So its been coming and Im happy to say I have my first win of the 2011 season in Belgium. And oh what a fine day it was. Everything fell into place and to finish it off with the win was extra special. After a lot of bad luck before and in the earlier part of the season with injuries, crashes and what-not, it is a nice feeling now that things are going my way. Patience has paid off, not that I doubted it, but it is certainly nice to blog some success rather than the 'what might have been'.
So in ten days or so I had four races, the first three came within four days of each other. This was a deliberate plan to put a little block of races together, as 1) we knew the form was building and we should use it and 2) in preparation for upcoming races. The first three races would see me finish 2nd in Wodecq, 9th in Ghoy and culminating in a 1st place in Gits (Hooglede). A week later I would then place 8th in Sint-Kornelis Horebeke.
So to the win, which came in a 140km Kermesse race in the town of Gits. With 35 euro primies every lap (for 22 laps) I attacked for the first two laps, taking first 2 primies solo. No mean feat in itself as these primies are hotly contested. However the fact that I raced away for these two laps, I soon realised that I was on a very good day. The break then started to come across and the breakaway of the day was formed. A strong break with three of the Quick Step feeder team riders in, amongst others. There was little messing around and we worked well building up a nice lead. However sensing the moment, me and one of these Quick Step feeder team riders (Jens Wallays) went clear with about 50km to go. Jens Wallays is a very strong and talented rider and we worked hard and built up a good lead, splitting the remaining primies in the process. Over the last few laps the gap began to reduce and by the end was a little under 30 seconds, however we agreed from the moment we got away that we would keep working to the end to stay away. Jens jumped with around 1km to go, however I kept cool and gradually got myself back to his wheel. He looked but knew that at that point of the race that was where I was going to stay. Once round the final corner Jens had to lead it out and my perfect race would be complete as I would get the better of him in the sprint. I did encounter a huge speed wobble on the cobbled finish to the sprint, however had enough momentum to carry me over the line for the win in front of the big crowd that had gathered in Gits and the celebrations could begin! Next came the flowers, the trophy, the photos and the interview (which due to my "beetje vlaams" was in English - I will look to change this soon). Then ofcourse the usual collection of prize money, which on this day with all the primies included was certainly not too shabby. To show how much it meant, Asfra team manager Luc Assez was soon on the phone and inviting us round his house for champagne and so ofcourse the celebrations would continue into the night :) A day that will certainly not be forgotten!
Ofcourse the win was the perfect way to finish off a good few races in quick succession. However three days earlier I was also 2nd in the town of Wodecq, coming very close to the win. Again riding very strong, from the start I got away. The breakaway again formed and we worked hard to build a good gap. I then saw a moment to attack with about 13km to go and went clear, though the remainder of the break would pull me back with about 3km to go. The attacks continued but we continued to mark each other. In the sprint I almost still had it, until an ex pro by the name of Jean Zen would have the better of me taking the win in the closing stages. But this was clearly a sign that the good form that was predicted was certainly there. This was also followed with a 9th in the town of Ghoy (where I took victory last season) two days later and most recently an 8th in Sint-Kornelis Horebeke. Not wins, but more strong performances that tell me the form is where it needs to be. Horebeke in particular I was very strong and aggressive from the start, however cramp in the later stages would not allow me to sprint when still in contention for the win.
So all in all its been a ten days thats turned around this first part of the season for me. The hard work and persistance is paying off and things are shaping up nicely for the upcoming races. Next for me is the five day six stage Tour Nivermais Morvan in France starting tonight. Good to be doing a stage race again and even more so at this time with the legs coming into such good form. Then comes a trip back to the UK for the National Championships which takes place on the 26th June. My first trip back to the UK since my season started and I will certainly be looking to impress come race day.
Ofcourse I will be returning with my Onix Bikes, which have certainly been performing splendidly. Its great for me to be part of something that is growing all of the time and hopefully with me putting the bikes through there paces here in Belgium, this will help to continue with the ever growing reputation that Onix is building. Belgium is ofcourse a very hard place to win a bike race and Onix already in its short existence has a win on Belgium roads. It was the Onix Azzuro which crossed the line first on this occasion, which hopefully gives an indication of the quality of bike that is coming from Onix. I will be looking to add more in the very near future!
Until next time......