Monday, April 25, 2005

First Training Session

After my exhausting trip cycling in the Ardennes to watch the LBL I didn't really feel up to training on Monday, but I felt that I'd put it off too long. I'm glad I went. It was harder than I thought. My legs were up to the task, though I need to work on speed. The real challenge was holding my line. I realised later that my stem was adjusted too high which made it harder to maintain the stability of the bike.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2005

Having had such a nice time following the LBL last year, I'd decided that I had to turn this little trip into an annual event. This year (as last) I didn't feel much up to it on Saturday, though this year it was the tail end of a cold that reduced my enthusiasm. I took a train to Maastricht then cycled along the Maas to Liege. It rained a bit along the way but I really enjoyed the ride, being the second evening ride along that route this year. The peace and quiet of riding as the sun goes down is great. As normal I stayed at the Liege Youth Hostel and the next morning I went into the centre of town and caught the sign-on. The area around where the team buses were all parked was accessible to the public, it was even possible to peer into the buses! At around 10:45am the riders started off and I headed back to the hostel to pick up my bike in order to see some hills. I'd decided that I would wait for the riders at the top of the Cote de la Redoute, a killer hill that I hoped would slow them down a bit, where they weren't supposed to arrive until about 4pm. From Liege to there were a few kilometers of quiet hilly roads. I was still feeling the tail end effects of the cold and by the time I got to the top of the Redoute I was beat! An hour or so later the first riders came through. Vinokourov and Voigt seemed to come off the top at the sorts of speed that I'm capable of on the flat! The chasers were looking pretty knocked by the hill, they never managed to the catch them and Vino won the sprint in Ans to take the race. After the riders came past a French-Belgian TV crew came by asking people to say something, they pointed the camera at me and I tried to mumble something but I think I sounded like a fool, I expect that it got cut out in the edit. Once the last riders past the end of race car signaled the re-opening of the road. I time trailed it to Maastricht, a distance of 45km or so. I got home exhausted shortly before midnight.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Cycling with Skits

I met up with a complete group of strangers and went biking, it was fun!

Earlier this week I'd made contact with someone who organised a cycling group. The meeting place was, according to the description given to me, by the Rembrandt monument halfway to Oudekerk from Amsterdam on the side of the Amstel. Unfortunately Either they left early or I made a mistake with the meeting place.

Fortunately another group was meeting just up the Amstel and I hooked up with them. The group started out with about 10 people, though the number went down over the following couple of hours to 3, including me. It was great to ride with like-minded individuals. I quized them on cycle groups and racing. The last hour was ridden at quite a pace, a little higher than I could sustain without pushing hard, which was exactly what I wanted. I think I'll meet up with them again.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Ronde van Vlaanderen 2005

What a great event! Though I have to say that this feeling didn't really surface until the next day.

The first 130km of the cyclo passed reasonably quickly. I'd been warned not to allow the enthusiasm of the occasion overcome sensibility and start too fast. This logic ruled for about 20 minutes of relatively slow riding from Brugge until a faster group came past and everybody jumped. About 100km later and I got spat out the back worrying that I wouldn't have enough for the next 150km. Not long before the beginning of the hills I realised that the cleats on my new shoes weren't quite as well adjusted as I had thought. For the next 100km I was in pain management mode, but there was no way that I was going to give in. Things got better at the Muur, and I positively enjoyed the Bosberg, not that I was going fast at any point, I swear I passed more than passed me. I arrived in Meerbeke at 6pm, having left Brugge at 6:45am. I was happy to have finished the whole course without walking once. Though it was a near thing on the Koppenburg.

The next day I slept in, until 7am and caught the start in Brugge. I had a great spot on the barrier just by the start. I got a nice shot of Boonen and Hincapie chatting and wishing each other luck! From there I caught a train to Geraadsbergen. I had another go at the Muur, was *almost* able to stay in the saddle this time. Shortly afterwords I caught the Belgian equivalent of soccer Mums in action, with the kids Ronde going up. I'm sure some of them had flasher bikes than me! After that I sat in a pub to watch the action on TV until about 4pm then I went back the Muur to wait for the race. It was fun watching the locals trying to get into a good position on the hillside above the Muur. A police officer would come by and tell them to move, as soon as she'd gone new ones would clamber up. In the end even with re-enforcements she had to give up, she couldn't block the race! After the lead group and the chasers came past the crowd went down to the square just above the main church where a large screen showed Boonen's triumphant entry into Meerbeke.


I was a perfect weekend, and one that I hope I can repeat again. Though I think I need to improve power if there's any chance of
getting up the Koppenberg in the saddle. Even on such a dry day my back wheel was spinning as I was out the saddle. Something to aim for in 2006 ...

What's the next challenge??