This weekend saw the opening salvo in the ‘spring’ classics with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on the Saturday followed by Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne on the Sunday. The weather is invariably really nasty, especially in 2011 when a really large rubbish bin blew into the road and did for Stijn Devolder. Skip to 40 seconds or so to see the aftermath.
In the event, KBK was cancelled. A gentle dusting of snow provoked fears for rider and spectator safety. Back in the day both riders and spectators would have been rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of an epic battle with the elements. Alas, not any longer. The myth of the Flandrian hardman has been dealt a small blow by the forces of health and safety and incessant commercialism.
Meanwhile in Blighty, the early doors time trial season continued apace. No such cancellations here, with the Severn 25 taking place in bitterly cold weather with gentle snow flurries. To be fair, if the weather at Falfield was the same as the weather in Belgium I wouldn’t have ridden.
I rode the 20 miles to the start. It was an eye-watering 3°. I opted for some fairly full-on winter gear including a pair of giordana super roubaix leg warmers and my neoprene overshoes. On arrival i’d misjudged the time slightly, just enough to get even colder and then have to warm up again. I kept most of my winter kit on.
The U18 is a tough and demanding course. It’s not flat, by any stretch of the imagination and riddled with potholes, much like any road surface in the UK. There is a line of craters at one of the turns that has been there for the past 4 years. It used to be a row of small recesses, but with each passing winter they’ve deepened and become more challenging. The marshalls on the corner are issued with a rope ladder and winch to extricate any unfortunate racers. A nasty headwind put paid to any ambition for a fast time; only the last 4 miles were what might be regarded as ‘quick’ and it came as a relief after 21 miles of nihilistic struggling in the bitter north-easterly.
Times were slow; even slower than usual, with the exception of Rob Pears who carded a 55.16. I came 4th, about 8 seconds adrift of 3rd and a further 45 seconds away from 2nd. I’m pleased with my efforts, again, it’s the same as last year. even though the time is slower everything else seems the same; the difference between me and the others, the comparison with riders of similar speeds. It was a great day in terms of training, even if it was absolutely freezing cold and hard to get excited or motivated. When it’s really cold it’s just too difficult. All told, I managed around 70 miles for the day.
Next week is the Chippenham Hardrider. If it looks like it’s going be anything like it was last year I’ll be using a cape and wearing nine pairs of gloves.