are sometimes smooth and silky, and other times tired and tight.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Big Brother comes to Sky

I thought it couldn’t get any gimmickier than four years ago the Discovery channel, having just lost their golden boy to retirement, came out with a program called Race to Replace. Apparently Team Sky found some inspiration, because it was reported today that the directors have passed the buck of team selection for the Tour de France squad on to the riders, who will choose amongst themselves which lucky ones get to fill the nine slots.

The question is, what will the catch word be when the various riders get the knock back: you’re fired; Auf Wiedersehen; shut it down, turn it off, get out, and fcuk off out of my kitchen... ?

Just remember boys, you’re there to race, not to make friends.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Round and around
Around, around, round, round
Mushrooms on the horizon
Mushrooms on the horizon

Round and around
Around, around, round, round (repeat)
- John Lydon
Too lazy to ride an extra 10-15 kilometers, to ‘play away’ and race at yet another Kampioenschap van Whatever. Instead, I chose to ride an easy hour and a half, and then ‘play at home’ at the usual spot.

I meander along, at a leisurely pace, into the wind. Taking in the familiar sights of meerkoeten, windmills, and runways. Eventually I turn around, and head to the race. With the tailwind, I think I should be fine. I watch a group of weekend warriors pass. No rush. I let go on.

A few minutes later a scooter appears. He’s not going fast, and it’s some shelter from the side winds, so I jump on. Sore legs. Apparently I haven’t fully recovered from the previous two sessions of riding behind a scooter, courtesy of the KMII and his girlfriend, earlier in the week. Considering how hard those days were, I’m not surprised. Both times on the same course that I was racing today, that I raced last week, that I raced two weeks ago.

OK. The legs aren’t feeling great. Or, to be more specific, much like the route for today’s race, they weren’t fresh. Still better than riding those extra 10-15 kilometers to race the Kampioenschap van Whatever.

I arrive with more than enough time to sign in, and have a snack. Pinning on my number I look around the clubhouse, and out of the windows. Looks busy. I spot WK, FD, BB, and Thomas the Taxi – a super strong rider, who never seems to mind when I suck his wheel when he makes a blistering attack.

Two familiar faces also make their racing debut today. There’s the Professor, a friend and teammate. I’ve only seen him once since last season, and that was during one of the motor pacing sessions with the KMII. He's is an eccentric and infuriating talent, always complaining about his lack of form, usually after he’s torn your legs off. The other debutante is Banana Legs, who’s another friend and teammate. We’ve spent a lot of time training through the winter, but now that the season has started, our schedules have clashed, with him wanting to push it, when I want to rest. Hopefully today we’re on the same page.

On the first lap I do my usual form test, and confirm that indeed my legs are sore. What’s somewhat strange, or perhaps not strange at all, is that while they may be sore, I’m not having any problems keeping near the front, or jumping in the initial flurry of attacks. I tell myself trying to calm down. To chose my moments wisely. There are only so many matches to burn. Even if my sore legs are faster than expected. I stay close to the front. Ebbing and flowing with the pulse of peloton.

Several laps pass. I notice BB sauntering by, about 300-350 meters before the start/finish line. I look at his cassette, and know that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to grab his wheel, so I do. He accelerates. I jump, sprint actually, attempting to catch his wheel. It’s almost there. Almost there. Almost there. I have it.

He looks behind, then eases a little. I do the same, ride alongside, and say “no damage from two weeks ago?” I’m not 100% sure if he understands my poor Dutch.

While I wait for the answer, Thomas the Taxi rides past. I leapfrog from BB to TT, and then hold tight, as he shifts into a bigger gear and pulls us away. Meter by meter my sore legs burn. I contemplate letting go. I remind myself that as painful as this is, Tuesday, behind the scooter, was tougher. A flick of the elbow. My turn. I pull through, and immediately apologize: there’s no way I can maintain the same tempo. Honest. True to form, TT tells me not to worry about it, “help is on the way.” We exchange pulls, bumping over the irregular asphalt, and wait.

When we’re caught, the pace holds, ever so slightly, then the chain begins to turn. There are now 12-13 of us, including BB, FD, the Taxi, and unsurprisingly the Professor. I steal a glance behind, and see that we’re away.

We work well together, taking short pulls, then peeling off smoothly. Legs turning big gears, around and around. It hurts, but it’s manageable.

Only 22 more laps to go.

Round and around
Around, around, round, round
Mushrooms on the horizon
Mushrooms on the horizon

Round and around
Around, around, round, round (repeat)

Friday, March 26, 2010

KvA (Part III)


I wake up hungry. It’s an oddly pleasant sensation, after an off season of indulgence. Which is why I decide to race when all I want to do is rest. Ride to eat. Dig in Deep. This is the time to push. To punish. There will be plenty of time to recover on Monday. Yes sir. With that in mind, I pull myself out of bed and prepare for my third and final KvA this weekend.

