Having decided at Kuurne Brussels Kuurne to go back to my old faithful breakfast of overnight oats, for Guido Reybrouck I decided to mix it up a bit – I created carrot-cake-overnight-oats. As you can imagine I hardly got to sleep Friday night because of the anticipation of this new concoction.
I woke up Saturday morning ran downstairs and tucked-in. It was seriously good.
We headed out to pick up Zach Bridges from The Coldra in Newport en route to the best motorway services in the UK – Cobham Services – where we were to pick up Matt Shaw. Not sure which I was looking forward to more, seeing Matt or visiting Cobham Services again. Close call.
The majority of the journey was bike chat, with Zach going into detail about every time trial bike he knew. But what was impressive was that at the same time he was DJ’ing – and my Dad approved of the music and the quality of the DJ’ing which is rare. But Zach was deliberately playing to the crowd with stuff he knew my 50-something Dad would like. He even played “Men At Work” – which 17 year old would play “Men At Work” – worse in the Karaoke competition later he even chose that as his song!!
When we arrived at the Eurotunnel we followed John (Barclay) through to the pre-loading bit… and were right behind him but somehow, we ended up on a train that was 30 mins later which then ended up being an additional 20mins late leaving, so by the time we got to Calais we were an hour behind schedule.
As we were driving along the autoroute in France Theo (Modell), Jim (Brown) and Ben’s (Tulett) bikes flew up off the top of Dave Story’s car. Fortunately, Dave does “belt and braces” and so Jim’s bike (still clinging on by the fork mount) saved the other two but it was fairly scary. We eventually got to the race HQ which was in the village of Damme just outside of Brugge. Every other building was a café !!!
After spending the whole journey thinking we were going to go to some nice pasta or pizza restaurant it was a massive anti-climax when we all realised that we were eating some spaghetti made by the race organisers. Now at the end of the day it’s just fuel but it was quite demoralising. When we arrived at the accommodation we all headed up to the rooms and sorted out our beds before Theo, Matt and Zach went for a walk around Brugge. Which left Jim, Ben and me in the hostel (meanwhile my Dad, JohnB and Dave Story had gone out for a NICE meal). Before long the lads had returned with water and biscuits, two very important staples when racing in Belgium. For the rest of the evening we were playing cards which is definitely something Ben needs to work on, but then I can’t really say that much as I was pretty shocking as well.
I think it’s important as a teenager that you get at least 2hrs TV per day, if not more. And that day I had watched none – it’s no way to treat teenagers. I knew if I didn’t watch any it would definitely affect the way my race went the next day. So, after I’d lost another game of cards, and solely in the interests of top performance, I went to my top bunk and started watching Baby Driver, which is seriously good and I would defiantly recommend.
After a good night’s sleep, we headed down to breakfast where I had my standard overnight oats and peanut butter, which went down seriously well.
We packed our bags and the cars before heading out to the race HQ. We did get there only slightly early (approx. 5hrs), but this gave us time to find a nice café and the changing rooms. Ben introduced us all to these rice cake tart things which were really good to be fair. Then we were taken to the changing rooms.
Before we knew it we were on the start line waiting to race in the freezing cold. But hey, only -2oC, as opposed to KBK’s -7 oC, balmy. Heading in the right direction at least.
The Race – The Hardest Race of My Short and Very Sheltered Life
The neutral section was the same as any other neutral section; so not very neutral at all.
However, I was near the front and out of trouble – all’s well. We came to a pinch point over a bridge and I was squeezed back along with Theo, Zach and Ben. Suddenly we turned into the cross-winds and a Dutch team nailed it on the front. Clearly a plan well executed.
It was a bit of a shock to the system as we hadn’t ridden the day before. I thought “oh my god this is hard”. In my head I was like “s#*t I’m not in a good place here”. I made a massive effort to move towards the front but by that time the break had gone with 13 riders moving clear of the peloton.
Several times I tried to get across using the bends in the roads and short tail-wind sections as a spring board, but when you’ve got 13 riders going flat-out it’s hard to get across. Around 40 km in there must have been only 50 riders left in the peloton. Decimation – I can’t remember such an attrition rate in a race before – and that continued to the end.
