Tag Archives: race

WT Wedstrijd Hoeleden 2012

Although I had a feeling it was not the best idea, I got dragged into a race after coming back from Mallorca by Stan and Tijl… Of course I was curious if I can finally manage to survive a real Flemish koers, because one and a half years ago I already failed once miserably, although I was in an incomparably worse shape back then… Now after months of hard training and a week on Mallorca, with much more experience on the road bike, I was relatively optimistic, so I set the goal of finishing the race for myself, hoping that it was within reach. Tijl drove me to the start in Hoeleden, I was very nervous, but I still felt OK. Then the other competitors started to arrive, mostly with really fancy (expensive, light, and aerodynamic) bikes, some of them came with small teams, so I felt a bit worried and afraid of the competition… Still, I did some good warm up, tried out with Tijl how to take a bottle from his hands while riding with 40 km/h, and then went to the start line, still relatively optimistic, looking forward to one and a half hour of suffering, but hoping that I can finish the race with the main group, without being dropped.

The first lap is always a bit slower, behind the race director’s car, so speed and heart rate-vise it was OK, although I did not feel very good about all the crazy breaking in front of me. Things can get a bit tense when you are surrounded with a 100 other bikers from every side… Then after the first lap, hell broke loose… On the long flat we had a speed constantly above 50 km/h (there was a sleigh tailwind), which was still OK (as for me a heart rate of 180 is still fine, I can take that for more than one and a half hours), but then near the end of the lap, when we got sidewind on a slight uphill section, and the peloton got stretched out into a one biker wide long line, then I could not follow anymore, it was just too much. I was dropped after two laps. But I was far not the first to be dropped. And still, I managed to go another two laps before I was taken out from the race by the director. It could have been much further, if the guys I caught up with would have been more cooperative… But anyway, being dropped from the main group in a criterium race always means it is over. It is just impossible to catch up. Here is the GPS-log of the race.

I was pissed. I was pissed because I really wanted to finish, and even though I felt strong, and I was in a good shape, with a very good fitness level, I did not manage to follow. Ok, I did not do too much interval training this year, but with this much training, I felt very disappointed to drop out like this. And I kind of lost motivation too, I did not feel that I would want to just train more and more and come back next time, I just felt like I do not want this crap anymore. And by crap I mean the racing, not the biking :) I biked home after the race with Stan (who at the end did not participate in the race, although that might have been good for me), which felt good, but I felt hurt inside. It was not physical pain, but mental…

Towards the end of may I still did some proper training, I had a seasonal best (or personal best if you look only at rides without aero wheels) on my standard Leuven-Mechelen-Leuven route, but then I really felt burned out. I need to take a small break, stay off the bike for a while, so by the time I have my cycling holiday on Gran Canaria (starting on the last days of August) I can build up my form again, and enjoy riding again as much as I did in the first 5 months of 2012. I am already at 5130 kilometres this year anyway :)

8 Hours Cycling @ Spa-Francorchamps

On last Sunday I had the opportunity to ride my racing bike on a real Formula 1 track, as the AstroTeam was one of the 104 teams at the 1st ever 8 hour cycling race at Spa-Francorchamps – the track of the Belgian Grand Prix. We were among the 37 Quattro teams (Pierre, Stan – replacing Kristof who unfortunately got injured from overtraining -, Tijl, and Your’s truly – preparing for the first hour in the rain below) racing on the circuit.

The event was very professionally organised, with electronic timing system (using a wireless transponder placed in a standard cycling bottle) and live tracking of the results in the box. We rode in shifts of approximately one hour (Tijl, Pierre, me, Tijl, Stan, Pierre, me, Stan), changing – passing the bottle with the transponder to the next rider in the pit lane, while both riders had to be strictly off their bikes – after 3-5 laps. As Pierre had a broken spoke, he had to come in earlier, so I got the transponder while I was still preparing at the car, thus we lost some time here (that’s why my first lap seems to be unrealistically long in the table below – the pitstop time is also included), and I had to jump into the middle of the action still a bit unprepared :D

