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

Friday, April 30, 2010

Covering Queen's Day

Queen’s Day. To some it’s all fun and games. To me it’s hell holding a can of Hieneken and dressed in Orange. What better way to avoid it, than participating in the 56e Oranjeronde van Amsterdam?

After my Ash induced Spanish adventure, and subsequent assault of the Ardennes, I managed to get my legs readjusted to the windy ways of the lowlands. With a few training races in the legs, and a few easy days in between, I set off on damp roads. Riding through light drizzle to the usual place.

While the roads are the same, the organization is different, as well as the sign in. This means that I will get my first look into the hallowed halls of Amsterdam’s oldest bike club. If only I can find it. When I arrive, I’m spotted by the WegKapitein. He points me in the right direction.

Number obtained, I sit down and talk the talk with the WegKapitein and a few racers from another club. The KMII arrives, and introduces us to a rider in blue. He's a member of our team, but has yet to get his kit. Numbers pinned, small talk made, we make way for the course.

Marco, a friend, who I haven’t seen for awhile, almost rides into me, and says hello. As we catch up, I notice he’s got lipstick on his bottom lip. For some reason, I'm not surprised.

Marco Lipstick runs off to register, and we head towards the start/finish. Waiting, and watching the 50+ race, we hear that there’s yet to be a successful break throughout the day. We also learn that there will be 3 primes, as well as a leader’s jersey. While it’s not clear to me how the jersey will work, the KMII explains that it’s a points race within the race. OK. Fair enough.

Finally we’re given the go to enter the circuit, and take a lap. I chat with the KMII about race plans A, B, and C that we emailed about the day before. As we assess the riders around us, we agree that maybe it’s an idea to try and keep it easy for the first few laps.

The lap complete, we roll up to a group of riders spread out on the road, waiting 30 meters behind the line. I take my position in the second row. The Flying Doctor, fresh from a stage race in Sardinia arrives. Nods and smiles are given. Something is said, but I’m too amped to hear it. The field moves, and I struggle to click in. No worries. We’re only moving up to the official start line. I slide into the front row.

Some niceties are spoken, and we’re set off on our merry way. I grind up the sole bump on the course, and accelerate down the hill. I remind myself about my chat with the KMII, about sitting and watching, as I see him fly past. I shift and jump on to his wheel. With a small group of riders we surge forward. A small gap opens. It doesn’t take long to close.

And that pretty much sums up the majority of the race. Gaps. Sprints for primes. Sprints for the mysterious leaders jersey. We learned that there had yet to be a successful break throughout the day, yet we persever to do just that. We – the KMII, the Wegkapitein, and myself, all three of us – are riding well. Lap after lap, attack after attack, we’re in the mix. But it’s not working.

I slide back, and find myself chatting with Lipstick. He’s telling me tales of his past dominance on this course. Who he beat, and how he beat them. I’m half listening, and half looking up the road. I see the KMII make a move. He’s off the front, with another rider. The WegKapitein is ahead of me, and if I’m not mistaken the teammate in blue that I met earlier, as well. They move to the front, and start making things complicated for the other riders. I see someone having words with the WK and then Blue. Blue shrugs.

I move up, and join them. We lower the pace, and for whatever reason, nobody is taking over. That’s fine with us.

We cross the start/finish line. Four laps to go. Ten kilometers to go.

We crest the hill, and I see the KMII and his companion ahead. A few riders attempt to bridge, but with no success. We’re covering everything. We’re slowing it down. We’re not making many friends, but the KMII is making time.

The long straight begins, and ahead of us – 15 seconds, more? – is the KMII. I look over and see the rider who had words with Blue. I recognize him. It’s Talent. Believe it or not, that’s what he calls his blog (more or less). He jumps. I latch on. He's surprising me today. He’s tearing it up. He’s improved since last year. Just not enough. He eventually realizes that I’m not going to pull through. He eases.

We cross the start/finish line. Three laps to go. Seven and a half kilometers to go.

The hill is crested, and the gap ahead remains the same. There’s a brief lull, and then more riders attempt to bridge. The WK and I continue to mark them. I’m pretty sure the KMII is dying a thousand deaths, but I also know he kind of enjoys that.

We cross the start/finish line. Two laps to go. Five kilometers to go.

The WK is in the wind, on front, 3-4 riders ahead. I see Talent pass by my right, and watch as he leans into the WK, briefly throwing him off his line, and then watch him try and another attack.

I call him a something that my mother wouldn't approve of, and chase. The WK does the same. We catch him, and I see the WK grab him by the scruff of the neck. I roll past, hearing the WK shouting, but not listening. We need to stay focused. There’s another surge, and I dig in to cover.

We cross the start/finish line. One lap to go. Two and a half kilometers to go.

The surges have died down. The peloton is racing for third place.

We enter the last sweeping turn before the long straight. I look up the road, the KMII and his companion are far ahead of us.

Less than half a lap. One kilometer to go.

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