Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose!

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Season 2012...over and out!

My 2012 season began way back on the 19/02 and with my final race on the 14/10, it is finally time to relax, reflect and look ahead to the rest of 2012, 2013 and beyond!
There have been ups and there have been downs (expected as a cyclist) but the good times always outweigh the bad. All in all I took 3 wins this year, 1 overall classement win, and 3 further podium placings amongst other 10's. As always I lived up to my reputation of riding aggressively, attacking at every opportunity and helping to get the Soenens Construkt Glas colours out front in the bike race. As well as this I again got to show this year my selfless side as a cyclist, helping my fellow teammates all in the name of the team performance. All proving that satisfaction in this sport dosn't just simply come from winning alone, but giving 100% on the road!

In case you missed them, here are a couple of videos of breakaway action this year:

And so to some credits for 2012. Firstly I would like to thank everyone at Cycling Team Soenens Construkt Glas for your support this year. Its been a great year riding with and representing this team!

To my coach/trainer/therapist Luc Wante, who has been the one responsible for my successes this year by again keeping my body in great working order week after week for the duration of the season. Also to Dr Piet Daneels for again getting me healthy during illness. Both of whom are helping me to continue progressing in the sport.

To the Dave Rayner Fund and the Grays Public Purposes and Recreational Charity for there financial support this year. I am so grateful for your support and you have made this year possible. And never taken for granted...I ofcourse continued racing hard from start to finish in the chase of prize money on the kermesse circuit!

To other individual sponsors and helpers who supported me in one way or another with equipment/products. This includes Blair Morgan and Paligap for continued support with 'Cycleops' Power equipment. To Allen Bridge who helped me out with 'CNP' nutritional products and to James White Drinks for support towards 'Beet It' products.

To Martin Williamson and Ed Hood at VeloVeritas ( for continuing to support me in my cycling career and continuing to publish my blog posts on there website.
And finally (last but not least!) to all my family and friends for the continued support. So many people to mention by name, but ofcourse my parents and brother and everyone else that has followed, been part of and/or supported me this year. Im sure you know who you means everything!
And so time to put the feet up for a bit...the future awaits! Until next time...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Was only a matter of time....

Time again for an update as this 2012 season in Belgium continues. Yet again the consistency has continued but also now I can happily say that consistency has been rewarded with some wins. Victories have been near all year but found myself just missing out. However with 3 wins and 1 overall classement win in 2 weeks, I have finally been able to enjoy that sweet feeling of success again. It was simply about keeping the faith knowing that it was only a matter of time before the persistence paid off.

And so to these wins, the first of which came in the town of Wambeek-Ternat here in Belgium. Also a place I was victorious in 2011. Yet again we would be faced with 13 climbs of the cobbled berg and without doubt the hottest weekend of the year....cue strong-mans race! Eventually the race would come down to 5 of us left at the front. Going over the top of the cobbled berg with 2 laps (around 15km to go) I saw I had a little gap and instinctively took a chance. With the race and the weather taking its toll on everyone it felt like it could be the right move to play. And so I was right. I quickly established a nice lead over my other breakaway companions and as it happened it was a lead that only continued to grow. Hitting the berg for the final time I continued to ride strongly and I knew once over the top that it should be mine. Still when you have been waiting for a win all year there was no chance I was slowing up. Thankfully nothing was standing in the way of victory for me that day. I took the solo victory, 54 seconds ahead of the chasers and could enjoy that moment that I had been waiting for all season!

This race is actually part of a 2 day classement and so I returned on the second day for yet again another 13 climbs of the cobbled berg in pursuit of the overall classement. Clearly heavily watched I soon realised that the best form of defense was actually to attack. And so I got away alone and made the break come to me. Again with the conditions this race was never over and so I had to keep doing a lot of riding to ensure we stayed out front and importantly for me ahead of the other classement contenders. In the last laps this was especially the case when some of the other breakaway riders were thinking more about individual victory. Though I came to close to winning again (placing 4th) the thoughts of the individual win had to take a bit of a back seat to ensure I won the overall. And that I did. Another successful weekend in Wambeek-Ternat which coupled with the results also there in 2011 meant I had 2 overall classements, 2 race wins, 2 further top 5’s, 2nd berg classement x3 and some additional primies for good measure. Just for reference I also placed 7th there back in 2010. Safe to say I like this town!