It was a lot of fun! Although the weather was not the best. It was the worst probably during my first hour, with basically continuous heavy rain, slippery asphalt (I took the downhill corners a bit more careful after my rear wheel slipped for the first time, right after I have seen the same thing happening with another rider ahead of me), and low visibility (even my fancy pro cycling glasses got a ‘bit’ foggy) – with tons of water splashing into my face from the wheel of the cyclist in front of me…

I could say it was very Belgian :D There was so much water, that the elevation data in my GPS got completely messed up, as the openings of the barometric sensor got fully blocked…

Luckily I managed to stay dry during my second hour. Oh, I mean, I managed to not get even more wet, as I had to ride in the same clothes as before (luckily I could change into dry clothes for the time in between the two shifts), and you can imagine that nothing got dry in three hours… But it was part of the experience, and as the air temperature was not cold (19°C), I did not really mind the rain. It made the whole event much more interesting (and harder in the corners of course) for sure.

You probably think that a Formula One track is probably completely flat. In case of Spa-Francorchmaps, this is really not the case. See the plan above, and data from my ride below (click for larger size, a lap starts at a bit before the 21 km mark and lasts till a bit before the 28 km mark), plus you can check out the course from a recent – very realistic – video game here :) So the two climbs had an impact on our speed for sure, especially that we had to be very careful with the downhill curves given the slippery conditions.

At the end we came in 24th overall (out of 104 teams) and 12th in the Quattro category (out of 37 teams), having ridden 37 laps (the picture at the end of the post does not display the final results), which is 4 laps less than the winning team. We had an official average speed of 31.192 km/h (I say ‘the official one’ because the official length of one lap is 7004 meters, but the optimal line – especially with a bike – is shorter, ~6.9 km here), compared to the 35.351 km/h of the winner quartet. I think this is a very nice result, especially when you compare our training load and equipment to the ones’ who had finished ahead of us. Especially that my goal was to finish in the top 50% (overall and within our category, while the result was top 25% and top 33%). My best lap was 12:21.694 (34.0 km/h, while I had a final average speed of 32.0 and 32.7 during my first and second hour, respectively), and only Stan was faster than me from our team. His ride was truly amazing, with a best lap of 11:19.675 (37.1 km/h)! Clearly, we can thank several positions to him :) The times for the rest of the AstroTeam were also very good, Tijl had a best lap of 13:08.535 (32.0 km/h), while Pierre’s fastest was 14:50.046 (28.3 km/h). We will ride next year again. Maybe the same race, maybe a 24 hour one ;)

Belgisch Kampioenschap 2010, Leuven

Sunday was the day of the Belgian National Road Race Championship, which was held in Leuven this year (for the first time in history). As this is one of the biggest events (after the spring classics) in the Belgian cycling calendar, it is not surprising, that the preparations and the race itself turned the city upside down. Streets were closed down and endless crowds were moving along the route (17 rounds of 14.2 km) of the race from the early morning (to get the best spots) till the end of the podium ceremony – so basically all day long. The podium finishers were:

1. Stijn Devolder (Quick Step, #4) with an average speed of 41.091 km/h on 239.7 km
2. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto, #23) 0:23
3. Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team, #91) 0:24

For me, this was the best opportunity to test and practice with my equipment (new additions: Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash, a Lowepro Fastpack 250 backpack, and – for the time being – a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens – thanks to Dr. Stefan Uttenthaler for lending the latter to me for these races) which I will use on the first days of the Tour de France next week. I was there at the start, then from 4 PM till the end I was running around various point along the course. I have to admit I have learned a lot, and I got to know my equipment much better in a quite short time. Of course I made a lot of blurred or out-of-focus pictures (experimenting with focus modes, autofocus areas and exposure times), and images where I missed half of the cyclist (following – or tracking – someone riding with 40 km/h just a couple of meters from you with a big telephoto lens is everything but easy – the lens is heavy, the field of view is small, and the cyclists are fast…), but as time went by, I had more and more good pictures, so I am very optimistic about my future keep-rate (number of images not ending up in the trash immediately) on the Tour de France. (But please pray with me for good weather – ok, any kind of weather is fine, if it does not involve rain.) As soon as I am ready with all the images, I will let you know, but I still have unprocessed pictures from earlier events, so for now, I have only a short photo-report. I have selected images of the top 3 cyclists (look for their numbers above) plus some interesting/nice ones, so please, enjoy!