flat lap around the golf course we had to do three times. We didn't complain, we were simply happy we finally knew. To make the race itself more complicated too, they let our age group (the youngest group) ride together with the 40+ guys.
At the beginning of the race there were some minor attacks, but everybody knew that the race would be decided on the climb, so everyone waited. A Belgian rider (from my age group) rode slowly away from the peloton, and nobody responded. He took more than a minute easily, which was an ideal situation for us Belgians. We looked at the Italians and the Slovenians, but they were not afraid of a guy alone, so nothing happened and we did our laps around the golf course at extremely low speeds.
When we finally got closer to the climb, the battle for position began. Despite my poor peloton skills I managed to stay in the front. And at the foot of the climb the tension rose. The first attacks came quickly. The attacks followed in rapid succession and we reeled the early attacker in. The guy had spent a lot of energy and got dropped immediately.
When a French rider attacked (the strong guy from last year – but now not in my age group any more), I jumped on his wheel. After a minute he kept his legs still and a countryman (yes, the guy from last year – in my agegroup) took the lead set a murderous pace. More than half of the peloton had to let go. I managed to hold on, but It was hard though. When we got near the top, I went to the back of our group to see who was dropped and who was still there. It turned out that my countryman and I were the only two riders from our age group, together with about ten riders from the other age group.
We talked briefly and we decided we would work together so no one from our age group could come back. That guaranteed us both of a medal. We made an agreement that we would decide the race in the city.
We rode at a good pace, but I noticed that his pulls were longer and faster than mine. I realised that he was stronger, but I hoped to drop him on the final climb. Meanwhile the 40+ riders followed us, they didn't really interfere with our race and we didn't interfere with theirs.
When we entered the city, there were some minor attacks from the elder riders, but I brought everything back together at the foot of the climb. Everyone started looking at each other and I decided to pull. I figured that if I rode a steady pace at the climb, I could try an attack at the false flat at the top. Halfway the climb, I saw a blue thing flashing past me. My countryman attacked! I managed to hold on to his wheel, but it hurt badly. We reached the top of the steepest section together. There I noticed that he slowed down a bit, so I decided that this was my chance to drop him.
I didn't have the power anymore for a real attack, so I simply rode as fast as I could on the false flat. I was hoping he'd drop or at least fall back in the group, but I didn't look where he was. I simply focussed on the effort.
After a quick descent we passed la flamme rouge. I tried to ride as fast as I could, hoping my countryman was struggeling. All the time I didn't look back, so I had no clue of where he was. Maybe I was too exhausted to think clearly, maybe it was my inexperience or maybe it was the extreme heat that gave me a tunnelvision, but clearly I wasn't thinking straight. At the 150m sign I started my sprint. I pushed my pedals two times and... who came flying by? Right... my countryman.
No rainbow stripes for me.
After crossing the line I was completely overheated. I begged everybody desperately for water (to pour over my body). Luckily there was a public tap I could use as a shower. I stayed under it for a couple of minutes and when my temperature was back normal again, I realised that I had to be happy with silver. Clearly my countryman was stronger than me (and probably more clever too).
In the finish area everyone had a good time, congratulating each other, telling stories, joking around,... I congratulated the countryman and he gave me a pat on the shoulder. Everyone was enjoying the friendly atmosphere when suddenly it was time for the podium ceremony.
The first time in my life I got to feature in a podium ceremony at a a sports event. I was proud as a peacock, sang our national anthem as loud as I could (they played it for the winner and not for me, but I didn't care). And I enjoyed the whole thing.
Don't take my word for it, look at the pics and you'll see.
Photo gallery here (warning: no chest alert!)
And that was my Worlds story.
Austria 2012: here I come!