To be completely honest, racing is not the word to describe what I am planning on doing. Yes. I pay my money, pin on my number, and find myself standing on the line, yet again. I’m one of approximately 90 other riders, here at Sloten, on this windy Sunday afternoon. Race it was, but race I was not going to do. Even if I wanted to, I can’t.

I’m not alone. The WegKaptein is here as well. His plan, the same as mine; hang on, and hope to finish. If we don’t, that’s fine. This is training. We’re not the only gluttons for punishment: the Flying Doctor, and one of his teammates from yesterday’s break, are here. We chat about yesterday’s race, and what to expect from today. The FD suggests exercising caution in the beginning. Sage advice.

Andre, the Grand Poobha of the weekends events, sets us off on our journey of 32 laps around the 2.5km course. Habit dictates that I spring off the line. I’m not fast. Not at all. Still, for a few hundred meters I’m alone. I stop pedaling, and coast until the field rides alongside. The whir of aero wheels, and the buzz of conversation surround me. Ah, a nice start. I’m happy.

As we circle the course, I remember that I spotted the photographer from yesterday. He’s probably close to the start finish. Once again, vanity sends me forward. I move up, and I make a senseless attack, hoping the camera is set, and the lens is in focus. Sad, I know. Once again I’m caught. This time I can only here the whir of aero wheels.

The wind feels stronger today. Or maybe I’m weaker. One thing is for sure, the field is anything but weak. I see familiar faces and kits, of the local young guns, including BB, a rider for a Dutch pro development team. I’d been in a few breaks with him last year, where he toyed with us – in the friendliest of manners. If I had any ambitions today, I’d try and mark him. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that. With his orange, blue, and white team kit, unmistakable to all, he may as well have a spotlight on him.

On our second circuit, the pace picks up. On a long stretch of road, we string out, riding on the right edge of the road. Why don’t they shift left? There’s more than enough space? I think to myself, that if this is a taste of what’s to come, then today will not be a comfortable day on the bike. Then the pace eases. A bit.

We go through a sweeping turn, and I find myself on BBs wheel. Hmmm… Should I? Should I try and hang on, and see where it takes me? I think about it. I focus on my breathing. It’s OK. I focus on my legs. Not so OK. No. Today is training, not racing. Not even trying to race. That was yesterday. He moves forward. I stay where I am.

The field sweeps through the next gentle turn, on to the long stretch of straight road, where everyone rode the gutter. The mass of riders starts to stretch, and then they spread. Then I hear it: the familiar clatter of metal (carbon?) scraping the tarmac. Riders in front of me brake. I see a bike flying in the air. I brake, just in time. It misses me by 30 centimeters. Or did I miss it? Somehow I stay up, and try to regain my momentum.

I break my rule – never look at a crash – and glance to my right. I see a pile of arms, legs, bodies and bikes. At least that’s how I remember it now. In the midst of the pile I spot two things, BB is his orange and blue, and more significantly – the WegKaptein’s bike, lying on the road. I want to stop, to see if he’s OK, but I’m already in the midst of a group, chasing the peloton ahead.

The field has slowed down. They’re in neutral. I spend the next 3+ minutes preoccupied with thoughts about the WK. We circle back to the scene of the crash, and I see him, along with BB, and a few other riders, back on their bikes, ready to rejoin the race. Gluttons for punishment.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

KvA (Part II)

The burn in my legs, from the consolation sprint, is waning. I circle the course, cooling down. Or is that warming up? I have another race, and it’s starting soon. Very soon. So soon, that I see people lining up as I roll in.

I jump off of my bike, hand €2 euros over, refill my bottle, shove a muesli bar down my gob, take a quick ‘sanitation pause’ behind some bushes, then hop on to my bike, pushing my way through the riders I’ve just raced with, to get to the ones I’m about to race with.

I have just enough time to look over and spot my two teammates, Mr. Late the WegKaptein (road captain), and the Kop Man II (not to be confused with the original KM). They’re close, but not close enough. The plan is simple: help the KMII. All winter he’s been training like a man possessed, but during the early races, he’s been more preoccupied with training, rather than racing. The night before Late and I bombarded him with emails, pushing him to go for it, and pledging our support. The only problem is that his hip has been bothering him, and he wasn’t sounding his usual confident self.

Once we’re given the go to start, I ride alongside him, and ask how he feels, if he’s up for it. He smiles, and answers with the affirmative. I see that he’s riding his good bike, complete with aero wheels. It’s a positive sign.

I have no idea how my legs will fare after the previous race. Only one way to find out. I find myself riding towards the front of the field. Ouch. We pass the start/finish, and I drift back.

