So directly after Morocco, which has its complete own story all-together, we were off to Belgium. We arrived in Frankfurt early Tuesday Morning and drove to Ninove, Belgium. It was action from the word go, as our First race the GP Pino Cerami was already Thursday.
Being a 1.1 it attracted a lot of good teams, like Astana, Quickstep, Lotto, Cofidis and Vaconsoleil as well as 11 other Proconti teams and 10 Conti teams. The race was 200km long with a few short and steep hills, with quite a tough 26km finishing circuit which we did 3 times.
The race started off relatively tame, considering what Belgium racing could be like at times. Maybe it was due to the headwind. We wanted to have one rider represented in the break, but it was not to be as a break of 4 riders went clear after 30km.
They quickly built up an advantage of 7min, before Astana took responsibility and lifted the tempo quite fast. Astana was intent to bring back the break before the laps to set-up an aggressive race as they didn’t have a real big sprinter.
The lap had a real steep, narrow cobbled climb in, followed by fast swooping roads. Meaning that if you were caught at the back it would almost certainly be game over. We lost 5 riders on the first lap, and another 1 on the second lap.
On the first lap a group of 18 riders moved clear after the first climb on a flat cobbled section. As they were starting to pull away, I managed to jump across with Boy Van Poppel(United-Healthcare) and Michael Kwaitkowski(OmegaPharma-Quickstep). It seemed to be the final move as all riders where prepared to work at first and we opened the advantage to nearly 1minute.
But with a lap and a half to go, the impotence dissapeared as more and more started to struggle and less riders were prepared to contribute to the pace. This ultimately lead to the break’s demise as we were caught with little more than a lap to go.
From there on I was pretty much finished and just hung on the back to finish in the second split. Our Eritrean rider did a real good job in his first race in Europe ever, being our only other rider to finish.
Although not a result I am pretty happy with my performance, especially after 10days in Morocco and a lot of travelling. Our next race is the Rund Om Koln in Germany. Its probably the biggest one on our calendar with a lot of top sprinters going there, like Oscar Friere, Michael Matthews, Theo Bos and JJ Haedo, to name a few.