The timing was great as the following weekend would see me having a slightly different weekend racing on the Island of Jersey. Having visited there in 2009 I finally made my return this year. Cycling is very popular on the island and continues to grow. This weekend of racing is certainly evidence of that. Over for 3 races (time trial, criterium and road race) I ended up walking away with 2 more wins. I was to take victory in the time trial and road race and barring a crash in the criterium I was still in contention for the win there also. I was to finish 6th in the crtierium, but 2 out of 3 is not bad! Along with the racing I got to have a nice (extended) weekend on the Island of Jersey. Was made to feel very welcome by a good group of friends who I had not seen in a few years, got to have a good catch up, see how cycling is growing on the island and got to see more of the island itself. I also got to see ‘Big Maggys’ coffee shop, something that was just a concept being thought of back in its a reality and some hours were certainly spent in there over the weekend. I left Jersey on my 650km road trip back to Oudenaarde satisfied after a very enjoyable weekend. Thanks to everyone there that made me feel so welcome!

And so to the rest of the year. There is still 5-6 weeks remaining of the season and with the condition still good im looking forward to what it will bring. The first win of the season is always the hardest and now that is taken care of, along with the further successes that followed, im looking forward to continuing to finish this season off in style! 

Until next time....

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Riding hard and back to writing about it!

So its been way too long since my last posting. Since that mid-April time post, my race schedule has increased, my condition also (always a satisfier) whilst the weather like much of europe has continued to be mixed. However with nice spells of nice, sunny belgium days, the good weather has outweighed those bad days....just! We'll get the real low point of these past months out the way first and that came on my return to the UK for the National Championships, which certainly did not go to plan. Not helped by a run-in with a 4x4-trailer combination just two days before, but given I got away without broken bones, im not one for too many excuses. Maybe this was just a sign to stay in belgium :p

And to the good side of racing, which has been non stop for me really since the last posting. Unfortunately my first win of the season has still eluded me, though another podium placing with a 2nd in Sint Kornelis Horebeke amongst other top 10's has shown I am trying ;-) The 2nd place in particular was a strong showing where I had been in a 100km+ 2 man breakaway, before being joined by a teammate and one other rider in the latter stages. My teammate would then attack and I would take the ride to the finish and make it a Soenens Construkt Glas 1st and 2nd. Nice to be part of that!

Along with the results however, I have more than ever been showing my strengths as a rider. Certainly as history has always proved a man for the breakaway (we will come onto this with some videos below), but also with the work I have been doing within the races for my team. Whether it be pulling/controlling on the front, chasing down attacks, helping riders to move up when necessary, usual domestique duties, etc, I have been doing it in these past months. Not only doing it, but enjoying it and showing how capable I am at doing such work. Maybe my calling really is as breakaway man/loyal domestique!

My most honourable day on the bike however came just two days ago in the pro kermesse GP Jean-Pierre Monsere Roeselare. A race that remembered the Accent Jobs Willems Veranda's rider Rob Goris who sadly died just last week. With a breakaway gone which included the likes of Stijn Devolder, 3 Topsport Vlaanderen riders and 2 Landbouwkrediet riders, it was left to the team of Accent Jobs to bring back the breakaway. Given the circumstances of the race and my willingness to work I saw it as an opportunity to get to the front and join in the chase. Something appreciated by the riders and something that on such an occasion was a privilege to be part of. And after a good long chase, the breakaway was pulled back, proving once again that satisfaction does not just come from winning alone.

And so to those breakaways. Two of which came most recently and luckily were documented.
Fleche Ardennaise (Ardense Pijl Topcompetition UCI 1.2), a race regarded as one of (if not) the hardest one day race at this level for the parcours that it tackles. Going in the early break may be seen as  a hard move on such a race, which is cue for me to go on the attack (like I need an excuse :p). I bridged across solo to the breakaway of 3 that had just gone and proceeded to drive it to get the gap out. Unfortunately only 2 of us out of the 4 were prepared to work but despite this we got the gap out to 3 minutes over the peloton. However in such a race this time would be lost as the race and the climbs wore on. Clearly "in the zone" and riding strongly (and neglecting hydration just a little...oops!), cramp would set in further into the race. Eventually caught by a chase group I continued working in this group at the head of the race before eventually being swallowed up by what was left of the peloton, with heavy cramps having set in. Regardless of a 50th placing and 3rd in the hill berg classement, I had left my mark again in the Ardennes. You can see it on the following video:

