Today was the first race in four days straight of cross. In many senses it isn’t really any different from any other race this season. A fast course, sandy, a couple of nasty descents, no pits or barriers. What makes Zolder different is that it is based at Circuit Zolder a large international motorsport race track, formerly home to Formula 1, but this time it was us standing on the finishing straight. The other thing that makes it stand out is the fact that I was about 30 seconds away from being allowed to start the last lap and therefore finish the race. Not only completing my goal of finishing in Belgium but doing it in style, at a World Cup!
The race started with a 300m sprint down the asphalt, followed by a really nice bottleneck on the first 180 degree turn. This resulted in Niels Albert going down and slumming it at the back with us for a bit. The plan here was to pit already after 400m trying to use the pit lane to get past the cluster fuck at the start. This didn’t work as well as hoped as lots of people had the same idea so we got stuck in a mess in the pits. I even managed to slam my knee into another riders brakes disconnecting them, you can see it in the tv footage as he stops completely to fix them 😉
After this we started to settle down into some pretty fast racing. Two pretty cool things happened here. One was I was mixing it with Joachim Parbo, former Danish Champion, who the last few times we raced together placed at least 8-10 better than me and a lap or two more. The other thing was on the start of our 2nd lap I noticed as I rode under the timing bridge that I was only 1:06 behind the leaders. Normally I would be that far behind after just one lap! Things were looking good. For the next few laps a small group was formed with me (mostly at the front) Joachim, couple of german riders that I have battled with before and one or two others that came and went. We continued to only lose about 30-40 seconds a lap and without being in a position to really do much math I was guessing that the chances of finishing were looking good. The only problem was that we were occupying the positions 47-52 which meant there was a fair bit of pressure regarding who was in the prize money and who wasn’t. The end result of this was me taking a corner a little too fast, crashing and losing the group. This was the beginning of the end. I started to bleed time after this and drop further and further back. I was dying by the second to last lap, my legs were cramping and I had little left. When the inevitable UCI guy stopped me in the 80% zone I was gutted. 200m from the finish line. If I had been about 30 seconds faster, or stayed with the group I would have gotten to finish and been able to take as long as I liked for the last lap 😦
The photo’s below are all taken by Pieter, the current National Coach for the New Zealand Cyclocross Team (he has the badge to prove it if you don’t believe me), supplier of excellent accommodation, AMAZING food and very very nice beers