Letters Home: Racing Abroad BLOG - Josh Cunningham
by Adam Tranter
Words by Josh Cunningham
I've been in Belgium for 3 weeks now, but to be honest I feel like I've never been away with the same routines already re-emerging into the day.Â It is really good to feel like a full time racing cyclist again as after months of spreading myself thin over winter, all I have to think about is riding my bike.
I arrived on the 1st March, after a fuel conserving and utterly frustrating 50mph journey, to a near-full house and full of enthusiasm for the year ahead. The first full day back was spent doing a 5.5 hour ride over the Flemish Ardennes, taking in cobbled straats and bergs alike, with my fellow housemates' team, VL Technics, in a recon ride of the early season classic "Vlaamse Pijl".
True to my own form and luck, I consequently landed myself a sore throat and runny nose. Cyclists, and most athletes for that matter I'm sure, generally spend 95% of time worrying about getting ill, with the otherÂ 5% down in the doldrums of self pity and frustration, actually being ill!
With the first few months of my season last year all but written off due to one health issue or another,Â and with my first planned race due that Sunday, I didn't think twice about taking a few 1 hour easy rides in the lead up.
On the plus side, the following few days were spent establishing the old routine, with some added productivity on last year in bread making, vegetable patch cultivation and a good deal more writing I'm pleased to say.
Anyhow, Sunday 6th marked my first race of the year, and moreover first competitive action for 5 months! In all honesty it felt quite peculiar getting ready, and as an added rarity I actually felt a bit nervous.
After a typical early season edgy start from the 160 strong bunch, I quickly determined that my condition is a lot better than this time last year, and come 3 laps to go I managed to get into a group chasing the leaders. Come 2 laps to go we caught them to make a lead group of about 20. Come 1 lap to go and my heart sank as my front tire was relieved of its air by a stray flint and I clambered into the broom wagon. A frustrating start to the racing year, but at least the legs seemed to have remembered their primary function.
Two days later and it was already race day number two, in Gooik, and I can honestly say I have never been dirtier in a race. I rode the 30km there, then the 115km of the sodden thing. After 2 hours of trying to get away, I ran out of steam and just finished in the bunch, very glad to be done with it, but not so glad about the 30km ride back home in the cold, wet and dark.
Race number 3 in Wetteren was as flat as a pancake, and the day after shrove Tuesday. I was away in the break from the first until last lap, until we were caught with 1km to go by the 250 strong bunch.Â Somehow I found some sprinting legs and scraped over the line in 11th place, disappointed and contented in equal measures.
I'd like to apologise for another paragraph of race-reportage, but this last one brings us up to date! Yesterday was the first interclub, or "big race" of the year, with the team in the "GP Wilfried Peeters".Â After some research I found that the previous few editions had finished in a bunch sprint, so was less than happy when I saw 15 guys ride away after contenting myself with this fact. With a strong field, prestigious competition, and a 130 degree turn 200m before the finish, I finished 14 down in the sprint for 30th place, accompanied with the white knuckles and thousand yard stare only seen after a frightening finale.
So that's my season so far; the next episode is due on Wednesday, in the "GP Stad Waregem", a local(ish) race taking in a big loop of cobbled bergs and other atrocities, before 3 smaller loops to finish....if I get that far!
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