The peloton begins to string out into one long line. My burning legs express their displeasure. I’ve clearly dug deeper than I should have in the previous race. I’m somewhere in the middle. I look towards the front, and see the KMII riding comfortably. Meanwhile I’m digging deep, just trying to hold the wheel in front of me. If only my legs weren’t so sore. I’ll be alright. I think. I hope.

The pace eases. Just a bit. The pain subsides. Just a bit. I work my way up the field, close to KMII. I wonder where our third Musketeer is. He can’t be behind me. Can he? Nope. He’s up the road. I must have missed it. He’s in a break, with the rider who won this race last year. I’m impressed. More importantly, our plan is working.

The wind has picked up, the pace as well. Once again the field stretches out, in pursuit of the riders ahead. Another lap passes, and they’ve been reeled in. Once again, I move towards the front. A teammate from last years winner jumps. The WegKaptein shouts at me, telling me that it’s my turn. I jump. At least that’s what I try to do.

Somehow I managed to bridge up to the rider in white and baby blue. I’ve brought along company, which is fine by me. I drift back, and let the two (or was it three?) of them set the pace, while I recover. Our endeavor doesn’t last long. We’re caught within a kilometer.

As I drift back, I notice that the KMII is riding near the front. I want to try again, which is what I would normally, stupidly, try to do. Thing is, I don’t have the legs.

A counter attack is launched, and I see the WegKaptein cover it. It’s over as soon as its begun. I notice that I'm drifting further back back. I slowly start moving forward.

Then it happens. From where I am, it's not entirely clear what's happening ahead. It appears that last years winner jumps, along with another favorite. The pace picks up. I’m in self preservation mode, doing what I have to do to hang on. Fortunately it’s only a brief surge. The pace drops. The pointy end of the peloton dulls. I look for the KMII. He's not with us, he's up the road. The break is away.

What follows is somewhat boring. Last years winner’s teammates (all 10, 15, too many of them) disrupt whatever chase there might be. For a while the WegKaptein tries to keep the pace high “to try an keep them within sight.” I suggest we do the opposite. After all the KMII is in the break.

We’ve done what we wanted to do. Now it’s up to him. He will not disappoint.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

KvA (Part I)

Photograph courtesy of Kristel Nijssen

The early morning sunshine, with its promise of all that is good, was gone. Not a surprise. Disappointing, but it was dry, which was still better than expected.

The atmosphere in the club house was jovial, with well over a hundred wily vets, preparing to race. Some of us hadn’t seen each other since the previous Fall, and caught up with the usual small talk, about the weight we had gained, the new equipment we had obtained, and the limited time to train. Nothing has changed.

I warm up for a few laps, discuss my lack of form with the Flying Doctor, who I know is one of the people to keep an eye out for, if only my legs could follow suit.

I take my customary sanitation pause, then ride up to the line. The Flying Doctor asks me if I’m up for it, and I give my prepared excuse: I’m going to ride conservatively, because I want to help a teammate in the following race. Honest. Really.

The race starts. I jump off the front. I’m not going fast. Neither is the peloton. We circle the 2.5km course, and the pace picks up. There’s a photographer out there today, so I try to get near the front. It’s not easy, what with the size and quality of the field, coupled with the wind. I manage to get there. More or less. Vanity triumphs. Hopefully he obliged.

The attacks begin. I remind myself that today is more about training than racing, and I have plans for later in the day. I ride near the front, but merely to watch. I see the Flying Doctor ride off. He’s with a few other riders, at least one of them a teammate. Another one of his teammates comes past, and I contemplate jumping on his wheel. No. Shouldn’t do it. Have to save myself.

Knowing that Flick is on me wheel provides me with the perfect excuse to not even try and join the possible break. I'm not going to do him any favors. The fact that the race had only just started has nothing to do with it. Nope. Nope at all. OK. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot.

What follows is uninspiring fare. The break of five, including the FD and two of his teammates, dangle in front of us at 30-45 seconds for most of the race. At one point I thought we were close to pulling them in, then I realize that the peloton has been reduced to a group of 20 to 30 riders. I see a car come on to the course, which usually means there’s been a crash. By the time we pass it, I see one of the FD’s teammates, holding on, his chain broken. Victory denied.

We enter our last lap, and the build up for the consolation sprint begins. I get out of the saddle and wind it up. Kind of. Have to save a little for the next race. Right?

Race Report Routines

Some people like to read race reports. I tend to think that unless you're someone who can actually write well, or if something special happens, they all sound the same. Like an interview with a celebrity, the facts may vary, but the substance, or lack there of, is the same: yada, yada, yada. fast. yada, yada, yada. hard. yada, yada, yada.

Having gotten that off my chest, I will shortly share with you, dear readers, some moments from the past weekend, where I entered three races. All of them on the same course.

Do you see where I’m coming from now?