Next up came IWT Oetingen (UCI 1.2) and coming just a few days after the Nationals I was out to make up for the disappointment experienced there. Cue attack again! I was in the early break before being caught. Went again alone before taking a slight wrong turn. Back in the peloton I was soon to attack again and finally third time lucky the break of the day was away (sounds so simple lol). I went over the Bosberg 1st, the Muur 2nd amongst other climbs and would be leading the berg classement. The break would swell but with the main teams represented it was all looking good for me. Then we hit the finishing circuits and a circuit that I would relish....cobbles! However yet again misfortune as on one of the pave sections I would get a flat tire and with only 50secs over what was left of the peloton I was out of the breakaway and in no mans land. Back into a once again reduced peloton but still leading the berg classement I would continue to the finish (in and out the cars mind due) placing 64th only to find out I had missed out on the berg classement by just 4 points, finishing 2nd. A disappointing end to what had been a great race for me. But once again I could take heart in the performance and once again satisfaction could be taken by another epic breakaway day. Again you can catch some breakaway action on the following video:

Hopefully I get some luck back on my side in the races ahead. Finally taking a few days off from racing, I will race again in a kermesse in a few days time in my teams home town of Ingelmunster, before taking to the start in the Ronde van Luik (Tour of Liege) next week, followed by the Ronde van Namen (Tour of Namur) at the beginning of August. Good times ahead im sure! 

Until next time....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back to the front....

So last time I was posting about the great weather we were experiencing in Belgium at that time. Unfortunately the sun has gone and the rain has returned. Clearly 20 degrees+ in March was a treat. Im hoping a treat that returns soon.

None the less come rain or shine I have continued on my road to recovery, and in the weeks since my last posting, have recorded my first podium position of the year with a 3rd in a kermesse race in Bury. The heavy rain, wind and reduced temperatures would make for a hard fought battle in Wallonie. Clearly the easiest way to try and stay warm was to go on the attack (not that I need an excuse) and as early as the second lap that is where I went and the breakaway was formed. Despite attempts to bring us back it wasnt going to happen on this day. I took my share of primies and for the first time really felt I was getting back to normal. I was in the mood to ride! As the race wore on the weather took its toll and the breakaway began to split. Six of us were left at the front and would fight it out to the end. Bodies that were shutting down at that stage due to the wet and cold trying to ride away in pursuit of victory. It would not work out to be my day on this occasion but 3rd was certainly a sign that I am getting back to normal. And on top of that, despite the conditions I was enjoying being back out there and going for victory again at the front of the race. Later that week I returned to Wallonie and produced another top 10, this time in Taintignies Rumes so consistency is starting to build again.
Nasty weather in Bury...
...but first flowers of the year earned.

Im sure inspiration has also played its part in these last weeks. With classics fever in these parts, its certainly first hand inspiration on a plate. Even more so because it would be Tom Boonens classics year again....Harelbeke, Gent Wevelgem, Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Paris Roubaix....Tommeke Tommeke Tommeke Tommeke!
Koppenberg Action RVV.
Paterberg Action RVV.

Given my returning form I have my first Interclub competition for my new team this coming weekend. GP Affligem, a race which takes in some of the famous bergs including the Kapelmuur and the Bosberg amongst others. Also the cobbled climb of Wambeek-Ternat, the location of one of my wins from last season. This week in training I went to recon the section of the race taking in the Kapelmuur and the Bosberg. With rain expected on Sunday it was important to look at climbs such as the Kapelmuur in the wet to assess ideal tyre pressures, lines to take, etc. And after 6 climbs of the Kapelmuur and 3 climbs of the Bosberg its safe to say I know them pretty well ahead of Sunday.

Until next time....
The Kapelmuur.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Getting back....

So its been a fairly quiet start of the season for me, but I can say now that things are underway. A blood test here in Belgium revealed lower iron levels, which most likely explains my lethargic start to the new year. Since then things have been progressing nicely for me and the body is finally getting back to some sense of normality. Training has been consistently better and I have begun racing and quickly finding my feet again.
Of course what has helped has been the great weather conditions that we are experiencing this month in Belgium. 20 degrees +, sunshine and bright blue skies certainly helps morale. And with such nice weather, what better than training on the famous flanders bergs or to spin out on the Schelde peloton to help find the legs again.
Early season racing in Belgium is known for being a little on the crazy side and this year is certainly no exception. Big pelotons (in the line), fast racing and a lot of eager riders certainly keeps things interesting. For me its simply been about finding my legs again, which in a few races seems to be happening. After solid performances in both Meulebeke and Ichtegem where I rode strongly but without any major result (31st and 28th respectively), I already produced my first top 10 placing of the year this weekend past with an 8th in the Beloeil kermesse. I may only be trying to find my racing legs again, but that dosnt stop me getting involved with the attack fest that is kermesse racing. From km 0 the race was on and I was very much involved in the action from start to finish, which can only be good signs and certainly an indication that things are getting back to normal.
In between training and racing, I also did a bit of acting for the filming of a tv advert. 100 euro gig for riding up and down a section of the Paddestraat cobbles (not much acting involved there) numerous times on a nice sunny day and a lot of banter to go with....was a nice way to make some extra euros. The belgian classics have also been in full flow, with the biggest of them all, the Ronde Van Vlaanderen coming up this Sunday. Seeing it all first hand once again continues to inspire me and remind me of where I want to be.
So I am up and running and im sure theres going to be a lot to talk about in the coming weeks. Good times ahead....until next time!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Season 2012 is here....

