So the past 2 weeks we were really busy; 12 races days in 15 days…
First up was Arno Wallaard in Holland, a very technical race with a lot of wind, corners and narrow roads, with around 200 riders all fighting for position. We had Brad Potgieter in the break that stayed to finish, unfortunately for Brad he was caught 4km to go, while the others stayed away by a few seconds. I placed 17th, and Arran Brown 24th.
The next day we off to do the Ronde van Noord Holland. A crazy race, with long exposed stretches of roads and dykes. The race was into 10 groups within the first hour of racing. Its was like a long pursuit, between an early breakaway group and the remnants of the peloton. I found myself in this 2nd group. We finally caught the group up ahead with around 50km remaining and immediately another group of 10 went off the front. I managed to get into this move and quickly opened a massive gap to the rest. The rest was pulled off the road a lap short as they fell too far behind, and only 9 riders made it to the finish. Gediminas Bagdonas made his move with 25km to go and solo’d to victory. I missed out on a podium spot as I finished 3rd in the bunch behind.
Next up was the Tour of Bretagne. I had some hopes to contest the overall, but had to be realistic as it was only our first tour in Europe this year. In the first couple of stages things didn’t quite go to plan as I lost 39s to the leader in the first 3 stages. But things started to change as we approached the really hard part of the race with hard finishing circuits everyday.
I won stage 4 which went up the Mur de Bretagne, was 2nd on Stage 6 and moved up to 13s behind race leader, Eric Berthou.
The Final stage featured a 2km hill up cobbles and we believed we still had a shot at the overall. The team did a great job of isolating Eric from his Bretagne Schuller teammates and I launched my attack with 1.5km to go. It worked and I crossed the finish line clear of the pack. Initially I thought I won the stage and consequently the tour, but then I learned that one rider from the breakaway managed to stay away. I then knew it would be close as I needed a gap of at least 7s, along with the bonus 6s to put on level time with Berthou. As the judges reviewed the footage, it was shown that I got exactly the 7s I needed and on count-back on finishing positions of everyday, I won the tour by 22 positions.
There wasn’t too much celebrations, however, as 3 days later we started our next race: The Ronde van Overijjsel. A 2day event with a short 2.8km prologue and a 202km road race. I gave everything I had in the prologue and it was enough to win by 3s. Arran Brown finished 6th place, with Martin Wesemann in 8th.
The next day was quite tricky though with a lot of bonus seconds up for grabs on the road and at the finish. An early break of 2 riders, which wasn’t too dangerous on GC, took the major bonuses at the first prime, they were brought back before the 2nd prime, where I lost out on gaining a few seconds to other riders who also weren’t too dangerous, and I won the 3rd prime with a great leadout from my teammates and Arran Brown.
Things sooned turned for the worst as the rain started and made the road very slippery. At one corner in a forest the entire team slipped and we all went down like a deck of cards. In the confusion some riders tried to make a move, which put the team on its limit. Soon the race split into many groups. I got into the first group, but had no teammates left. Luckily I had the legs to cover the moves and make a few moves of my own, which discouraged riders from attacking. Koga cycling team had the numerical advantage and a fast finisher in Wim Stoetinga in the group. And took control, the finished it off with a well deserved stage victory for their man. I finished 4th, but it was enough to take the overall honours.
The next day was off the Circuit de Wallonie. A bridge too far we all thought, as we could now feel the heavy racing schedule and the previous day’s crash in the legs. My legs didn’t feel good all day. We had representation in the breakaways from Dennis van Niekerk and Merron Russom, which were ultimately both brought back.
The final circuit featured a brute of a climb in the last 2km, so steep that I was grinding a 26T. Anyway the race seemed done and dusted as a 8 man break, containing cyclocross legend; Sven Nys, rode off the front with 2laps to go, however An Post-Sean Kelly team did an excellent job in bringing at the foot of the final time up the climb. I got myself into a good position and with 300m to go I forgot about my tired legs, and went for it. I got a gap and kept it too the line. I have to say I was really shocked to have won again.
Anyway we have some time off now asour next race is only next Wednesday; the Fleche du Sud, a 5-day stage race, in Luxembourg.