Video: The Break of 13
Theo, Ben and I attacked and pulled out a 45s gap on the peloton, and were about 1’ 30” to the leaders. Three others joined.
Video: The Chasing Six
After battling with a head wind we ended up getting caught by what I thought was the peloton but as it turned out it was only about 20 riders at the most. Meanwhile the gap to the leaders went up to well over 2 mins.
I knew that the group of 20 that just joined would be tired and my legs were feeling good, so after a few kms of rolling through and recovering I attacked through a village using the tight turns and chicane to break away. I turned around and the bunch was strung out but I kept my head down as I knew no one would commit to chasing down one rider. An Acrog rider came across and I could tell he was struggling, initially I had wondered if he was bluffing, but I kept driving hard into this relentless head-cross wind.
After about 15km of head cross wind we finally had a tail wind and I knew that would be in our favour. Sure enough we opened up a bigger gap – we had the tail wind all the way to the finishing circuit (4 x 7.6km). On the circuit I looked behind and could see two riders coming across the gap they eventually caught us with 3 laps to go. I kept looking round at the other riders in my group and I could tell the two Acrog riders were spent, but anther Belgian was strong. With 12km to go I attacked into the cross-wind section and me and the Belgian geezer broke away. I knew the last 400m were cobbled, and I knew I didn’t want to come to the finish with this guy and have to sprint on the cobbles. That lap it was obvious the original break was fragmenting and blowing because we picked up 3 riders.
As we hit the cross-wind section again I knew I had to attack the two riders from the original break. Finally they rolled through and took a turn, but they were fried, and I took my opportunity to attack. After about 30s of giving it gas, I looked behind and could see the Belgian kid about 20m behind me, now 30… 40, he’d gone.
I kept my head down and came into the finish in 10th. Without doubt the hardest fought 10th place of my life. And although I know I lost the opportunity to win the race at that pinch point right at the start of the race, I was really proud of how I raced from that point on. I raced to win in the hope that fate might twist in my favour.
Definitely the grippiest race I’ve done – cobbles, freezing weather strong cross winds, echelons, and a smart Dutch team who had a strategy – it really did feel like a Classic – well as close as you could get to one. I finished just over a 1 min behind the trailing edge of the break in which Jim, Matt and Ben Healey finished, about 3 mins behind the podium positions. Results
I know there isn’t a race for the “rest of the bunch”, and I know I missed an opportunity, but I was proud that out of the what was left of the Peloton I was the first to roll in.
After having a nice warm shower, we all headed back to the cars before we started our journey back to the UK.
The journey back was uneventful but great. Zach was DJ’ing and, Matt and me were in the back of the car talking about something like Rick and Morty, and my new theory for school, revision and home work.
Oscar’s Candle Theory.
You will understand why I called it the Candle Theory in a minute. Let me explain.
When we’re born we all have this candle (obviously it isn’t real, it’s metaphorical). This metaphorical candle represents your motivation to revise and work hard at school. Now everyone’s candle is individual to them, so some are longer than others (no euphemism here for those of you with smutty minds). When we all start school in Year 1, a little bit of the candle is burnt off, and this continues throughout one’s school career, every time you do a bit of homework or revise a bit more candle is burnt off. Until eventually you have no candle left, which is the position that I’m currently in and with my A’Levels coming up its not great but what can I do I have no candle left so it is virtually impossible for me to revise. I should have paced myself better and not worked so hard earlier in my life.
I’m going to have to prepare for the inevitable feeling of opening the exam paper and thinking “… what the hell is ‘studentification’ I thought I was doing maths” 😉
But my point is if you try too hard too soon you won’t have a candle left by the time you are in Uni or Sixth Form, so on so forth. And for this reason I think that the government should not allow homework in schools until year 9 and possibly year 10 this way everyone will be motivated when it comes to revising for their GCSEs and A’Levels .
All in all, it was a brilliant weekend, with great company and a hard race. Big thanks to John Barclay, Dave Story and my Dad for taking us. Thanks to Pedal Potential and all the sponsors of Team PH-MAS Paul Milnes Cycles for the financial support. Now onto the first round of the National series this weekend in Wales.
Life’s pretty good.