The season is here and so I thought it was about time that I posted my first blog of 2012, to fill you in on whats been happening over the winter months and what I am up to in this coming season.

The winter consisted of some functions, some visiting, catching up with UK life, not to mention a couple of trips back to Belgium. It was really nice to be back at home with my family, though I wonder now where the time has gone. I also began to learn dutch properly, using the Rosetta Stone learning program and that has been coming along nicely. Training through November and December was "relatively" smooth and over christmas dinner I even decided I was going to participate in my first running race in a fair number of years, taking place on boxing day. My Dad would also take to the start line with me. Clearly I wasnt going to be the runner that I used to be, but put in a pretty reasonable performance for a "non runner" finishing in 11th and really enjoyed the outing. It reminded me once again why I always loved the sport so much. My current "non running legs" however were not so appreciative afterwards (thats what you get for spontaneous running outings ;-))

Back in the Athletics column...

Some 'extra credit' Rosetta Stone Dutch!

Into the new year and January wasnt such an inspirational month for me. Not ill and not injured, but just didnt feel myself. Lethargic and just waiting for something to click in place. However we took the sensible option of not pushing it and scaling back the training, given that the winter until that point had gone smoothly. Having got to see my chriropractor, Matt Rabin, by the end of the month (he was on team duties with Garmin Barracuda in Australia until that point), my body was put back right and normality restored.

Sunny Mojacar (Almeria/Spain)

As experience has taught me, some easier weeks like those in January, do not do any harm. And so it has proved. On the 1st February I moved back to Belgium as just a few days later I would be off on training camp with my new team for 2012, Soenens Construkt Glas. The training camp was held in Mojacar-Almeria, Spain. We were generally doing up to around 5hrs most days, some of those hillier than others and both on the flat and in the hills I was ticking along nicely and no ill effects of the lethargic January. I am happy with how my week progressed and so is the team so things back on track. Early season racing in Belgium can be very unpredictable so I will just be finding my feet again in those early races and continuing to work on my condition. My first race is already scheduled for the 19th February, a race which includes the "club championship", officially kicking off season 2012 for me.

Some nice climbing...

...and some time to relax!

And so to my new team for this season, Soenens Construkt Glas. A long established and one of the best amateur teams in Belgium, I am happy to be on board for 2012. Though its a team from West Flanders, I will continue to be based in East Flanders at 'The Hof Ter Kammen’ in Leupegem/Oudenaarde. Talks with the team began last summer after some very nice results on my part and immediately I was offered a place for 2012. Though I enjoyed my time with the Asfra Racing Team, this opportunity will give me bigger opportunities, an even better race program and hopefully then with success the ideal platform to go onto even bigger things. I will once again be supported by the Dave Rayner Fund, whose support I am most grateful for. I have also received a grant from the Grays Public Purposes and Recreational Charity (a local organization to me at home). This support from both of these organizations is again allowing me to race in Belgium and I will be looking once again to repay there support with much success in 2012. For now I am concentrating my efforts on this year and looking forward to a successful year for myself and the Soenens Construkt Glas team.

Soenens Construkt Glas 2012...ready for action!

My 2012 teambike....Pinarello Dogma 2

Equipment wise I will be racing on a Pinarello Dogma 2 teambike. I will be training (and racing sometimes) once again with my Cycleops Powertap Powermeters thanks to the support of Paligap. Training and racing in Belgium usually produces some interesting figures, so I will look to report some of those within my blogs.

The season soon begins and I hope I will be blogging about the many successes in 2012. Thanks for reading. Until next time!

The calm (before the storm that is early season racing in Belgium)