So, some final thoughts… Easier to bullet point this…
- Getting involved in racing in Belgium is very easy, all you have to do is turn up with your license and a dispensation letter from your home cycling organisation (British Cycling in my case). Just book your transport and hotel and off you go!
- Racing in Belgium is hard, very fast and aggressive. As an idea, the best data I got was from the race in Wovertem on the Monday (my third race), where I got the following speed data. Bear in mind that the course was pan-flat. You get used to the speed eventually, but if you don’t think you can hack this then train more before you go.
- The races go hard from the start. I was warned about this, but you can see from the speed numbers hard = HARD. I didn’t warm-up properly and paid the price very quickly, much more than I would have done racing in the UK.
- The courses are pan-flat. Well, not really, in fact the race I did on Sunday in Sint-Kornelis-Horebeke certainly wasn’t (plus had pavé). However unless you race in the South-East of the country, i.e. around the Ardennes, there’s a good chance that you will be doing Criterium style racing. The only way to avoid this that I know of is to make friends with a Belgian or contact organisers in advance, if you can get the contact details.
- Being away and basically on my own in a hotel for a week was pretty tough, and just stuff like getting dinner (“do you have an English menu?”) and going to the supermarket is tough (Where is it? Will it be open? Can I find what I want?). When you add on physical tiredness and sorting out racing it’s harder. It’s easier for some guys who live and race over there (I guess) as they put down roots, but to be honest I was ready to come home after five days.
- Pre-race routine is just as important abroad as at home, but harder to achieve. For example, I almost always a hot meal two-three hours before a race, but that’s easy when you’re at home.
- Afternoon racing is great, beats the sh*t out of 8.30am Sunday morning starts that I’m used to.
- Racing is stupidly cheap at €8, of which €5 is a deposit for the return of your numbers.
- Monday-Saturday races are basically made up of very strong riders, a lot of whom are probably paid to race. This includes some from proper pro teams. It’s a real buzz riding with high quality riders like these, but the standard is obviously high.
- Sunday and bank holiday races are a much more mixed bag, with some proper old guys involved. Note: just cos he’s old, doesn’t mean he’s not good – I saw a proper grey haired old guy tucked in near the front of the bunch after I’d been dropped.
- Most Belgians (including commissaires) speak at least some English
|Peak 1 min||55.5||34.7|
|Peak 5 mins||50.0||31.3|
|Peak 10 mins||46.9||29.3|
Some useful links:
The Chainstay – a very good guide to living and racing in Belgium.
wiebovlaanderen.be – The calendar for all Kermis races.
the Royal Belgian Cycling Association – particularly useful for youth riders looking for information such as “Calendar Cards”.