Thursday, September 17, 2009

De Pinte Kermis


I wake up at the farm. Andrew left on Tuesday and Staf told me to move out of the apartment. Andrew will definitely be missed. He helped me get set up here and we had a lot of fun together.

The farm is pretty pleasant. There’s a nice yard with some chickens and roosters in the back. There’s also a bike stand and other necessities…

After getting around I head outside to find this in the lawn.

“There were girls man! You missed them!” Jack says.

Ian, one of the coaches, works for the Great Britain team and some of the girls came over to drop off the car.

Peter, another Brit, is there. He mentions Rock Racing is doing the GP Wallonia. He says that Fred Rodriguez used to live here at the farm. I go get a paper to see about the GP Wallonia route.

On the cover of Het Laastste Nieuws there’s a headline about Staf [team owner]. It only mentions his first name. I ask Ian about it and he says everyone in Belgium knows him. Small world.

I plan on cleaning my bike up a bit but the race is beginning soon. I woke up with a sore throat a few days back so I just plan on watching. I take my race license just in case.

We roll about 10k over to De Pinte, a suburb of Gent. The barriers are set up along main street with the usual carnival rides and games.

We pull off at the bar where reg is at. A photographer takes Steve’s pic and then mine. He says it’s for Staf. Then, he asks why I’m not wearing a Kingsnorth jersey. Thanks guy, rub it in.

Steve heads in to reg. Well, when in Rome… I walk to the back of the smoky bar and pay my eight euro.

Freddie has the team car parked nearby. I ask him about a jersey and he lets we wear an XL one that’s in the back of the car. When I go back over near reg the guy takes my pic again.

I roll around a bit before heading to the start. There are about 70 or 80 of us there. I see a Quick Step development rider.

The race begins. We head through the first roundabout and into a tunnel. The feeling is surreal. I’m in the middle of the pack barely pedaling as we speed downhill into the dark.

After we leave the tunnel we’re on a one lane road. I try to stay in the middle of the road because the edges can get a bit sketchy. We go through a few roundabouts which go smoother than expected. Then we head up a Belgian hill (overpass).

The pack gets pretty strung out on the straightaway. I fall off a bit but get back on. We head over a few more hills. The circuit is 10k and we’re getting close to Start/Finish. We go over one more overpass and I fall off.

I finish the lap and do another on my own. The follow car runs parallel to me pushing me to go harder. I think of grabbing onto the side mirror.

My second time through I hear “Jaraat Streebin. End of Race. Thank you for coming.” I pull off the course.

After a bit I roll over to the team car and have a seat. An old man comes up and asks me for my bottle; it’s a Team Type 1 that I got at Fitchburg. He’s got a Cofidis and an Ag2r bottle. I offer to trade but he’s holding on to those. I offer him the Team Type 1 bottle and a Sea Otter one I have for eight euro. He shakes his head “No!” [All this bargaining is being down in the universal sign language and a handful of English words.]

“Okay” I say. I relax in the chair as he paces back and forth.

I think about how great it is to have these fans around; the old men and women who live and breathe the sport.

I wave at him and offer the bottle. He takes it happily and trades me for a retro “Performance” nutrition bottle with neon coloring. He says he’ll walk around, come back.

I grab my camera and head back to the course. I get there in time to see Jack off the front going into the tunnel.

I watch for a bit then see Yevginey off the back with another kid. I head back to the car and Steve’s there. We ride around the course in reverse for a bit before going back to the farm.

Steve mentions it’s weird me not stopping off at the apartment. I tell him I miss the big shower there.

“Yeah, but the shower at the farm, it’s famous, lad. Jeremy Hunt, Roger Hammond, Fred Rodriguez-they all showered in it!”

I’m not sure this will make me any faster but it’s worth a try.

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