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Experience U23 Flanders from a Kiwi perspective
Apr 13th, 11. Cam Karwowski raced in the NZ team at the U23 Tour of Flanders over the weekend. Experience the great classic race, from his perspective, deep within the peloton.
U23 Tour of Flanders
By Cam Karwowski
The day started with driving to Ooudenarde, about an hour and a half to the west of our base in Blauberg, clear skies, a beautiful day.
Upon arrival we got set up amongst the other nations, numbers on backs, food in pockets, tyres pumped. After signing in on the podium in front of a small crowd, our names were anounced and after a short warm up, I was lining up on the start line.
After watching the pros race more or less the same course the previous week, I was nervous but also excited. This race was a much bigger deal than the old kermesse, my heart was racing.
The nerves were very evident within the peloton throughout the neutral zone. Any small gap had to be taken to get closer to the front. Everyone wanted to be at the front. This made things very dangerous around the tight outskirts of Ooudenarde.
As the race started it was even worse as the pace increased and the width of the road was used to the maximum as riders tried to push their way through non-existent gaps. Nerve-racking times. Not super fast, I was more concerned about my spot in the bunch than how tough it was initially.
After about 5km of racing there was the tell tale sound of carbon crushing against the concrete as 20 riders crashed only a couple of wheels behind me. It's all about being near the front to avoid crashes!
Things didn't calm down at all and got even more hectic before the first cobble section after 10km. 3km of cobbles, everyone tried to jump on the dirt path on the side. That was it for the cobbles for a while.
A small break had escaped so that relaxed the peloton slightly. The rest of the road circuit involved a large variety of road surface and terrain. 17 category 5 climbs, all about 1km long, some steeper than others. These climbs, and the 2km after each one, were about the only times when the race really heated up on the circuit. One of the harder climbs we went along a street parallel to the infamous 'mur'.
I was lucky to get a bottle on both climbs we were getting fed on, some of the team weren't so lucky and missed out. We had to ration and share around our bottles between the team.
Myron [Simpson] and Tom Findlay were doing well at holding positions close to the front. The pace started getting a lot tougher after the first 100km, approaching a tough cobbled climb called the Molenburg then almost immediately after, another hard 3km cobbled false flat through a town.
"The Molenburg climb started in what looked like someones driveway, very tight for about 100 riders."
Everyone in the peloton was desperate to get close to the front before the Molenburg. The Molenburg climb started in what looked like someones driveway, very tight for about 100 riders. A rider in front of me locked up and slid a good 20m, grabbing hard on his back brakes. Smashing it up the climb, some one in front of me had dropped the wheel and a gap had opened up.
As a small group we spent the next 5km chasing before the 3km cobbled false flat. Only just rejoining a few km before it started. It was rough! Everyone tried to jump onto the footpaths, finding the smoothest line. Complete chaos, lots of dust, the peleton splintered into many groups.
This almost looked like the end for me and the group I was in. A quick descent and some technical tight roads made the chase for us slightly easier. We were agonisingly close on a steep climb, but once again the peleton pulled away. After another descent we made contact again.
Just as we started the first lap of the finishing circuit. Two laps of 20km or so. After so much chasing I wasn't feeling too shabby. As we hit the first cobbles of the finishing circuit I wasn't in such a bad position, the bunch of 100 or so I was sitting about 50th wheel.
It happened very quickly, about six guys went to the ground in front of me, I locked up the brakes and skidded into the heap, as did about 10 others, including Wade. Luckily for me I got away unscathed, not even a scratch!
Apart from being further forward there was not much I could have done to avoid the crash. I was stuck by two bikes for a good 40sec then had to remount my chain.
I chased the peloton solo for the next 10km never to see it again. I rode the last lap of the course alone to reflect. The broom wagon left me to it.
I came in when the winner was being presented, therefore not making the time cut, and being classed as DNF.
Some SRM data from the race: 174km in 4h50m, thats' an average speed of 36kph. 275 watt average, normalised at 333w.
Next Nations cup race is on Wednesday. The Cote de Picardie in France. I will be lining up for it with some decent race kms in my legs. Until then I will tick the legs over and prepare.
Thanks to Cam for sharing his report with RoadCycling.co.nz. Many of the riders in the U23 NZ team are writing blogs this season, RoadCycling.co.nz will bring you different riders' reports as they compete in stage races and one day races around Europe.
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