Waking up the morning of a race, the nerves and excitement usually start to kick in, especially the first race of the season. It was also my first race as an U23 and my first UCI 1.2 race, so the nerves were pretty high. The first thing I did was check the weather forecast in hope that by some miracle it had changed from the sub-zero temperatures expected to tropical conditions. It hadn’t.
The race started at -3C with a ‘real feel’ temperature of -8C, so pretty cold. For the first 10 minutes I was fighting to get some feeling back in my hands, but luckily the race started off fairly easy with a chance to warm up a bit before it all kicked off. As we headed to the main circuit we knew there was a long section of straight, flat road where the crosswinds would hit and it would be a crucial moment in the race. Unlucky for me, as the race started to become frantic and everyone began pushing and shoving, we hit a road that had possibly the biggest potholes I have ever seen, and I ended up smashing into one pretty hard which saw my bars slip. Thankfully it was rideable but I knew I would at least need to have the bolts tightened with a really rough section of cobbles to deal with on the horizon; so I decided that I’d carry on as long as possible, wait for the pace to drop then stop and get it sorted. That moment came around 20km later after the cobbled climb. There were 40 riders or so left in the group who weren’t keen to press on too much, so I took my chance to get my bars sorted. After neutral service tried jamming the same wrong-sized allen key into all four bolts, my team car pulled up and got it sorted, but by this point I’d lost a good couple of minutes, so it was going to be a hard chase.
I jumped on the back of the team car and hoped for a good tow for as long as possible, thinking that if the bunch was still cruising, I’d be able to catch them fairly quickly. What I didn’t expect was to turn left and find all the team cars stopped on the left side of the road, with the ambulance blocking the right side of the road, leaving me with nowhere to go. My team car swung to side so they could slam the brakes on without me going through the back window, but I was going fairly quickly by that time, so as I slammed on the brakes to avoid the other team cars, I found myself over the bars and on the deck with the bike flung into the ditch. After being dragged back to my feet, I got back on the bike but knew my race was over, and I’d just have to wait to be hauled out. At that point I was relatively happy, considering it was so cold and required three layers of clothing otherwise it would’ve been some serious road rash to deal with…so I guess every cloud does indeed have a silver lining after all.
It’s safe to say it’s not how I wanted to start the year, but to have been feeling so strong and riding comfortably in the front group amongst some seasoned professionals, I’m glad to see some decent form going into Drenthe van Westerveld on Friday.