My last race of the trip was on Thursday, in a small town called Begijnendijk. No, I have no idea how you pronounce that. After a short ride from my hotel in Aaschot, the weather was ominous as I rolled into town. I was feeling tired and wiped out from my business trip (combining too much beer with actual work, although not at the same time) and motivation levels were low, more so given the grey clouds. This race was obviously another big local event, with a carousel and dodgem car set up next to the race HQ, along with the standard snack bars and fairground games, but the atmosphere seemed oddly subdued.
After signing on, I realised I’d forgotten to bring any pins, so back to the hotel. No matter, a good warm-up, but riding back to the start/finish I got caught in a hard shower. Fortunately it only lasted a couple of minutes, but the sky remained cloudy. Warmed up, I took my place on the start/finish, taking my customary look around. The line-up was probably the highest quality I’d seen to date, with three riders from Omega-Pharma Lotto, one rider from Italian Gran Fondo racing Team Guru (sponsored by Planet-X) and a number of other very hard looking riders. Still, there were enough kids and non-pros in there that I felt comfortable at the start.
We were given the signal and rolled out, suprising not sprinting for the first corner. Maybe everyone was still sore from the prior day. Anyway, the pace picked up through the first lap, and although we were lined out, no-one was really pushing it on. Second lap, and we hit the “table-top” speed bump at the start of the lap at proper speed. My wheels slammed down on to the road, and I was happy not to come down. Around this time, the sky started to darken, enough that I took my glasses off. Still lined out, the break couldn’t form. Third lap, we hit the speed-bump at the same speed, left turn into a long gently curving section, and the rain starts. After three laps of being lined out, low motivation, tiredness well embedded, and no wet weather gear, that was it for me. Signalling for the rider for me to pull forward, I pulled over and jumped in the broom wagon. As I passed, I noticed the three Omega Pharma riders sitting at the back of the bunch.
Two minutes later all hell broke loose: the biggest thunder storm I have seen in a long time. The van’s wipers were having problems clearing the rain, but that didn’t slow them down. Other riders were taking the same option as me now, but although they must have been soaked to the skin only one joined me in the van. Back to the start finish, I huddled under a sun umbrella waiting for the rain to let up. 10 minutes later and the bunch passes us, still at speed, with an Omega Pharma rider drilling it on the front. I was very glad I’d packed when I did.
So that was it, three laps and I was done. Pretty anti-climactic, but it had been a long week, and I was happy to be done and looking forward to getting home. When the rain stopped, I took my numbers off, and headed back to the hotel for a sleep.